The holidays can be hectic. This post shares 25 classroom learning ideas for activities and lessons to keep students engaged with learning during the holidays.
At the end of the post, there are FREE holiday lesson planning printables that teachers can use.
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Holiday Activities for Kids in the Classroom
Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays bring so much joy and excitement for many people. These holidays also bring lots of schedule changes and chances for disruption in the classroom.
This list offers twenty-five learning activities for the holidays that work very well for students in 3rd through 8th grade.
You can certainly tweak these Thanksgiving and Christmas learning activities for students in Kindergarten, first, and second grades.
The free holiday planning printables at the end of this post will help you incorporate the holidays into your classroom no matter what grade level you teach!
The best part is that many of these ideas cover more than one subject area or learning standard.
1–Plan Out Your Own Thanksgiving Feast
This activity builds in nutrition information and writing practice for students. Have your students decide what foods should be served during Thanksgiving and why.
I use this Thanksgiving classroom activity with read-alouds such as ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey and Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley.
Related Resource: ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving Read Aloud Set
2–Analyze Poetry Through Holiday Read-Alouds and Songs
I believe in teaching poetry all year long–not just during the month of April. Since students are listening to Christmas songs so much, incorporate these catchy songs learning by teaching poetry mini-lessons with the song lyrics.
Books like How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss and The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett are great for this. Some of our favorite songs to analyze as poems are Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bell Rock.
3–“We Are Thankful” Tree Writing Assignment
Cultivating gratitude in the classroom improves the overall learning environment in amazing ways. Help students reflect on things they are thankful for with this Thanksgiving holiday writing activity. My students traced their hands (I had them make several hands of different fall colors.) and wrote things they were thankful for on each hand.
We decorated our classroom door like a tree with the hands as our tree leaves. Students enjoyed showing off their leaves each time we walked into and out of the classroom.
Gratitude Writing Post
4–Teach Perspective During the Holidays Through Literature
This is the time of the year when the focus can be very self-centered. Students are excited to receive gifts, so they tend to catch the “gimmes.” (Gimme me this. Gimme that.) I love using children’s literature to teach perspective and help students put themselves in another’s shoes, so to speak.
Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer details the Christmas story from the perspective of a camel. Books like this challenge students to think about someone else’s vantage point during the holidays.
5–Design Your Own Toy
I love combining math and ELA standards every chance I get! This holiday learning activity really keeps students engaged with both subjects.
Students must use measurements, adjectives, and detailed steps to describe their brand new toy design. You can even extend this Christmas activity into STEM or a project-based learning opportunity by having your students actually build their toy!
6–Elf Letter Writing/Editing Activity
Since students are thinking like elves, I have them write and edit elf-letters to keep them engaged during the holidays! This one is a hit because students love pointing out all the mistakes they find in the elf-letters.
I amp up the engagement factor by purchasing elf and reindeer headbands from The Dollar Tree for students to wear while they pretend to be elf editors and writers. Yes, older kids really get a kick out of wearing these silly headbands.
7–Holiday How-To Essays & Video Tutorials
How-to’s and tutorials are wonderful because students can use technology with their learning. I give them a writing assignment like “How to Build a Gingerbread House.”
They write a detailed essay on it, then they work with a partner to film themselves describing their steps in a succinct video. We use our class iPads to record and edit the videos.
I upload the finished videos to our Class Dojo Parent Portal or in a shared file on our Class Google Drive for parents to see.
Students LOVE completing these how-to’s during the holidays. Here are more tutorial ideas for Christmas learning activities:
Writing Ideas Post
8–Solve Mystery Pictures Related to the 12 Days of Christmas Song
Another fun way to review what you’ve learned AND have fun during the holidays is with this “12 Days of Christmas” activity.
Each gift from the song is shown on Google slides, but there’s a catch: each picture has been broken apart and is now a mystery that students must put back together!
❤️ Your students will solve each “12 Days of Christmas” mystery picture by using math and language arts. Then they will click on the Answer Key button to see if they are correct. I’ve also included a section that gives students a chance to match the picture/gift with the song lyrics.
❤️ This Christmas activity also has real pictures of the items mentioned in the song. For example, your students will see an actual partridge in a pear tree and real swans swimming!
Seeing real examples of these unusual gifts from the popular song helps students build background knowledge.
•EDITABLE Questions & Answers
• Lesson Plan Ideas & Other Teacher Directions
• Links embedded throughout the activity that makes it easy for students to navigate
I bet that when you use this for virtual learning or in your socially distanced classroom, your students will be humming or singing the song all day!
You can grab this activity by clicking HERE.
9–How to Decorate a Christmas Tree
You could combine this one with a Christmas craftivity on decorating Christmas trees in the classroom. Or you can put an interesting spin on it by having students write a tutorial on how NOT to decorate a Christmas tree!
10–“Shop The Room” for Christmas
Use Target or Wal-Mart Toy Ads to cut out pictures with prices of all types of toys. I laminate mine and put them all over the classroom.
I give students a budget and a specific shopping list of toys. Students must use math skills to “shop the room” and check out. Their “receipt” for checking out is the exit ticket math problem I give them to close the activity.
More Math Teaching Ideas
11–Light Up Our Class with Kindness Writing Activity
Students write acts of kindness on Christmas ornaments and we decorate our class with them all throughout the month of December.
This activity makes a fantastic December bulletin board! So we decorate an entire bulletin board with these ornaments.
Everyone really enjoys seeing their names on the ornaments with reminders of kind acts witnessed in our class. It also encourages students to show kindness and to be on the lookout for it.
12–Holiday Book Nominations
A great way to keep students engaged with reading during the holidays is to have them write nominations of holiday-themed books. I have students write on sticky notes why they recommend a book from our classroom library. We keep those stickies on the books for others to see. This keeps the kids motivated to read because they are following the recommendations of their peers.
13–Service Learning During the Holidays
Another wonderful way to keep students engaged during the holidays is through service learning projects and field trips. One year my teaching team took our 4th graders to our local nursing home to read Thanksgiving and Christmas books to the residents.
Another year we made Christmas cards and stockings filled with inexpensive items for a local children’s shelter.
My favorite one is the year our 4th graders went to help organize canned goods at our local food bank.
Service-learning is a wonderful way to get kids involved with learning and giving during this time of the year.
14–Design Your Own “Ugly” Christmas Sweater
This one is a hit with the kids every year! I give them butcher paper and put them in teams. They design ugly sweaters and write descriptions of their creations. This writing gives great practice with adjectives.
Then I roll out the red carpet (which is just red butcher paper) and have the students walk the runway modeling their ugly sweaters! We always have so much fun!
15–Research Popular Christmas Symbols & Traditions
Where does the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings come from? Why is the candy cane red and white? These are great essential questions to research to keep students engaged during the holidays.
I adore read-alouds for upper elementary students, so I combine this research with books that cover the same topic.
More Classroom Ideas To Keep Students Engaged During the Holidays
Just as promised, I have a total of 25 ideas for keeping your students excited about learning during the holidays.
All the ideas listed above plus ideas 16-25 are included with the FREE holiday lesson planning guide pages which you can download HERE for free!
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What holiday activities do you use or have you heard about in the classroom? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!
I have created a travel the world sort of activity. Christmas Around the World. This idea was found and I did purchase some simple books to aid in our discovery of different Christmas traditions. I created a passport and a briefcase as well as made stamps and airline tickets that they got each morning as they “boarded a plant” entered class. I teach special needs children so this activity was a lot of fun for them.
This sounds like an amazing activity! Thanks for sharing.