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A Teacher’s Guide to Surviving (and Thriving) This Holiday Season

    a teachers guide to surviving this holiday season

    Are you ready to skip the stress associated with teaching in the weeks leading up to winter break? This December, turn your classroom into a festive learning environment rooted in routines, realistic expectations, and holiday fun.

    December is officially upon us! And I know what that means for us teachers; Balancing holiday festivities with lesson planning, grading, and keeping students engaged often feels like an impossible task.

    Yes, we want to embrace the holiday spirit, but we also have to keep the curriculum in mind, too. (Rock, meet hard place.) While keeping students engaged in learning as they count down the days until holiday break is no easy feat, it can be done—and without losing your sanity.

    Read on for my best tips for managing your stress this holiday season while keeping the learning going until winter break! Consider this your survival guide so you can thrive (and actually teach) all December long, making the coming weeks more manageable and engaging for everyone. 

    6 Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity Before Winter Break

    Here are 6 practical tips to help you stay sane between now and that well-deserved winter break.

    1. Streamline Lesson Planning

    Streamline your lesson plans to spare yourself time and stress during this busy season. Rather than trying to do everything, strive for efficiency and effectiveness. Center your lessons around what will move the needle forward most for your students.

    As you plan, focus on the learning goals and stick to the essential topics. Opt for interactive activities that engage students in hands-on learning. Remember, the most impactful lessons are about quality over quantity.

    2. Stick to Your Structure

    Between assemblies, field trips, and spirit days, the holiday season can cause interruptions to your classroom routines. However, maintaining a sense of structure and sticking to classroom rules becomes essential this time of year. This element of consistency helps create a sense of stability and a focused learning environment, allowing both you and your students to stay on track.

    That said, rules and routines don’t have to mean being a Scrooge, and sticking to structure doesn’t mean you can’t have a little festive fun while you’re at it.

    3. Set Realistic Goals

    December might not be the best month to assign a major research project or complex summative assessment. Instead, set yourself (and your students) up for success by setting realistic goals. Adjusting your expectations for the weeks leading up to the winter break will save you a lot of stress and can prevent you from having to spend your week off grading papers. 

    Remember, you can achieve meaningful outcomes without overcomplicating things or adding too much to your (or your student’s) plate. Identify the core concepts and focus your attention there.

    4. Remind Yourself You Don’t Have to Grade Everything

    Be strategic in choosing how and when you will assess student learning. Instead of trying to grade every single thing your students do, spend your time grading what matters most. Choose the assignments that provide you with the most valuable feedback to best gauge student understanding.

    Additionally, consider alternative assessment methods. Try assigning self-assessments and peer edits or hosting quick check-ins. That way, you can enjoy your evenings watching holiday movies rather than grading stacks of papers.

    Learn all my time-saving grading tips here.

    5. Stay Organized and Plan Ahead

    Chances are your schedule this time of year is a little busier than usual. Stay a few steps ahead to prevent any last-minute hassle by creating a calendar of important dates and deadlines. Map out what you plan to teach throughout the month and when. Plan your lessons days or weeks in advance, gathering your resources and making your copies beforehand.

    Having a clear overview of your schedule will help you manage your time efficiently throughout the month, both in and out of the classroom. It will also play a massive role in reducing the likelihood of last-minute planning stress in the face of the unexpected. That said, I recommend keeping a stack of standalone “emergency” holiday activities ready to go if needed.

    Need help staying organized? Download my free printable teacher planner!

    5.  Set Aside Time for Self-Care

    Between the added stress of the holidays (at work and home) and the winter germs popping up left and right, prioritizing self-care is a must. So, put down the papers and red pen and schedule moments of relaxation. Whether reading a book, taking a brisk walk, or enjoying a cup of tea, find small ways to give yourself a little TLC.

    While self-care is vital all year long (especially if you’re on the brink of teacher burnout), it’s a must-do if you’re looking to maintain your sanity and well-being this holiday season.

    Keeping Students Engaged and Learning in December

    Here are some tips, tricks, and strategies for keeping students on track over the next several weeks.

    1. Infuse Lessons with Festive Fun

    If your students are buzzing with the holiday spirit, run with it! Leverage their energy to create meaningful learning experiences. That’s right—you can embrace the holiday spirit in your classroom and achieve learning goals! Simply use the excitement around the upcoming holidays as momentum for learning.

    Read holiday-themed short stories, write winter-themed poetry, or research holiday traditions around the world. There are plenty of other festive activities you can bring into your classroom to keep the content relevant while making learning more enjoyable.

    2. Opt for Interactive Activities

    The weeks leading up to holiday break are not the best time to expect students to sit still for long periods of time. Instead, use their extra energy as an opportunity to engage them in hands-on and student-centered activities. Swap more traditional assignments for more interactive ones, like classroom discussions, debates, and group projects.

    It’s all about creating a productive outlet for all that energy and excitement. Consider activities and assessments that allow students to showcase their understanding in diverse and innovative ways. This approach keeps students engaged while keeping critical thinking at the forefront.

    3. Take Advantage of Technology

    Leverage students’ enthusiasm for technology to make learning more dynamic and engaging for students. Look for opportunities to incorporate multimedia resources or go on virtual field trips, for example. You can also assign digital escape rooms, put together online scavenger hunts, or create collaborative online experiences. These activities are sure to capture students’ attention while also promoting essential 21st-century skills.

    Another idea? Digital escape rooms! Here are some of my favorites for the winter holidays:

    4. Incorporate Holiday-Themed Writing Prompts

    Holiday-themed prompts encourage students to embrace their holiday spirit and hone their writing skills. Additionally, engaging students in fun and relatable prompts can boost their confidence in their writing abilities.

    The best part? No matter what style of writing you are working on, there are plenty of ways to incorporate festive themes. Have students practice personal narratives by writing about their favorite holiday memories or work on persuasion by defending their favorite holiday tradition as “the best.” Have them practice figurative and descriptive language by describing a winter wonderland using vivid imagery and sensory details. Get their creativity flowing with silly story starters. I mean, seriously, the options are endless!

    5. Turn Up the Holiday Tunes

    Bring the holiday spirit into your classroom with music. Whether you choose to play Christmas classics or holiday instrumentals, know you are creating a fun and festive atmosphere in favor of effective learning. After all, research shows that listening to music can positively impact cognitive performance and memory.

    Just be mindful that not all students will want to listen to music while they work. Therefore, opt to play music during group work or creative activities rather than something like silent reading or when taking a quiz.

    You’ve Got This!

    I hope this post helps you not only survive but thrive in the classroom during the coming weeks. It all comes down to finding a balance of self-care, realistic expectations, and engaging teaching strategies.

    By prioritizing your well-being and implementing creative and interactive approaches to learning, you can make the most of December in your classroom. Then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a much-deserved winter break. 

    Cheers to a successful and festive holiday season in your ELA classroom!

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