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ELA Winter Holiday Ideas for Middle School

December really can be the most wonderful time of the year even if you’re a teacher with a class of students who may have already mentally checked out for the holiday break. For me, the three weeks before Christmas can be challenging, so I always rely on kid-approved lessons and activities for the month to make sure my classroom is full of holiday cheer.

Winter Whiteout Poetry

Blackout poetry has been such a big hit with my students that I created a winter whiteout poetry assignment to go along with the holiday and winter season. Blackout/whiteout poetry is created when a page of text is completely blacked out except for select words and phrases. What remains is a brand new poem formed from the existing text. In the digital version, students “white out” unwanted text, leaving only words and phrases they choose to create their new poem. It’s a creative activity that even my most reluctant writers get excited about. I promise you they will beg for more! Try winter whiteout poetry in your classroom here.

Winter Escape Room

It’s no secret that kids go crazy for digital escape rooms even when they are aligned to learning standards. The digital escape format adds just enough excitement and mystery to engage students without a lot of set up or effort on your part. In my winter escape room, students are asked to help free McFrost the Snowman from a snow globe.

Once students complete the escape room, I extend the assignment by having them write a story or poem using some of the commonly confused words. Another extension is to have students rewrite the opening scenario explaining how McFrost ended up in the snow globe.

Holiday Thoughtshots

Holiday Thoughtshots is hands-down a student favorite! I teach a quick lesson on using "thoughtshots" (Barry Lane) as a writer’s tool to reveal what a character is thinking or feeling. A thoughtshot at its basic level is often referred to as internal dialogue; there is more to teaching this idea, but I’m not going into that in this post. My kids are totally engaged in the task, and I often use personal photos from past holidays for some extra fun and laughs. The lesson can be modified to reflect your campus culture involving holidays and themes. Grab a short Holiday Thoughtshots activity.

Word Puzzles and Games

I don’t know about you, but I love a good puzzle whether it’s a jigsaw, logic, or word games, and my students do, too. They respond exceptionally well to these kinds of challenges because the tasks give them a sense of accomplishment when they achieve success. Puzzles and word games are also a great way to incorporate small group collaboration and teamwork.

Another favorite is a collection of winter and December-themed literacy and writing activities that promote vocabulary development, fluency, flexibility, and creativity in thinking. Christmas Clues is a word game I use every year. My kids enjoy group work, and they know it's a reward for working well together and following group norms.

Starbucks Mode and Chill

Starbucks mode is a strategy I started using years ago when I had a coffee decor theme in my classroom. Students earn the privilege of flexible seating and music of their choice (or class chosen instrumental music or coffee shop sounds) during independent work time. During the holiday season, I project a cozy cabin fireplace YouTube video that sets the perfect mood. Starbucks Mode poster cozy fireplace YouTube links.

What are your favorite holiday lessons? Which of these did your students love? Be sure to share this post with your teacher friends who need these “gifts” right now.

Happy Teaching!

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