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Christmas is just around the corner, and the kind of excitement this time of the year brings to the ELA classroom often comes with a lack of student motivation. I know that in my experience, students begin to check out on learning long before the holiday break actually begins. Getting students up and moving in the classroom is an effective way to keep them engaged right up until the last bells ring! I’ve put together a list of 5 of my favorite Christmas ELA activities to get your middle school students up and moving this holiday season.
The first Christmas middle school ELA activity I want to suggest is the Dasher is missing mystery. For this activity, students need to put on their detective caps to figure out who kidnapped Dasher, the fastest of Santa’s nine reindeer. Students will circulate the room in groups to find clues and complete ELA tasks to reveal information about the suspects, locations, and methods of the crime in order to catch the culprit and save Dasher in time for Christmas!
HOW IT WORKS:
The activity starts with students watching a hand-drawn video that explains the backstory of Dasher’s disappearance. Students will roam the classroom to find hidden cards with clues that can only be solved by using ELA skills like figurative language, punctuation, homophones, and spelling.
Each group will keep track of their answers using student response booklets. When they think they know the suspect, location, and method, they will yell “We solved the mystery!” After it’s over, I like to reveal the final answer and go over each clue with the class so that every student knows how it was solved.
Do your students have what it takes to be Santa’s next team of reindeer trainers? The Reindeer Games is an escape room-style activity that will definitely get your students up and moving around the classroom. They will complete a series of challenges to prove their mental agility and problem-solving skills to Santa—who, it turns out, happens to be a bit of a grammar nerd!
HOW IT WORKS:
Students receive a letter inviting them to the annual Reindeer Games in the North Pole where they will complete a series of competitive challenges to prove they have what it takes. I encourage students to pick a team captain who will be responsible for writing down the answers. To get them in the right spirit, you can also get each team to choose a winter-themed name, team colors, and maybe even a logo or a mascot!
The most important part of the reindeer games, of course, are the games themselves. I outline each of the tasks I use below which can be done in any order!
For this activity, students will imagine themselves as Santa’s elves the week after Christmas. During this time, Santa’s elves are understandably low on energy—and on creative magic! They get this week off, as one would hope. In groups, your students will develop a toy for the other elves to play with on their well-deserved break. Of course, there are few supplies remaining in Santa’s workshop. They only have wrapping paper, tape, two bags, 3 wrapping paper rolls, and a single mystery item of their choosing to work with!
HOW IT WORKS:
Put students into groups and get them to brainstorm four toys that they loved growing up (or that they still love now). On a brainstorming sheet, they will jot down what it is they loved about each of these toys. Then, they will start planning out their new invention. They will brainstorm the possibilities from the limited supplies. Each group will also need to decide on their mystery item (which should be something that’s already in the room). They will also reflect on how their new toy will be made and how it will be used.
Once the planning is done, it’s time for your students to actually create the physical toy! After it’s been created, get students to write a short narrative that tells the story of the elves playing with the toy the week after Christmas. You might also consider having students share with the rest of the class.
Look at some of the student creations from the classroom of @get.lit_erature:
Holiday task cards are a great way to celebrate the holiday season while keeping on track with your ELA curriculum. These can also be easily adapted into a competition!
HOW IT WORKS:
You can set up a fixed number of task cards at a series of stations in your room. Divide students into groups and have them move around the classroom to complete the tasks cards at each station. The first group to complete all of them wins! The task cards I use are focused on vocabulary, parts of speech, grammar, and figurative language. Each of the examples as well as the design are Christmas-themed.
The last Christmas middle school ELA activity I will suggest is a personal favorite of mine: snowball writing. Whether you celebrate Christmas in your classroom or just the winter holidays in general, you can easily adapt this activity accordingly. Snowball writing is a collaborative writing activity that’s a sure way to get even your most reluctant students putting pencil to paper.
HOW IT WORKS:
To begin, each student is given a different narrative story starter. To make this activity specific to Christmas, give students Christmas-themed prompts. Each student will be given the same amount of time to begin their respective stories. They will introduce the setting, at least one character, and start the plotline. After everyone has had time to get their stories started, it’s time for the best part! Get students to crumple up their pages into paper “snowballs” and throw their stories to the front of the room!
Then, every student will retrieve a new story from the pile of paper snowballs. They will each smooth out the paper and continue writing where the previous writer left off. The second writer should continue the plot, develop the characters further, and create a conflict in the story. The process repeats once more. The third writer is responsible for resolving the conflict and bringing the story to a close. Then, they must return the story back to the original author to write a final copy.
If you’re interested, I give tips for implementing this in your classroom here.
There you have it! I am confident these middle school ELA Christmas activities will help you keep your students engaged and focused during this exciting time of the year.
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