December can be such a WILD time in the classroom. You add the typical demands of a classroom, a dash of the Holiday Bustle, mixed with the added excitement of the season, and you have yourself a heavy dose of survival mode. To help you thrive instead of simply surviving, I wanted to share some of my favorite classroom activities for the month of December!
Holiday String Art Activity:
The first activity I had to share is the String Art Templates I created. This idea came from my first year of teaching. I noticed my 5th graders still wanted to participate in all the Holiday Fun. However, many of the December projects, crafts, and ornaments were more geared to the younger grades. I remembered doing a string art candy cane when I was their age and set off to find the perfect project. The thing is… I couldn’t find one. So I decided in true On Lemon Lane fashion that I would simply create my own.
To this day, all of our childhood ornaments hang on my parent’s Christmas tree. Some of my favorite ornaments are those with a school picture on it. There’s something about immortalizing that awkward stage that brings nothing but happiness. Based on that giddiness, I knew I wanted to create a pattern that would allow the option to include a student picture. Thus my original Upper-Grade Template was born. If Ornaments and student pictures aren’t your jam, I’ve also included a 5×7 and 8×10 String Art Christmas tree template that can be framed in a dollar store frame, or even folded on a piece of cardstock to make a beautiful hand-made card.
This activity is a favorite amongst many of my students, despite the fact that there is ALOT of math involved, cue maniacal laugh… Many of your students will already be daydreaming and plotting their Holiday Wish List, so you may as well meet them in the middle and bridge math and their wish list together. By doing this you clearly exemplify the need for math in this Real-World Application project. Students are able to see a real-world application of how and when they might use rounding / estimating/compatible numbers with money. Also, the application used when adding and subtracting decimals or working within a budget.
I typically complete this activity around the Holidays, however, it can be used ANY TIME OF YEAR. The key benefit of completing or prepping for this activity in December is the sheer fact that FREE Toy catalogs can be found in every corner of every retailer. I’m looking at you Target and Walmart. This means you can pick up a CLASS SET of catalogs and not only will no one bat an eye, but it’s actually encouraged! Your kids will LOVE flipping through and shopping for their favorite items for a loved one and themself! ****Even better, I even save and reuse the catalogs for at least another year, and always pull them out again for an end of the school year review! If you are unable to get your hands on a couple of toy catalogs you can print off pages, display a page or two over the overhead, or allow the students to “shop” online!
The worksheet I’ve created guides students through each step and encourages students to explain their thinking as well as provide evidence to their answers. I have designed this product with a faint grid. The grid lines are to help guide your students to better organize their work. Which honestly with decimals this can be the biggest culprit of mistakes! I have my students use the columns to write each individual number and the lines to place their decimals. This helps students to line up their decimals and numbers being used by place value. I like to have students work in partnerships to encourage math talk in the classroom. There is not a wrong way to complete this activity. I guarantee that every version will lead to your class having a more sound understanding of the concepts, and an increase in student motivation to practice the concept!
My gift to you. This is SUCH a fun crossword. Essentially, students will test their knowledge and see how many of them actually know the lyrics to the classic Christmas Carols. The prompt will give them a snippet of the carol, and students must fill in the blank to complete the crossword. You may be surprised by how many you actually don’t know when you were so sure you did. Once completed students will count up how many they were able to complete and write the number in the circle provided. This is a great December Activity for morning work, winter rotations or centers, or your fast-finishers.
While we’re talking about FREE activities I wanted to make sure you knew about this FREE download. It’s tough to come up with a practical and inexpensive gift idea for your fellow team teachers or colleagues. This is my gift to you! My hope is this free printable will save you time and stress. If you are like me Christmas seems to sneak up so quickly, and as a teacher, my time is already strapped! So finding the perfect, inexpensive gift for a friend, neighbor, room-mom, or colleague is out of the question.
This printable includes 4 different layouts and 2 different sizes. My favorite is the half-page. You can print either as a fold-able card, or simply write your message in the space provided below. I typically include chocolate with this gift, but with the EOS lip balm, this gift can stand alone. To use simply print on cardstock, then cut out the dashed circle in the center ornament. Open your EOS lip balm and insert it into the cut-out, then screw the EOS lid shut. Let me know if you have any questions! I know you and your lucky gift receiver will love this as much as I do!
This activity is FREE and a lot of fun. It’s the perfect launchpad into a new semester, new term, and new year. Students are asked to describe and illustrate their goals. We then hang these mobiles around the classroom. Hanging them in the classroom isn’t just a fun decoration but an effective reminder for the students to see every school day! Students are asked to set two academic goals for the term, one personal goal, and one future goal.
