It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And you know what that means… a little extra classroom chaos! In all fairness, we’re just as excited about the holidays as students, right? With winter break just around the corner, I’m here to bring you some engaging December activities that will help calm the chaos, and sprinkle plenty of festive fun throughout your lessons. It’s possible to balance holiday activities with learning and have fun doing it!
Planning Ahead For December Activities
Before we get into the specifics of the tried and true December activities I recommend, let’s chat about planning. We all know this time of year is busy. And while the busyness is due to happy things like holiday parties and events, it can still feel a bit hectic at times. Keeping this in mind, I always recommend going into December with a plan for your classroom.
This is no different than any other month, except you’ll want to pay close attention to the “extras” on your calendar. For example, if you’ve got a holiday assembly, gift exchange, and classroom party on your list for the same day you’ll want to make sure you have time to prepare ahead of time.
You can do this quickly and easily by sitting down at the beginning of the month and just thinking through the extra activities that will be happening at your school or in your classroom. Jot down supplies needed, prep work tasks to accomplish, and any other details necessary to make these activities go smoothly. Then, take a peek at your calendar and schedule those tasks into blocks of time to ensure they actually happen! This simple process will save you a lot of headaches throughout the busy holiday season.
BUT. . . don’t forget to look at your personal schedule too! December is traditionally a busy month for people and your available time just might be less than normal. When I know my schedule outside the classroom includes more than usual I like to have both handy when I plan. There is nothing wrong with choosing activities that need less planning and prep time during this busy season.
Skills to Focus on in December
As we all know, this time of year comes with SO much joy, and also a little bit of extra hustle and bustle in the classroom. If you’re a primary teacher, you probably smile and shrug this off as part of the job.
Working with little ones means that some days will be a little more hectic than others, and that’s perfectly fine.
This is real life, our students are real kids, and going into it with real expectations is your best bet!
That being said, December is such a great time to focus on reviewing important concepts you’ve been practicing.
Since you’ll likely have just 3 short weeks for instruction, this is a great time to brush up and help avoid sliding back over winter break! Not to mention, review activities make the perfect topic for fun holiday games too.
Being intentional in choosing engaging review activities that will excite your students is the best way to stay on task with learning in December and enjoy plenty of holiday magic too! Ready to see my personal favorites? Let’s get to it!
December Activities for High Engagement
Now, on to the next step – choosing your December activities! When it comes to first grade and other young students, engagement is the name of the game. If we can keep students super engaged in the material, we can count on way less classroom chaos overall. How do we do this you ask? Holiday activities to the rescue!
Yes, you heard that right! Stop fighting your students’ excitement about the holiday and meet them where they are. Use seasonal resources with fun holiday themes and you’ll be able to grab their attention and keep it!
December Morning Work
First things first. If you’re looking to calm the chaos, there is no better solution than engaging morning work and a solid morning routine. These two things will transform your mornings from sheer mayhem into a calming, and dare I say relaxing, start to the day! The key though, is to choose morning work that helps your students review important skills and is easy for them to complete independently.
These December morning work pages do just that, and all with a fun, and festive holiday theme too! Students will work on skills such as:
- ABC order
- identifying declarative, interrogative, and exclamatory sentences
- addition and subtraction within 20
- multi-step math word problems (addition, subtraction, three addends, missing addends), and more!
What I love most about these morning work pages is that they follow a familiar, predictable format making it simple for my students to work independently. This not only promotes self-determination in the students but also frees up some time in the morning for me to take care of daily tasks and get organized.
After students finish up, it’s fun to review the page with the digital version projected up on the board. You can call on students to answer questions and allow everyone to correct their work as you go!
Low-Prep December Centers
Center time is so important in the primary classroom! Students love getting to move around the room, use tactile materials, and play learning games with peers.
When it comes to planning your center activities for December, lean into low-prep options to make the most of your limited time in the classroom!
These low-prep centers for December are filled with fun holiday learning games that focus on a variety of first-grade math and ELA concepts.
Students will love the joyful holiday characters on the pages, and you’ll love how quickly you can get these ready for your students! Most of the activities simply need to be printed and used alongside common classroom supplies like dice, crayons, or game makers.
