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Secondary ELA Holiday Activities: 10 Creative December Options

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 ELA Holiday Activities

As December unfolds, teacher life can get BUSY. You’re wrapping up the term, trying to get everything squared away for break, and perhaps preparing for a special family holiday. Plus, it’s been MONTHS since the last big break, and everyone is starting to be oh-so-ready for some serious sleep and renewal – teachers, students, parents, and admin alike. I hope you like these ELA Holiday Activities to use in your classroom.

My goal with this post is to give you a huge roundup of helpful ELA holiday activities you can sprinkle in with no trouble at all this month. Ideally they will save you time, boost the mood in your classroom (which actually leads to greater productivity!), and be activities you can look forward to.

So let’s do it! Here come ten creative secondary holiday activities. I hope you’ll find ten you love. LOL.

ELA Holiday Activities #1: Host a Pre-Winter Break Book Tasting

 ELA Holiday Activities

Ok, first things first, you’re going to want the free curriculum pictured here that I’ll be referencing! You can grab it here. Unless you’d rather make your own, which is totally cool of course!

Start by setting up your room however you want it. Unusual lighting choices, music, any type of snack or warm drink, tablecloths, sprigs of pine in jars with ribbons – ANYTHING like this that sounds fun to you and will be easily repeatable from year to year (to make it worth the investment of time up front) will add to the fun of your winter break book tasting event.

In terms of books, if you’ve got a strong load of winners on your classroom shelves, use those. If not, a trip to the school library and a chat with your wonderful school librarian is in order. Hopefully whatever route you take, you end up with solid books you can put out in each class. Beware of putting out all your top favorites in your first book tasting! You don’t want period seven to have nothing they’ll want to read.

Once your ambiance is set and your books are scattered, project one of the slides in your kit onto your whiteboard or smartboard, to set the scene. Then welcome your students and give them one of the Book Tasting TBR organizers pictured below.

Now comes a low-key and relaxing final period before break! Students can sip their drinks, browse the books, jot down their favorites so they know what they want to check out at the end of the period, and enjoy the atmosphere. If you need to connect with anyone about anything before break begins, it’s an easy time to do so. If not, you can just wander with the kids, making suggestions if you feel certain kids should really taste certain books!

Save a few minutes at the end of your book tasting to let kids check out books. If you anticipate many students wanting a certain book, you can always try to have a few backup copies ready from the library, or a clear system for randomly selecting who gets it this time and jotting down who will get it after break so the first reader knows who to pass it to next.

That’s it! I hope you’re going to try this, and I hope you’re going to love it!

Remember, you can snag the free book tasting curriculum right here.

ELA Holiday Activity #2: Invite Students to Write Holiday Lipograms

 ELA Holiday Activities

Ever since Melissa Alter Smith of Teach Living Poets introduced me to lipograms, I’ve been so intrigued by this poetic form. A lipogram is simply a poem in which a poet avoids a certain letter (or letters) of the alphabet, but I love the way Melissa had her students avoid all vowels except one.

For this project (grab the free curriculum I designed with Melissa here), students will choose one vowel and then write a holiday poem using only that vowel. There are three quick brainstorming activities they can do to help them generate enough words with their chosen vowel to write a poem (it’s harder than it may sound!).

I suggest you have them up and moving around the room to find different partners to work with on each brainstorming step. Though you can let poets who prefer to work on their own settle in at their own desks.

Once they’ve brainstormed lists of words with their vowel based on the various prompts, it’s time to write their poems. This is waaaaay easier with all the words already ready.

After they finish their final poems, invite everyone to turn their papers out and do a little holiday lipogram gallery walk. You might even consider letting them type up final versions with colorful imagery (a great practice project for getting better at Canva) and posting them in your hallway.

Remember, you can find this free curriculum set here (Lighthouse members, it’s in your seasonal content section!).

ELA Holiday Activity #3: Set up a Holiday Book Display

This is such an easy way to attract fresh attention to your library! Add a few twinkle lights, maybe some pine cuttings in a mason jar with a white ribbon, and a sign that says “Warm up with a Book” or “Cozy up with a Book this Winter.” A basket of candy canes definitely wouldn’t hurt!

ELA Holiday Activity #4: Try the “Unwrap a Book Display”

Got a little time to devote to your library? Try choosing some of your favorites to recommend and wrapping them up one night while watching something fun on Netflix. Add a little tag with a teaser, and see who takes them home!

ELA Holiday Activity #5: Try a Winter Poetry One-Pager

The Poetry Foundation has a lovely collection of Winter Poems, including Mary Oliver’s “White Eyes,” which I would really recommend. Its lovely language and gentle structure gives students plenty to dig into without being overwhelming.

Whether you use “White Eyes” or another winter favorite of yours, why not try a poetry one-pager?

Maybe you’ve tried one-pagers for novels and you’re ready to branch out. Or maybe this will be your first one-pager. Either way, it’s a great activity to help students dig into a poem and show their understanding through both words and visuals – a skill vital to many types of real-world communication in our world today.

