While Christmas is in the air, elves are causing shenanigans and everything gets a hint of peppermint my students slowly start to loose focus. December can be one of the most fun months to plan for, but also the most frustrating. I call this the Madness of Christmas.
I started to unearth all of my holiday titles and activities the last days of November. I love to be ready and being in multiple buildings I have to get things sorted and distributed. Teaching K-11 this year is fantastic, but keeping the holiday train on the tracks is a challenge. This being said here are three things I do to keep myself merry and bright while I am channeling my inner gingerbread girl.
I love a plan. I love to be organized. However, the first thing I have to make a daily mantra….”ride the wave of cocoa and candy canes”. I know there will be sessions derailed by teachers, assemblies, and of course my students. I would love to think they have visions of goals, speechreading and language dancing in there heads, but reality and experience tell me it is Santa, elves and Christmas vacation filling their daydreams. This understanding and acceptance, that my fun and functional plans may get put to the back burner or slowly accomplished, is helpful for me to take each day as it comes.
Next, I plan activities that can be sweet and condensed or stretched out over multiple sessions (with no recall issues) that have a bit of holiday whimsy. Time is always the issue, regardless of the holidays. My session minutes are precious, so I look for activities that fit the holiday vibes and tackle goals. Selecting shorter books and familiar games is very helpful. The kids love it and games that we have played or activities they have done before help manage time. We don’t spend alot of time on directions and rules. We love holiday matching games played the traditional way or using the game pieces for listening and sequencing. They are essentially picture prompts, so they can be used for categories, sentences, building a story or charades. Any holiday matching or memory game will do.
Last, I try to connect to my classrooms. I love supporting classroom content. Working with organized and pre-planned teachers helps navigate the month. This could be said all year, but during December this is essential. Knowing that vocabulary and language goals can work together makes everyone jolly.
I love to plan activities that expand off of classroom ELA strategies and connect then to IEP goals. Depending on the skill and grade level of a student I try to select activities that pull in listening, prior knowledge, vocabulary, writing and holiday fun. One of our favorite activies is Mad Libs. I love that I can use these silly pages with all of my students. I just modify as needed.
Surviving the holidays as itinerant can be challenging. Finding the balance between festive fun and collecting data can be done. These strategies work for me. As the month progresses I am going to share some more fun and festive lessons.