Is the cold and COVID getting you and your students down? Thank goodness, COVID isn’t the only thing in the air. The holidays are coming! Let’s conjure up a little winter joy to pierce through the pandemic gloom with holiday classroom activities.

It doesn’t matter whether your students are in front of you, or in the tiny pixelated boxes on your computer screen. We could all use some holiday cheer! Here are some simple ways to countdown to winter break and celebrate the holidays virtually or in person! If you pick one to complete in your classroom, make sure to consider the number of students you have, the number of days until break, and the number of items needed on your countdown. While these can all be completed at home or in the classroom, make sure to modify as needed. Of course, it is important to involve parents in your plans if your students are at home. In most cases, parents are able and willing to assist at home with little things – like hot cocoa, a candy cane, holiday-themed books, or cookies, depending on their availability and resources. I know that this teacher/mama is always up to participating in cookie parties! Have fun!

  1. Make a snowman chain. If you have students in class, have them help make the snowman head, or have them all make one at home. Give the snowman a hat using black construction paper, scarf, carrot nose, etc. Add white chain links to represent the days until winter break, and remove daily as you approach the break.  This can also be done with Santa, a Christmas tree, a reindeer, or a Christmas elf!

 

  1. Make a class Christmas tree with paper triangles. Create triangle templates for your class that together will form a tree. Be sure to pre-shape the tree to be confident that it makes a perfect tree shape (pyramid shape with one triangle at the top, and each row below having at least one more triangle then the row above it). Have each student decorate their part of the classroom tree if you have students in class with you. Organize this into a bulletin board. Remove one a day until Christmas break. For added fun you can add an ornament on some (or all) of the tree triangles with fun holiday activities written on the back that match your classroom age/subject/schedule.

 

  1. Make a Christmas light chain. If you have students in class, you can make template strips of paper for the Christmas lights and have each student decorate their light, or just use different color papers to complete the lights yourself. String them together around the room or on a bulletin board. Remove one light a day as you approach winter break. This can also be done with simple red and green links.

 

  1. Hang a candy cane string on the bulletin board or across a safe space in the classroom. Buy candy canes if you have students in class, or you can have them make paper ones. Label each candy cane with a student’s name (make sure you include all of the students). Hang the candy canes up in random order. As break approaches, remove one candy cane a day, and give the candy cane to the student named on it. Then allow that students to choose a holiday song for the class to sing, or an activity or game for the class to play.

 

  1. Create a classroom Poke-A-Tree. To make the tree, collect enough cups to last until break (all the same size). Place a holiday activity or treat inside each cup.  Cover the tops with paper using a rubber band so it holds tight for the pending poke. Most of the paper should be green, but you can make some red to represent ornaments.  As you approach winter break, poke one cup each day.

 

  1. Make a Santa face with NO beard, or print a Santa countdown template.  If you have students with you, you can make beard template white circles for the kids to decorate, or you can just use big puffy cotton balls each day. As you approach the break, add a part of his beard daily until Santa’s beard is full. Have a party to celebrate Santa’s beard being full- after all, now he is ready to deliver the presents!

 

  1. Wrap tiny presents up (erasers, pencils, stickers, etc.) and place the gifts under a classroom tree (or bulletin board of a tree) to reflect the amount of students in the class. Make sure you start with the right amount of days until winter break or open more than one a day if necessary. Pass out (or let students choose) a little gift each day as you count down to the holiday. Make the last one a bigger box with holiday break party supplies inside- and YOU get to open that one up. It helps to mark this “open last” so the students don’t choose this box early.

 

  1. Make a bulletin board of a giant cup of hot cocoa. Have students decorate a marshmallow with their favorite holiday book (or summarize it, for older students) to put on the bulletin board. Make sure these books are available in the classroom, or online. Staple the marshmallow books AROUND the cup.  As you approach the break, move a marshmallow book from the outside, to inside the cup, and read the book to the class. You may need to add to these titles, as many kids love the same stories.  Have a hot cocoa party to celebrate when the marshmallows are all inside the cup, right before winter break.

 

  1. Make a “classroom under elf surveillance” bulletin board. Hide the elf around the room each day holding the number of days until break circle. Write a fun holiday activity on the back of the number for the students to complete.  Staple the number circle on the bulletin board daily as you countdown to the holiday.  Take pics of the activities. Have a party on the last day to celebrate the elf´s going away party as he/she returns to the North Pole. Share the elf’s “classroom footage” that he is bringing back to Santa during the party.

 

  1. Make a bulletin board titled “Cookie Countdown” and hang a muffin pan on the board. Write and place a holiday activity inside each muffin spot, and cover it with a paper cookie. These cookie toppers can be made by you or your students if you have in class participators.  Remove a cookie a day as your class counts down to break, and complete the activities. If you have in person students, have a cookie party before break to celebrate! Try to let home student parents know ahead of time so that they can be prepared with a cookie treat for their child.
Author

Jessica Cicalese-Kurtz, MA, k-12 Teaching and Technology; BA, k-8 Education; BS, Biology, Science and Engineering, is a middle school teacher at Toms River Schools. Jess is also a K-8 science curriculum writer for Toms River Schools and Ocean County, as well as an independent science workshop creator and presenter. She is a freelance writer, wife, and budgeting mom of four who loves to travel, enjoy nature, connect with animals, and read.

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