The holiday season is probably my favorite time of year.
My family has several traditions we enjoy that only happen at during the months of November and December. My two children have grown to not only anticipate these activities but appreciate them. From participating in a fun run, to watching a holiday parade, to making gingerbread houses with leftover Halloween candy, to picking the right tree to cut down, to spending quiet time singing and reflecting about all of the action around us.
The excitement of the season paired with the anxiety some students face over the uncertainty of their situation during a break from a structured environment can create challenging moments for the classroom teacher. This anxiety can continue when students return from break and hear stories about the holiday adventures of other students.
Teachers are often coached to keep classrooms relatively normal during this time of year to help reduce the anxiety and stress some students are feeling. Even though the classroom may start to feel a little chaotic during this stretch of the year, it is a perfect time to integrate physical movement in the classroom. Since there is the potential for an increase in chaos, it is also a time to reinforce physical movement protocols and routines. Physical movement reduces the levels of stress and anxiety fostering a safe environment for students so learning can occur. This is true at any time of year, but the cold, dark days of winter beg for activity.
Some of my favorite lessons at this time of year include:
Snowball fight: Questions regarding a lesson are written on a sheet of paper. The teacher tells students to write an answer on the sheet of paper, wad the piece of paper into a ball, and stand on the sides of the classroom. When the teacher signals, students throw the balls into the center of the classroom. Students pick up a ball, straighten it out, add to the answer of the question and then repeat the activity.
Vocabulary Snowflake: Each student creates a large snowflake. It may be helpful to show a brief youtube video of a simple design. Once the snowflake has been created, students write a vocabulary word somewhere on the snowflake. The snowflakes are then hung around the walls of the classroom. Students then are instructed to quietly find a snowflake and add an antonym, sketch, or sentence for a new word. Students move around the classroom adding missing elements to each snowflake.
Snow Boots Shuffle: A pair of snow boots is positioned on a table top. Discussion questions/pictures are color coded and then cut in two. Students select a piece from the boots and find their matching partner. The pair discussion the question or prompt with the option of moving around the room.
There are several options for movement, but adding a seasonal flare creates novelty and increases the motivation students have to reflect, review, learn, and explore. Even though each of these activities has a winter theme, they can be adapted to be used throughout the year.