Wondering how you can maintain better control during the exciting seasons? Keep reading for three important holiday classroom management tips for secondary teachers.
When you picture comfort and joy of the holiday season, does craziness come to mind? Lack of focus due to the excess amount of sugar consumption from all those Christmas cookies? Normally sweet students who’ve suddenly begun to remind you regularly of exactly how many days are left until break? Large stacks of late work or missing work accompanied by grumbling and mumbling? Surely, craziness does not remind you of peace on Earth.
Teachers can share their students’ excitement about the holidays – including the comfort and joy of the Christmas season – without losing control of the classroom. When the holidays roll around, I’ve learned there are three important keys to keeping students engaged, comfortable, and happy. By the way, these happy-making management tips also benefit teachers!
1. BEGIN CLASS RIGHT AWAY
Don’t give students time to derail your lesson before you even begin. Be consistent with bell ringers even during the chaotic month of December. Due to the excitement of the holidays, what typically works for you might not be as effective (in topic or structure), so don’t be afraid to try a new approach.
Try using bell ringers that require students to find examples of figurative language in popular holiday songs. This activity also provides the opportunity to play music as students enter the room. When the song is over, students know they should be finished and ready to discuss.
This type of routine is enjoyable and refreshing. It also allows teachers to build rapport with students. What better way to bring joy than by playing holiday music?
Want to take the song analysis to the next level? Analyze music with this free activity for middle and high school students.
2. INDULGE STUDENTS’ INTERESTS
It’s important that we try to relate to students during the month of December. One simple way is through Christmas movies. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t play them all the time, but certain occasions warrant a good old fashioned film…or at least clips from them!
Perhaps you’ve just finished collecting an essay and need to grade it before you begin reviewing for final exams. Play a movie like A Christmas Carol, Elf or A Christmas Story, and keep students focused with a comprehension and analysis movie guide.
On days when field trips, music concerts, holiday parties, and other extracurricular activities disrupt the flow of your normal day, be prepared with a shorter movie guide, such as one for A Charlie Brown Christmas or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The time spent viewing these films shouldn’t ever be “filler.” Pause the film and engage students in meaningful discussion and analysis.
For teachers and students alike, knowing you are sharing a cultural tradition is a comforting bonding experience.
3. HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN
There’s nothing worse than finishing a lesson early and realizing you have nothing constructive to fill the leftover time. Whether you have students who consistently finish their work faster than others, tend to under-plan lesson content, or simply want to know you have an emergency sub plan ready if the nasty flu virus were to hit, it’s good to have a back-up plan. Having one you enjoy will give you peace of mind.
Throughout the semester, we teach our students how to write effectively. Many of us use terms like ideas, organization, sentence fluency, word choice, voice, and conventions. In December, we don’t want to be grading stacks of papers. Still, we can keep students writing, honing their skills, and thinking critically with fast-finisher exercises. I use Christmas writing activities to keep students interested.
The best part? These writing exercises don’t take all night to grade. Consider assigning completion points or extra credit for writing completed during December. Conference with students, and give them your feedback orally to save time and provide meaningful, immediate feedback.
And those are my favorite tips. Maintaining control of the classroom without losing the comfort and joy of the holiday season is as easy as 1, 2, 3. In the past, I’ve also kept a Christmas candy stash on hand. Candy canes, especially, work well. I’ve asked students to write sensory details as they’ve tasted the sweets, and I’ve written students holiday cards. We’ve also done small classroom secret Santa exchanges and read short stories related to the season. While these activities were fun and improved the classroom culture, they weren’t necessarily game changers for my classroom management. And you? What holiday classroom management tips would you offer fellow secondary teachers?