This product is versatile and can be used for the start of a new term, in January as a New Years Resolutions, or at the beginning of the year with the start of a new grade. I hope you enjoy this freebie as much as my students do!
I’m beyond excited to finally be able to share this idea with you! The best part is that EVERYONE can download the 1 Word Resolution Word Search for FREE! **Keep in mind you will need to be a member of On Lemon Lane to access this download. Not a member? Not a problem! Click Here to sign-up: Sign-up is FAST, FREE, and Easy-peasy Lemon Squeezy! This activity is JAM packed and so much fun. It’s the perfect way to ring in the year with focus and excitement.
Students begin with the word search. There are over 150 hidden 1-Word Resolutions in that pretty, little word search. The words range in difficulty so this is a great way to scaffold using the SAME resource. The word search requires students to find 8 words, then narrow their list to 1 meaningful word.
Once students have determined their word they will create a bookmark. This can be done by hand or digitally through Google Slides and Google Classroom then printed. The idea for the bookmark came from the need of students needing a daily reminder of their word.
The best part about this activity is that it all leads to an AWESOME, Interactive Bulletin Board Display.
Speaking of New Year Resolutions or goal-setting… This FREE project is a mural that is created in pieces by students in your class. Students have no idea what the end result or picture will be and instead are asked to focus on their small tile and to recreate the image assigned to them with as much accuracy as they can. Any lesson that includes a little mystery immediately means ENGAGEMENT.
This project leads to MEANINGFUL discussion, and the start of the New Year is the PERFECT time to have this discussion. I’ve included a poster and discussion questions to act as a guide. This is a great lesson to use when introducing setting goals. (Hello New Year, New Term, New Semester) This project illustrates why it’s important to set small attainable goals in order to achieve their big goals or dreams. It’s also wonderful for talking about teamwork, and unity in the classroom. You could use this as a morning meeting, at the beginning of the school year, with new year resolutions or at the start of a new term or semester! I love that at the end of this project you are left with a mural that can be used as a classroom display or bulletin board that MEANS something to your class. You can refer to it throughout the year when students come across a tough concept that feels like an “elephant”. Remind them of the power in taking it one small bite at a time.
With students returning from Winter Break, this is one of the first activities I would do, followed by the goal-setting mobiles mentioned above.
With the start of the new year, and the end of the school year now fast approaching… there is not a better time to facilitate failure in the classroom. GRIT and Growth Mindset are the hot topics in the classroom at the moment and for very good reason. However, most products, blog posts, and resources only discuss what it is, what it looks like, and the importance of it. This line of products allows you to explicitly teach it.
These activities are designed to make your students struggle and fail, tossing them into the depths of the learning pit. Sounds a little harsh? Maybe. But I can’t think of a better place, than the safety of the classroom, in a controlled environment for students to exercise grit and growth mindset than under the watchful eye of a loving teacher. By facilitating failure you and your students are able to pinpoint those tough emotions, negative thoughts, and capitalize on them.
We’ve had a warm December this year, but if Winter is anything like it was last year… we’re in for another ETERNAL WINTER. We had so much snow last year that I figured it was time to stop complaining about it and time to put it to work. I rounded up some of my favorite STEAM & STEM activities that use SNOW.
No Snow… No problem. There are plenty of other Holiday-themed STEAM and STEM Ideas for you to enjoy! I’ve gathered a handful of my favorite projects and will include the links below. Before I share them, if you’re anything like me, you may have a strained relationship with Steam or Stem challenges in the classroom. You love them in theory, but in practice, they lack in academic application… If so make sure to check out my Steam and Stem planning and reflecting response sheets below. They are the perfect companion to ANY project. These pages give your students the structure, scaffolding, and organization needed to guarantee success, application, and a deep and thoughtful discussion.
As promised… Here is a list of my favorite Holiday Themed Steam and Stem Challenges for the classroom!
Holiday Themed Steam & Stem Challenges:
- Crystal Wreath Ornaments
- Create a Salt Circut (If you teach ELECTRICITY you NEED to check this out)
- Challenge students to make a 3-Dimensional Christmas Card
- Design a new hat for Santa’s Elves. (Add a layer of challenge by not allowing tape to be visible.)
- Egg Drop. Design Shatter Proof Packaging. (Present fell from Santa’s Sleigh, will it survive?)
- I LOVE THIS IDEA for STEAM: Have students design their own wrapping paper (Challenge Layer: Needs to be a repetitive pattern that is seamless)
- Gift Wrap Challenge: Can you wrap a present using a single piece of tape?
- Ginger.Bread.Houses. (My Favorite Memory from my own 6th Grade Class)
- Create a step by step tutorial for folding and cutting out a snowflake. (Include pictures)
What’s your favorite activity for the holiday? Comment below!
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