The excitement is in the air, the carols are playing, the trees are going up: It’s Christmas! What a wonderful time of year for celebrations. If you are like me, though, you want to be sure that you are still keeping your class contained and working on something skills-based. Here are few Christmas holiday lesson and activity ideas I’ve found that I love for middle and high school teens for all subjects!
1) Teaching the Spirit of the Season: This is the time of year for giving, so I’m always looking for ways to inspire and warm my students’ hearts during the holiday season. It’s so easy for tweens and teens to get caught up in making their own lists and checking them twice that they quickly forget about others. My high school English students enjoy the activities in my Surviving the Christmas Bundle. These Christmas lessons and activities will inspire students to think beyond the hustle and bustle of receiving glittering gifts in order to focus on the moments and meaning of the season! Whether they are reading nonfiction about Toms shoes and analyzing poetry, watching the funny holiday film Skipping Christmas, or researching different symbols of the season from various holiday traditions around the world to present to their classmates, they will be focused and engaged. This pack includes various levels of texts with appropriate thematic pairings, so you can provide your students with the best materials for them.
Yearbook and journalism students can practice their headline writing skills and reach out to the student body with my Christmas headline writing activity. Students will read news articles about the holiday and write the missing headlines. Then they will organize an in-school service project. Your journalism students will love the Christmas-themed activity and service-learning project, and you will love that they are brushing up on crucial journalism skills.
2) Teaching Christmas Traditions Around the World: Many classrooms are blessed with diversity, and having activities at-hand for all students to see themselves in the celebration is important. In other cases, you may be required to incorporate a lesson with various Christmas traditions during this time of year. Either way, there are some pretty awesome resources available that will allow you to teach Christmas traditions around the world creatively and easily. My bundle featured above includes my Symbols of the Seasons research project, which would be perfect for English classes, advisory periods, technology classes, journalism/media, and more. A short research project like this is also perfect for sub plans. Middle school students (and even high school kids) enjoy coloring every now and then, too, and my Coloring-by-Figurative Language sheets offer a variety of images!
Escape games are all the rage right now, and you know how much I love them. This Christmas Around the World Escape Room by Think Tank will take your middle school students in any subject on a secret mission around the classroom! This escape room has students decode fun and interesting facts about Christmas traditions around the world. Students will learn brief holiday traditions of Iceland, Japan, Philippines, Germany, England, Ukraine, Russia, Norway, Marshall Islands, Australia, Slovakia and Venezuela. Grades 4-8 in geography class can join the fun with these latitude and longitude puzzles from Dr. Loftin’s Learning Emporium. Students simply plot the given coordinates, connect their dots, and discover a hidden picture (Santa, Gingerbread Man, Stocking, Elf, Snowman, Reindeer, Snowflake, Christmas Tree, Star of David, and Christmas Star).
3) Teaching with the Magic of Movies: I am a sucker for Christmas movies. This time of year my TV recorder is already full of holiday movies, and I can’t wait to cuddle up and binge watch. My all-time favorite Christmas movie is Home Alone 2. Old-school, I know, but I love the music, setting, and message. It’s no surprise, then, that I developed a FREE lesson for my high school English class, so I could show it at school! Plus, teach your students how to extend the holiday spirit with the real-world project included!
Another super-sweet movie this time of year is Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. For this movie, I’ve also created a movie guide that has students practicing skills such as theme, conflict, characterization, mood, and setting. The human plot chart puzzle, symbolism worksheet, and constructed response prompts are excellent options to follow up the movie. Plus there are several suggestions for service projects that are inspired by the film.
And let’s not forget the all-time favorite Christmas classic: Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. If you like to show this film during Christmas, take a look at my movie guide. From reading charts and graphs, to reviewing plot with the interactive human plot puzzle, to analyzing symbolism, to writing, this movie guide is sure to add rigor to your movie-viewing experience. It works with any version of the movie you have on hand.
Go ahead… get cozy with some cocoa and a Christmas movie without sacrificing any learning.
4) Decorating and Celebrating in the Classroom: If you are allowed to have a Christmas party or decorate in your classroom this time of year, here are a few ideas to make it fun, easy, and educational!
Who knew that those tacky Christmas and holiday sweaters from the 90s would actually become a party trend? Yet, here we are… and they are actually super cute. I created this school-wide Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Pack, and the students at my high school have an Ugly/Tacky Christmas dress-up day every year; even the teachers participate! It’s so easy to host a tacky Christmas sweater party, and if you need some ready-to-go materials to communicate with parents and students or to make it educational, check out my Wacky Tacky Christmas Sweater Classroom Party Pack! There are even awards and activities to do in class during the party.