Any cutting required by teachers is super minimal, so you won’t have to worry about staying up late to prep these! Some of my favorite games from this resource include:
- Christmas Addition Bump
- Christmas Color by Time
- Winter Addition Mystery Puzzle
- Christmas Read and Color by Sight Word
- Winter Word Search
- Build a Gingerbread House and Write Activity
These activities are fun for students, easy to use, and a great way to play off the excitement that’s buzzing around your classroom! There are over 10 activities included in this resource so you’ll have plenty of variety to use throughout the month.
No Prep December Activities – Color by Code Pages
I love color by code because they’re so versatile. Use them for centers, independent learning, fast finishers, and even homework! They’re also great for after recess when you need your students to settle down and focus on a task so that you can work with small groups or do individual assessments. Not to mention, they’re the perfect pick for creating a holiday break practice packet if you do this in your room.
In December, I’m all about leaning into the holiday themes, so our color-by-code pages definitely reflect that. We use themes like Holidays Around the World and Christmas in December to keep the cozy vibes rolling. Coloring is great to help reduce stress levels among your students too! Turn on a mellow Christmas playlist, pass out your pages, and watch the room quiet down and bring a sense of calm to everyone.
My favorite skill to review using color by number is math facts. I’ve found that through a color-by-code activity, my students end up getting more practice than they would on a traditional practice page or flashcards. Color by code also works really well for reviewing sight words! These Christmas Sight Word pages are lots of fun and editable, to make differentiation a breeze.
Math and ELA Review Activities
Remember how I said focusing on review in December is a great tactic to use? These no-prep printables will make sneaking review into your days super simple and easy! These pages offer a review of important math and literacy concepts that first graders are working on, and they have lots of holiday cheer too. Students will love coloring in the cute reindeer and elves on their papers after they finish the questions.
These also come in handy to give you a jump start on planning for January. As students review the skills on the pages, you’ll be able to quickly see how students are progressing. This helps to plan ahead for small groups, reteaching, and intervention after the New Year. I loved being able to use these pages as informal assessments and take down notes on where to pick up after the break. You’ll thank yourself when you come back to school and see your notes waiting to refresh your memory!
Offering review and taking notes on student progress will also help put your mind at ease. You know that feeling of leaving the classroom in a rush, feeling frazzled, and not really wrapping up your thoughts? This can start a swirl in your mind that makes you feel like you’ve forgotten something or some students aren’t getting what they need. We don’t want those thoughts looming in our minds over break. Take the time to jot down a few notes as kiddos work on these pages and rest easy knowing you can actually relax over break and you’ll know exactly where to pick up with your kiddos when you return.
Holiday BINGO Games for the WIN!
Sometimes, you just need to sit down with your kids and play a fun game of BINGO. When you’ve had a crazy day in the classroom and winter break is almost here, a fun BINGO game that focuses on holiday vocabulary will save the day! Not only will students get to practice reading new words, but they’ll have loads of fun doing it! In December, we like to use Holiday Around the World and Christmas BINGO games which the students absolutely love.
My favorite way to play BINGO is as a whole class. I like to be the BINGO caller and have students mark their boards as we go. Depending on how much time I have, I will laminate the color version of our BINGO boards and give students festive mini-erasers to use as markers. If laminating time isn’t in the cards, I use the black-and-white version with BINGO daubers, which is just as much fun!
No matter which option you choose, these games will come in handy as your time in the classroom is winding down before break. Try it on a fun Friday afternoon, during your holiday party, or anytime you need a few minutes to perk up your kiddos and refocus.
This last idea isn’t for your December activities, but it will come in handy after the break! Take the time to prep a couple of activities for the first days when you return from break. That way you can enjoy every last minute of your break without stressing about lesson plans. You can find a variety of activities for January here!
Start Planning Your December Activities
I hope this post offered some inspiration to help you get a head start on planning your December activities. I know this time of year can feel a little extra hectic, but it doesn’t need to be completely overwhelming. Have fun with your activities, embrace the holiday excitement, and plan engaging activities to keep your kiddos learning all month long. Happy Teaching and Happy Holidays!
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