4 Christmas Alternative Activities for the Classroom


christmas alternative activities for kids

December can be a tricky time of the year in the classroom. Besides planning lessons that are sure to engage students during the most exciting month of the year, being sure to include and represent all students in my lessons and activities is always on the top of my lesson planning list. Since this is a top priority for me, I love to focus on seasonal topics instead of one specific holiday. In December, we work on all things winter themed!

These lesson ideas, resources, and tips will help you engage students with Christmas alternatives this December. And the best part is that these activities and ideas can be used all winter long. So if you do not finish a project before leaving for the holiday break, you can just pick it back up when you return! 

Celebrate the Season of Giving with Kindness

kindness challenge activities for kids

The holiday season is the season of giving, so use this time and month to focus on being kind! It is the perfect time to issue a Kindness Challenge to your students! I love using kindness challenges in my classroom. These rip off kindness challenge tasks will keep your students spreading good cheer all month long...and all year long, too!

These are so easy to use! Simply print, hang in a high traffic area, and encourage your students to rip off a kind deed and put it into action. There is also a blank page so that you (or your students) can write in kind deeds that you would like to be done in your classroom community. Grab this Kindness Challenge for FREE at the bottom of this post.

Since this is a great month to spread kindness these ideas and FREE resources can help!

Celebrate the 12 Days of Winter

winter countdown activities for kids

December countdowns are so much fun to do, but how about a winter-themed countdown instead of one filled with Christmas goodies and themes? My kids love completing these 12 winter-themed activities to help countdown before holiday or winter break. Since activities are generic winter activities like blizzards and building snowmen I know that every child in my room can participate and feel included. #teacherwin

And bonus...they make perfect bulletin board displays that can be left up for all of the winter months! Yay!

Get Cozy Reading with Winter Titles

winter picture books for upper elementary

Getting cozy in a reading corner is the best way to spend December days with students. My favorite winter-themed read alouds are perfect to share during reading and writing lessons, during snack, after recess, or anytime you want to share a good book! Read my top five list of winter read alouds and grab some fun free activities to use with each book!

Looking for fun and engaging video read alouds to rotate into your reading time? Head over to Storyline Online and find some fun winter read alouds like this one: Henry Holton Takes the Ice.

Seasonal Topics to Motivate

winter writing activities for upper elementary

There are so many fun and engaging seasonal topics that your students will LOVE learning about that have nothing to do with holidays, yet are perfect to use during December and all winter long! 

Get kids writing...

My favorite hands-on December activity involves wrapping gifts! Bring in some material and have students figure out how to wrap a gift! This non-holiday gift wrapping how to writing project always has my kids laughing as they write and try to figure out how to wrap the perfect gift! It is perfect for the week before school gets out. Other fun winter writing topics include:

Get kids reading...

Reading seasonal material is another great way to get students engaged! I love to use informational reading passages to tie together science and close reading strategies, and when it is December we read all things winter! Activities like these make me feel confident that we are meeting standards AND having fun at the same time! These are my class favorites:

Get kids thinking...

Problem-solving projects are a great way to keep students learning over a few days. I love giving students projects during the month of December. It keeps engagement high and students excited to come to school each day. These real-world projects are always my students' favorites!

Who doesn't love a December freebie...

Whether you celebrate the holidays or not, these FREE resources will save you time and keep your students engaged and critically thinking all month long!

Make December a time of inclusivity for all of your students by celebrating events and topics that all students can appreciate and be included in! Celebrating kindness, family traditions, and all things winter make it easy for all students to feel important and included in your classroom.

Want to celebrate Christmas in your classroom?
Be sure to teach about other popular December holidays, too!

christmas around the world for upper elementary

Suggested Reading:

valentines day activities for kids

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    Teaching Kindness in the Classroom

    Teaching Kindness in the Classroom

    Looking for ways to bring kindness into your classroom so that it just becomes a part of your classroom culture? I can help!

    There is nothing more important to me than setting the tone right at the beginning of the year that kindness is an important part of our classroom community. These tried and true kindness lesson ideas, classroom tips, picture book list, and teacher freebies will surely get you started.

    Click each image to learn easy-to-implement ways to make kindness a priority in your classroom.

    Ways to have a kind classroom

    how to use kindness quotes in the classroom

    kindness read aloud picture books

    Looking for even more ways to bring kindness into your classroom? Try these!

    kindness bulletin board for the classroom

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    Kindness lessons for the classroom



    4 Ways to Bring Gratitude Into the Classroom

    4 Ways to Bring Gratitude Into the Classroom

    Teaching students to express gratitude goes beyond just being thankful or simply saying thank you. I teach students that gratitude is a positive emotion that makes us feel good. It helps us to appreciate both big and small things that we have in our lives that sometimes get taken for granted. When students think about things that they are grateful for, I always encourage them to think about non-material items like spending time with family and friends, having food and water, and attending school.

