We all know that the couple of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Winter Break can be rough on teacher energy levels and student behavior. And then, the weeks after Winter Break are tough, too. In December, we are all just waiting for that next break, and the kids more or less mentally check out. In January, its cold and dreary. Recess isn’t a for sure thing. All we want is to be back on break.
I have always found the best way to combat focus and behavior struggles in the classroom is to do more hands-on activities that spark curiosity and interest. This is always easy to do in Science! It’s one of the reasons that Science is my favorite to teach.
This year, I stepped up my game and updated my previous Christmas and Winter activities to include even more hands-on with STEM challenges! Filling your classroom with engaging activities throughout December and January are a sure way to save your sanity, while making progress in teaching those standards.
Let’s take a look at some things I do in my STEM and Literacy Unit to survive December and January.
Highly Interesting Science and Literacy Learning for each week
Make your students get curious about the world around them by connection real life wonders and phenomena to the magic of Christmas and Winter. This is a great way to build reading and writing skills as well.
I like to start my Christmas season off with a short informational text about how Santa chose his reindeer. Students are guided through some very interesting facts with science-based evidence to back them up! Did you know that all of Santa’s reindeer had to have been female? Students learn about why this must be true and about some neat adaptations that make reindeer perfect for the job!
Holiday Spirit Skill Practice
To keep science skills fresh in their minds through this season, simple holiday spirit themed activities can be a super easy activity. Measuring ornaments (Providing real ornaments would be pretty cool, too!) and designing a Christmas light circuits can help build and practice skills while having spirited fun!
And to top off a fun unit, I added a new STEM challenge section! Adding real Christmas lights to the house or the tree can make an amazing classroom display. My kids LOVED doing this! My kindergarten son’s Christmas tree circuit on his wall at school was a huge hit. (We used my upper elementary science to improve his kinder family project.)
Allowing students to plan their own design and show off their work is exciting and priceless. The desins can be as simple as lighting the star in top the tree, but could also be lighting the entire tree or house. You can cut apart a stand if chrismtas lights and just add tape and batteries to make a fun circuit!
In January, I finish up this series with Winter themed activities such as Snowman Weather and Evergreen Tree Adaptations. The relevant topics to their current season helps drive student interest while preparing them for the science concepts they need to know more about. What’s more fun than learning about how snowmen are made and why they melt? To add a hands-on activity for the snowman text, give each student a snowman shaped icecube to melt at different temperatures. Take one outside or close to a cold window, put one in a mini fridge or a cabinet, and even put them in your warm hands. See how long a snowman can last in each temperature.
Winter Themed Skill Practice
To keep science skills fresh in their minds through this season, simple holiday spirit themed activities can be a super easy activity. It always amazes me how interested students are in something so simple as tools and thermometers! Provide a variety of items for students to measure temperatures in real life to add excitement and hands-on learning. Maybe even set up stations for them to see the tools in action!
The STEM challenge for Winter is a super fun way to end this series. I quite enjoyed it myself. I challenge students to design an igloo that can stay insulated in freezing temperatures. Thinking of materials that work as great insulators and then testing them out in the freezer is pretty exciting. Here is the template I built to put my insulation material around.
I hope that some of these ideas can help you plan an exciting STEM and Literacy unit to beat those Winter/Holiday classroom blues. Making it fun for the students always makes it more fun for me.
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all my teacher friends out there!!