Elly Thorsen has you covered (All my puns are intended!) with her Physical and Chemical changes Ugly Holiday Sweater Coloring worksheets if you teach secondary science. In the worksheets, students read about a change that occurs over the holidays and identify it as a physical or chemical change by coloring an ugly sweater accordingly. Then they explain in sentences how they knew what kind of change occurred.
If you are planning to deck the halls (or your classroom walls) for the holidays, there are so many posters that are educational. These multilingual Christmas and Hanukkah posters from The ESL Nexus represent different 35 countries, and include suggestions for 8 math, writing, and art activities that teach students about the countries! I like to hang my Nativity posters in my Sunday School classroom at church this time of year. These are sized as 8×10 both in jpeg and pdf format! You can print anyway you want… on home printer, online, or at the local photo lab!
If you teach a technology or computer classes, I love this idea from from Innovations in Technology. She has her high school students create her classroom’s Christmas decor using computer applications! Students certainly need to be skilled in Microsoft Excel and Google sheets to be successful in many college classes and the workforce. Students are challenged by creating the Christmas art, and they get to be a part of the decorating process.
Putting a Christmas tree up in your classroom may not be an option, but if you teach middle school math, Wilcox’s Way has you covered with her Middle School Christmas Tree Math Activity. Her resource includes 10 different templates you can use to build your Sierpenski Christmas tree pyramid. Have each student complete a couple of pyramids, and then watch the magic unfold as you put them together and watch your tree grow! I am fascinated with this!
What’s a party without some Christmas cookies and hot cocoa? Given that I have older students, I can usually say that everyone brings something to the table, so to speak, in order to eat. It can be something as small as a 2 liter drink or pack of plates. I even allow them to team up. In the case where students can’t bring anything, I ask them to speak with me and we figure out a good solution; I just want them to realize that it’s important to contribute if at all possible. Another thing to keep in mind is food allergies and school policies on food. If all of that works in your favor, have ALL the cookies, candies, and cocoa. If not, don’t worry. There are still some really fun ways to treat your students.
Kerry Tracy’s Christmas and Winter STEM challenges offer so much variety. I think the Candy Cane Calamity would have your middle school students laughing all the way!
Erin Hanson created a fun hot cocoa themed STEM activity. Middle school scientists will explore the effect of temperature (thermal energy) on marshmallows and candy canes in hot cocoa. Students will practice their science and engineering skills by making predictions, planning investigations, making observations, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and they’ll love every minute of it!
In Amy Alvis’s middle school math class, students explore ratio and proportion with holiday cookie-themed task cards. Your middle school math students will love using manipulatives to discover how many marshmallows are hidden in each mug of hot chocolate in Leaf and Stem Learning’s Christmas Math Holiday Algebra activity. The variables are represented by holiday cocoa mugs and the constants by marshmallows!
5) Stocking Stuffers: This category is my catch-all for the short Christmas activities and lessons I love that are perfect for just your plug and play, last-minute fillers. From stations, literacy, math, or writing centers, to bell ringers, to time fillers at the end of class, to a short periods or odd schedule days, we always need something we can grab quickly and “stuff in”!
The OCBeach teacher has her students writing at the beginning of the period using her poetry bell ringers for the winter season. My Christmas grammar worksheets designed for high school students aren’t your typical Christmas grammar exercises! These are truly NO PREP, print and go, age-appropriate exercises to challenge and review your teens’ grammar skills during December. These grammar activities for Santa reflect a seasonally-inspired thematic concept of the page that coincides with key, standards-based grammar skills. For example, students will repair broken sentences (fragments and run-ons) in Santa’s Workshop. Or, they will help Santa double check his list by correcting apostrophe errors. I’ve also provided beautiful clip art to add layers and interest to the pages to grab your teens’ eyes! Plus, for those fast finishers, there’s plenty for them to color and style! Extension activities are also provided on several of the sheets, and the grammar notes are included as well. Your students will get all “wrapped up” with these grammar activities!!
Getting rave reviews from fellow middle school language teachers is the HappyEdugator’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas homophone search. In this Christmas activity, middle school language arts students will be searching all over for homonyms and homophones in a wacky homophone version of the famous Christmas poem “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clark Moore.
I’m super impressed by the rigor and detail of The Lab’s science coloring by number worksheets for Christmas. Middle and high school students review the human body, periodic table, and more in this coloring activities bundle!
High school Spanish classes can even have a little holiday fun with La Profe Plotts’s Holiday Task Cards. My Christmas holiday real-world grammar fails task cards make the perfect grab and go activity for stations, using in Kahoot, or as bell ringers.
Remember to check your school’s policy on celebrating this time of year, so you are in compliance with those guidelines. May your season be blessed with love, rest, joy, and peace!
From my home to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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