    While any time of the year is a good time to teach students about gratitude, November is perfect! Thanksgiving is in the air and feelings of being thankful are all around. Students are open-minded and ready to express feelings of gratitude. Try these easy to implement ideas to help bring gratitude into your classroom.

    Classroom Gratitude Pumpkin

    Each year, we take a leftover Halloween pumpkin and turn it into a gratitude pumpkin. We simply write gratitude pumpkin around the stem and carve out time each day to write one thing that we are grateful for in our classroom community on the pumpkin.

    4 Ways to Bring Gratitude Into the Classroom

    By keeping our gratitude notes on the pumpkin focused on our classroom community, students begin to recognize all that we have in one another. Morning meeting is a great time to take a few minutes for one student to share something that they are grateful for in our community. We talk about how good it feels to recognize one another too. You will be amazed at the ideas that your students come up with!

    At the end of the month, I always send the gratitude pumpkin home with one student. You can raffle off who gets to bring it home or select a student who exemplified gratitude this month. My kids love doing this and it helps to build our classroom community even stronger.

    Gratitude Jar

    I love having my students create their own gratitude jars. We discuss how our gratitude jars are personal and are not shared with others before beginning this project. By keeping these jars private, students feel comfortable and know that they can write anything, even small things like spending time with their parents, in their jars.

    gratitude jar for kids

    While we discuss gratitude I make sure that students know that by expressing our gratitude we feel good! Even writing down our feelings helps us to feel good. I encourage students to revisit these gratitude jars when they are having a bad day. The simple act of rereading what they are grateful for always helps them to feel better. 

    Gratitude Journal

    There is no right or wrong way to keep a gratitude journal. I love to encourage students to express gratitude by modeling it to help them feel comfortable writing about their feelings. During the first week of the month, I share with students different things that I am grateful for each day. I make sure that I include things from different parts of my life, like being a mom, a teacher, a friend, and a sister. I show them how I record it in my journal and instantly they want a journal, too! 

    To avoid simply having students create a list, encourage students to write why they are grateful for that item. What brings them happiness about it? Once your students get the hang of it, they will begin to write more about each thing that they are grateful for.

    You can encourage your kids to keep their own gratitude journals with this print and go template. Grab it for FREE at the bottom of this post.

    Gratitude Read Alouds

    Put the Thanksgiving read alouds on hold, and kick off November with read alouds that have characters that are grateful for the small things in life! The characters in these books lend themselves perfectly to meaningful classroom discussions about being grateful for the things that really matter.

    gratitude read alouds for upper elementary

    Try one of these and grab the FREE printable activity to use with any of these books below.

    • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble written by William Steig This sweet story emphasizes that we all need to appreciate what we have in the moment. It also perfectly illustrates that you do not appreciate what you have until it is gone. Watch it here!
    • A Chair for My Mother written by Vera B. Williams I love this book! It is perfect for so many lessons, but with a gratitude lens, it is easy to discuss how the characters appreciate their family. Even after all their possessions are lost in a fire, they are grateful for one another.
    • Knots on a Counting Rope written by Bill Martin Jr Another classic story, this one tells the story about a blind boy who appreciates his relationship with his grandfather and enjoys his time with him as he navigates life through his other senses. This one is great to point out that we should stop and be grateful for things we sometimes take for granted, like our health and the sense of sight. Watch it here!
    • Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch written by Eileen Spinelli I know this book is just perfect for Valentine's Day, but it is also so perfect for gratitude discussions and feeling grateful for our friendships. This touching story tells about Mr. Hatch, who feels alone and sad until he thinks he is loved. Watch it here!
    • Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge written by Mem Fox This book has many life lessons that you can discuss with your students, especially how valuable our memories are. I love reading this book during gratitude lessons because it allows students to be grateful for things that they have experienced and to hold on tho those memories, too. Watch it here!
    • Those Shoes written by Maribeth Bolts This book covers it all! Gratitude, kindness, appreciation, and friendships. Definitely a must-read during any gratitude lesson.

    Take the time to welcome gratitude into your classroom this season. The lessons and activities that you do this month will last throughout the year.  You will not only strengthen your classroom community but also strengthen your students' understanding of how and why we should be grateful each and every day. 

    Related post: 4 Thanksgiving Activities You Never Thought to Do

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    gratitude activities for upper elementary kids

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