Sunday, November 27, 2016

ELA Holiday Activities : How to be festive in secondary ELA classrooms

I absolutely love the holiday season, and since I don't have children of my own yet, I use this time of year to project my over-zealous Christmas spirit onto my 75 seventeen and eighteen-year-old "kids." ;) 

Here are few ideas to bring a little holiday cheer into your secondary ELA classroom: 

1. Give a little gift. I think that elementary teachers do a fantastic job of making their students feel loved around the holidays. While I don't have time to make 75 perfectly crafted gifts, I do have time to make something quick that my students will appreciate. Like all block scheduled high schools, the last day before winter break will be the last time I will see my students until graduation, so I want to make sure to leave them with a little gift that will remind them of how much I enjoyed having them in class. This year's quick and easy gift is a Donut ZenDoodle Bookmark. All I have to do is print, cut, and pick up a few boxes of donuts. :) 

You can download these for FREE here: Donut ZenDoodle Bookmarks 

Want to see even more quick and easy gifts? Be sure to check out my round up post here: 

2. Have a book party the day before winter break. The school I teach at  allows parties, but I don't want to have a day of complete partying because my classes are  90 minutes long. What would we do with the other 80 minutes after food and drinks? Depending on the class period, they have already watched 2 or 3 Christmas movies that day by the time they get to me, so I can't really play that card either. Because of this, I always schedule our edible book project for the day before winter break. We still get to have a party, but there's a little reading love thrown in as well. :) Students must bring food that symbolizes character or theme and present it to the class before we sample food item. I use this for their free-choice reading, but you can also use it for the novel they are ending before break or for their favorite story of the semester. I give them this handout for inspiration (click to enlarge) : 
(see below for the link to this FREE handout with a Harry Potter writing Example!) 

Examples from last semester: 
Be sure to follow my Instagram for more examples from this semester's students! @Bsbooklove

You can get a more readable/printable version of this handout, a Harry Potter example, and other food-related project choices (for those who might not be able to afford to bring in a dish) for FREE by signing up for my English teacher monthly newsletter (see form below). If you are already on my newsletter and would like a copy of this, please email me so that I can send you one! 

3. Decorate your room. In just 10 minutes, you can make your room special for your secondary students. It doesn't take much, but they will it not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I always keep a little tree in my closet at school and literally pull it out of the box and throw some lights on it. I don't even do ornaments. Even though it's simple, I love how it adds a touch of holiday ambiance to my room. 

Along with my tree this year, I  have added Christmas posters that only an English teacher could love. Ha! 

I got on a roll and ended up making over 20 of these author-inspired holiday decorations. 
They can also serve as Christmas cards for you students. I hung most of them as posters, but I'm saving a special Shakespeare one to give out as cards since I'm teaching British literature this semester. 
You can find these in my store here: Literary Christmas Cards and Posters 

4. Use my favorite FREE app and website, StoryBird, to create festive and artistic poems. Storybird's new poem maker feature is SO fun and addicting. Students can use their phones and iPads by downloading the free Lark by Storybird app, or they can use the desktop version. Basically, you select artwork and generate a poem based on the words it gives putting together a poetry puzzle. 

Here are the directions for the desktop version: 
Step 1: Go to "Create" (don't worry about where it says "Longform".. you will change that later)
Step 2: Search for holiday inspired art. I used the word "winter" to get to the art I wanted. 
Step 3: Find the art you wish to use and click "use the art" then select "poem" 
Step 4 : You will then be taken to a platform where you can drag words on top of your picture. This is where you can add in standards for students such as: Create a poem using parallel structure or create a poem that contains personification. 
Here's the one I came up with. :) Once students finish, they can save and email you the final. Or, you can create a classroom account where you will get your students' creations under your account. 

Here is what the app version looks like :

5. Rock out ugly Christmas sweaters. I'm a huge thrift store shopper, so I love having an excuse to browse for Christmas outfits that I know my students will get a kick out of.  

I'm really just in the minor leagues though when it comes to wearing festive outfits to work. You have to check out The SuperHEROteacher on Instagram because she wears a holiday sweater to work for like the whole month of December. This makes me giggle so hard. 

I love holiday sweaters so much that I even designed a lesson around them so that my students can join in on the fun. This lesson works for ANY text, and my students love doing it so much that they don't even notice all of the writing I sneak in ;) 

Here's an example for Angela's Ashes

You can find this fun activity here: Ugly Christmas Sweater for ANY Text 

6. Play some holiday-themed ambient sounds. My husband found the best YouTube station in the world. It's made up of Harry Potter themed ambient noise, and she has a few that are perfect for winter background sounds in your classroom. They aren't distracting and add a perfect touch of whimsy for holiday lessons. Here are a few of my favorites for the Christmas season: 

Here's to a wonderful holiday season with your student and an even better winter break! Be sure to click around below to see what other ELA teachers are doing this month! 

An InLinkz Link-up

Find even more ELA winter inspiration here: 


  1. Cute outfits! Thanks for joining us!

  2. I have not heard of Storybird but am now going to check it out - it looks amazing!! :)

  3. So many clever ideas and useful tools! Thanks for sharing Storybird.

  4. Those literary Christmas cards are adorable!

  5. Ashley,
    How do you do it? This post is seriously jam packed with so many ideas that I want to try!! You are just a non-stop force of creativity. I love following your blog and Instagram (super fan!) and I don't even know which idea I want to try first. My only problem with your post is your Green Bay sweater ;-) Go Bears! :-)

    1. lol on the Green Bay! This G is our school mascot, so it looks like we can still be friends ;). And, thank you so much for the kind words. I'm humbled considering the source of your awesomeness. Xoxo