1 Dec 2015

10 Easy Activities for The Last Week Before Christmas

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It's that magical time of year. You can feel the entire holidays stretching out in front of you. Your assessment is finished. There's that buzz in the air that only comes with end-of-year carols and class parties. 

But as any teacher knows, surviving that last week is no mean feat. We face several HUGE jobs like cleaning out our spaces and managing over-excited and over-tired children.

What do you teach during that last week? Personally, I do not like to give my class Christmas word searches or 'color by number' worksheets. There are so many cute Christmas themed literacy and numeracy 'packs' or 'centers' available on Teachers Pay Teachers, but I don't want to be spending my evenings laminating and prepping either.

I want meaningful lessons that are easy to implement and require no preparation. I want activities that the class can work on enthusiastically and independently while I tick a few items off my end-of-year checklist. 

So here are my 10 easy, meaningful, no-prep activities that save my sanity during that last week before Christmas holidays.

(Credit: Gingerbread clipart numbers by Artifex).

Investigate Christmas symbols. As a whole class, make a list or mindmap of things that are associated with Christmas. Pine trees, candy canes, wreaths, stockings, reindeer... the list goes on.

After discussing some Christmas symbols, we make our own Christmas cards from scratch. I put out all of my leftover craft materials - colored cardboard, scraps of Christmas wrapping paper, random bits and pieces from the year (foam shapes, ribbon, buttons, etc). Give them several types of adhesive (PVA, tape, glue stick). It's an excellent way to use up any remaining material floating around.

I give them no templates or blackline cards to color in, but I do show them examples of how to make the symbols out of craft material. I am always amazed at what they come up with! Of course, this requires a lot of teacher demonstration and explanation. Here are some photos of simple cards to make:

One year I had some clever cookies work out how to make pop up cards by cutting slots into the fold (the pop up trend caught on like wildfire!).

Talk about who to give cards to - family, teachers, or others in the class (always a popular option). Talk about the messages that are written inside the card. I usually dedicate a few hours to this and I find the children are engaged the whole time. Warning: allow ample time to clean up afterwards.

Christmas Spelling. Yep, my class still has a list of spelling words to learn in the last week. I use Christmas vocabulary. We work through this free interactive PowerPoint - finding the missing letters, identifying the correct word, and answering multiple choice questions.

Find the FREE spelling PowerPoint by clicking HERE.

During the week we would practice spelling the words in novel ways. A favorite of my class last year was 'water writing' - give students a cup of water and a clean paintbrush. Write the words in water on the concrete walls and floor of your outside learning area if you have one. In the Australian heat, it dries really quickly and leaves no mark. I'm sure you have your own favorite activities to practice spelling words.

You can't go wrong with interesting, themed writing tasks. The success of these, I find, depend on how much you excite the children with ideas as you introduce and model the writing.

My Christmas favorite to use is 'Do NOT Open This Present!'. I love it because it is so different from other Christmas writing tasks. Children revel in inventing utterly disgusting and useless gift ideas, such as a bag of monster toenails, a rotten Christmas ham, or shrinking powder!

Find this writing prompt HERE.

Alternatively, use one of the visual prompts from The Literacy Shed website, which can be found HERE. (If you have not discovered it, The Literacy Shed is an absolute treasure trove all year round).

Problem Solving. I have not met a class that does not enjoy a bit of creative thinking! Here is a free problem solving activity based on Tony Ryan's Thinkers Keys. Here is an example: List A-Z all things relating to Christmas. 

Find this FREE resource here.

No worksheets are needed for this. Have your students use up the last pages in an exercise book or scrapbook. In that last week of school we would do 1-2 questions after each lunchtime. 

As a whole class, use the internet to research reindeers or the North Pole. My class last year were absolutely fascinated when reading about reindeers. You could use a nonfiction text, or model the online researching process for your students.

I like to bring up Google on the interactive whiteboard. Show how to input a question or use key words. Demonstrate how to choose a link that looks relevant and with the class's help, navigate the website to read the information. (I always carefully select the link ahead of time so I know the website we are visiting is appropriate).

Do a simple 3-2-1 about what they read (3 facts they learnt, 2 facts they found interesting, and 1 question they still have). Accompany with a reindeer directed drawing video from Art For Kids Hub, available HERE.

I'll be teaching reading strategies right up until the holidays. I use this 'What's in the present?' resource to reinforce the inferring strategy we have worked on all year.

I give the students short text passages to infer what was in the present. There are also match-up cards to use in pairs or independently.

Find this resource by clicking HERE.
Why not incorporate some drama into that last week? I like to have my class learn and perform some Reader's Theatre. A simple search on Teachers Pay Teachers will give you some easy Christmas plays. Alternatively, I use an Aboriginal Dreamtime story in that last week. I love using Tiddalick the Thirsty Frog (a Google search will bring this up). Give each student a part to learn. They then make their own masks and props. In the past we have collectively made a backdrop for the play on a huge piece of paper or on a blank whiteboard on the wall.

Sometimes it's nice to give the class reign over the creative design elements :).

During the year I seem to amass rolls of butcher's paper. On the last few days I have my class make their own wrapping paper to take home. Give each child a large sheet and they can decorate with drawings, writing and stamps.

Check out this clever ideas using lint rollers as stamp rollers:

Source: http://www.handmadecharlotte.com/diy-roller-printing-tutorial/
That last week is also the perfect time to revise important number concepts before a 6 week long hiatus! In my resource below I give each student several numbers from 0-100, the idea being that the class collectively assembles a large hundreds chart (on the back of each present, students draw or write about what is inside the present).

Each day of the last week, we randomly pick a few gift tags out of the stocking and solve the number clues, revealing a number on the hundreds chart. We turn over the card to reveal the present that was gifted to the class by one of them.

This was an absolute hit with my class and an excellent way to review place value and number concepts!

Find this resource by clicking HERE.
On that very last day, all classroom equipment and furniture is packed up. What do you do? Kmart comes to the rescue!

Every year I purchase some of their $3 giant colouring in carpet rolls. It is over a square meter big and can fit 10 children around it comfortably. Pictured here (unfortunately not rolled out):

The link to it on the Kmart site is HERE.

I let the students lounge on the floor around the large picture and they use up the last of the colored markers on it. They really seem to enjoy the time with their classmates before the holidays!

Looking for more ideas? Check out my 'Christmas' pinterest board HERE.

Thanks for reading!
(Credit: Gingerbread clipart numbers by Artifex).
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