As always, I suggest sharing a template with students (this is mine on TPT). When you design your template, think about the types of things you want your students to really explore in the poem.

For example, your one-pager instructions might ask students to include:

  • a border of imagery from the poem
  • poetic devices they notice along with quotations to illustrated them
  • connections between the poem and other poems, pieces of art, or books
  • connections between the poem and current events or their own lives
  • themes from the poem along with illustrations of those themes through quotations and/or imagery
  • a look at the poet’s style
  • a key symbol or image from the poem

If students need full scaffolding, you can let them know where on the page to include each element. If they have some experience and are ready for more independence, you can let them choose where to put everything, or even to use blank paper instead of a template.

ELA Holiday Activity #6: Roll out the “It’s a Wonderful Life” One-Pager

It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic film that can keep you sane in the last few days before break when your students need a bit of holiday fun. ❄️​❄️​❄️​

But showing a movie right before break can have its pitfalls. Holiday-crazed students sometimes have trouble focusing!

That’s the beauty of a one-pager activity as an ELA holiday activities. A simple guided sketchnote activity can help students focus on the film as a text.

Give your students instructions in adding components like themes, important quotations, the growth of the protagonist, and more.

Create your own version, or find mine here.

ELA Holiday Activity #7: Try The Christmas Carol One-Pager

If you want to watch or read The Christmas Carol in December, a quick one-pager will give your mini-unit some structure without being onerous to create or grade. It’s that lovely sweet spot where you provide some accountability without weighing kids down with extra work right before break. Here’s my version, or make your own!

ELA Holiday Activity #8: Try this Winter Holiday Makerspace Creative Writing Project

One ELA Holiday activity you’ll love is the creative writing projects that help keep students (and teachers) going during the busy month of December. If you want happy, engaged students in the build up to winter break, this engaging unit (free download right here on TPT) can help.

I was inspired by the amazing book Make Writing, by Angela Stockman, to create a series of ELA maker space projects. First, students make something using art or maker materials. Then, they write about it.

Students who struggle with writer’s block will find their ideas flowing better. Students who love art will connect more to their writing. Students will have a chance to really visualize aspects of their writing before they begin.

With this project, students first create a winter holiday setting.

Maybe they paint a frosty arctic scene with a tiny cottage on the horizon as an ELA holiday activity.

Maybe they create a finger puppet theater with characters at a holiday dance.

Maybe they build a wooden set for an ice skating rink and light it with Christmas lights. The sky’s the limit.

Next, they share their scenes with a partner and talk about them, building up ideas for their writing.

They set their written pieces within their own scenes, working on novel chapters, poetry, short stories, or plays.

After completing the peer editing workshop and then their final drafts, students share their art and writing in a winter holiday gallery, completing fun award tickets for the projects they like best.

ELA Holiday Activities #9 Experiment with Wintery Digital Poetry Tiles

If you’ve ever played with magnetic poetry on your refrigerator, you already have the idea of digital poetry tiles. These kits are so easy to use to create poems, and they help students relax and move beyond writer’s block.

All you need is a Google Slide and a bunch of individual word images to move around on that slide. You can make it as complex or as simple as you like.

To design my own digital poetry kits, I like to create a themed background for my Slides in Canva at the 11 X 8.5 inch size, then drop it in as a background on an 11 X 8.5 inch slide deck. That way if I want to print any of the final poems it’s easy to do so.

Next, you want to add your text.

One easy option is just to create a bunch of individual text boxes on top of your slide and put the highlighter on in white. Just keep using the “duplicate” shortcut on your text box and then changing the word. Then students will be able to drag them around. This is the quickest shortcut I can think of.

For a slightly more detailed look you can create your words in Canva or Powerpoint on a small size image. Type a word onto your white rectangle slide, then duplicate the slide (in either program) over and over with all the words you want. Finally, download them all as PNG files and drop them onto the background you’ve created.

Pro tip. If you want to create multiple versions with different backgrounds, duplicate your slide covered in word images first, then change the background. Don’t add a fresh slide and drop 100 tiles onto it again!!

Designing these kits does take a little time, and might best be enjoyed with a fun movie and a warm mug of cinnamon apple cider. (Or you can always use mine, which you can peruse here or grab from The Lighthouse).

ELA Holiday Activity #10: Try Hexagonal Thinking with a Holiday Movie

 ELA holiday activities

Hexagonal thinking is such a powerful critical thinking strategy, and it can really boost engagement in discussion during the ELA holiday activities. If you’re watching a holiday movie this season, it’s a perfect chance to introduce this discussion method and help students start to become more skilled with it. My free hexagonal thinking toolkit will give you everything you need to know to get started! Grab it right here.

OK, my friend, that’s all the ELA holiday activities I’ve got in my toolkit at the moment! I hope they’ll lift some stress off you in this busy season.

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!

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