December may be a short month, but it is a hectic one. Keeping students engaged during the weeks leading up to winter break can be extremely difficult. Children are typically excited to have a break from school, spend time with family, do some traveling, or receive gifts for the holidays. Here are some tips to try in your classroom to keep students engaged during this busy time of year!
Spray shaving cream (a.k.a. ‘snow’) on your students’ desks and have them practice any skill you’re working on! They can spell sight words or spelling words. They can write math equations, draw diagrams, etc. This is such a fun review game to play! Students love writing in shaving cream and it’s a quick assessment of where your students are at with certain skills.
This game can get a little crazy, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s often used as an icebreaker activity, but it can be made educational as well. If necessary, students can ‘earn’ this game by getting their work done, staying on task, or making good behavior choices. Often students love this game so much that it can be used as a reward while still being educational! Here’s how to play:
Identify the skill you want to assess and write something that your students can answer quickly on pieces of paper. These could be math equations, reading comprehension questions, words that need to be categorized, etc. For example, if my students are learning about nouns and verbs, I would write different nouns and verbs on the papers and students should be able to tell me if their word is a noun or a verb when they read it. If your students are older, you could ask them to create their own question or equation on a piece of paper.
Crumple up the pieces of paper into ‘snowballs.’ For about 30 seconds, students will engage in a ‘snowball fight,’ by throwing the snowballs at each other. Before beginning, make sure that students understand not to aim at anyone’s face. After the 30 seconds is over, ring a bell or set off a timer. Students need one snowball in their hand. They will answer the question on the snowball that they have. You can ask students to do this one at a time, or you can ask them to partner up and share their answer with their partner. You’ll repeat the ‘fight’ for as many rounds as you like!
Not only is this game keeping students engaged, but it’s allowing you to assess them at the same time! It’s definitely a win-win.
Independent Time with Color by Codes
One of my favorite things about color by codes is that it is an activity that can be done independently and quietly. Color by code activities are great to use when you need to conference with students individually, or if you need to work with a small group and want to maintain quiet in the classroom. I particularly like using these when I know my students are a little more hyped up because coloring is a calming, low-stress activity. A color by code page is much less stressful than completing a round of flashcards. Want to try out some color by codes? Click the image above or the button below!
Add Another Behavior Management System
Sometimes my students need a change in the behavior management system that I use, especially during the weeks leading up to a break. I don’t typically abandon my original system, but instead I add another incentive to what I’m already doing.
For example, I use a punch card system to manage behavior in my classroom. During the time leading up to a break, I may add a secret student for those few weeks in addition to the punch cards.
Looking for more management ideas to try in your classroom? Click here to read a blog post about classroom management ideas!
Prioritize Tasks with a Must-Do & May-Do List
One thing that my students struggle with during the weeks after Thanksgiving break is staying on task. Some students are more on-task than others and I often end up with students at various points in their work completion. Some are finished with everything and some are barely getting started.
Prioritizing tasks allows students to identify what is most important and provides them with a goal to work toward, keeping them engaged on the important tasks. I choose what I absolutely must receive from them (this is usually work that I need for grading) and then choose activities that I think would be fun. Sometimes I’ll also take student suggestions for ‘fun’ activities. These are the must-dos and the may-dos. Students must do the required tasks before they may do the fun activities.
I write these up on the board for students to see so that they know what the expectation is as well as what they can do if they complete their work. This can be done for a day at a time, a week at a time, or all the time leading up to the break.
Hi, I’m Libby!
I’m so happy you’re here! I love all things first grade – the curriculum, the content, and the sweet kiddos. I’m passionate about helping K-2 teachers save time in the classroom with fresh ideas and fun, engaging resources.