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November 29, 2012 10 Quick Ideas to Spread Holiday Cheer in Your Classroom By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    The diversity of our student body means students celebrate different holiday traditions at different times of the year. To focus on the common joy gained from showing goodwill towards others, we celebrate the Season of Sharing and Caring during December in my classroom. This week I’ll share with you some of the things my co-workers and I do to deck our halls and fill our hearts with cheer.






    Secret Holiday Pals

    Elementary school students love to have “secret pals,” and the holidays are a great time of year to make the most of this. In our classroom, students don't buy their secret pals gifts, but instead, they are challenged to perform three random acts of kindness for them.

    The best part of this? I tell students that if they do nice things only for their pal, he or she will easily figure out who they are, but if they do nice things for several people, it will create confusion. The result is nearly all of my students doing several nice things for several students!

    Every time students go out of their way to do something nice for someone, they get to fill out a Sharing and Caring Raffle Ticket. On the last day of break, five raffle tickets are drawn. The winners get festive holiday hats to wear to the school’s annual Holiday Sing-Along, and everyone receives a candy cane.

    Also on this last day, students unveil themselves to their secret pals with a small homemade gift (think bookmarks, ornaments, LEGO creations). Download the letter that I send home to the parents.

    Book Exchange

    Students bring in a gently used favorite book appropriate for a 3rd grade reading and interest level. On the day before break, each student places their book in a grab bag designated for either girls or boys. Students pick out of the bag to take a “new” book home with them for break.

    Holiday Family Cookbook

    As part of our social studies curriculum, we discuss how different groups came to America from around the world and the lasting cultural contributions each group has made. The diversity of our school brings along with it amazing cuisines from around the world, and the holidays are the perfect time to share a bit of our heritage with each other.

    In a letter sent home two to three weeks before winter break, each parent is asked to contribute two recipes, one recipe from their heritage and one family favorite. These recipes are bound together and make great gifts. I now have quite a collection of these cookbooks, and many of my students’ family recipes have become my own family’s favorites. Click here to download a customizable cookbook cover. 

    Parent Gifts From Students

    For the past few years, our 3rd graders have enjoyed making hot cocoa mix for their parents. They do all of the measuring and mixing themselves (math!) before bagging their mix and tagging it with a card, directions, and a recipe. I frequently hear from parents that this mix never makes it to the holidays, and that their children don’t want packaged cocoa anymore! 

    Gifts From Teachers


    Every year I make personalized clipboards for my students. I purchase the clipboards online for about 50¢ each and decorate them with stickers and paint pens. I do my best to match the boards to each student’s interests or hobbies.






    My friends 1st grade teacher Lauren Fragomeni and 5th grade teacher Karen Socier shared their gift ideas for ornaments that students treasure for years. Lauren had her students paint one hand white and then she helped them carefully place it around the bulb so their fingerprints made snowmen. After the paint dried, the children decorated their snowmen, then put their names and dates on the bottoms for an everlasting momento. Karen's bulbs are decorated with the current year.

    Gifts to Others

    Our 2nd grade teacher Mel Moffett always has her students write letters to soldiers stationed overseas at holiday time, and the children love when they get a response.

    Our student council is sponsoring a schoolwide drive to collect winter gear for homeless veterans. Students were shocked to learn that there are more than 60,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. and over 1,000 in our area, so this act of giving means a lot to our students.

    Instead of a Gift for the Teacher

    Our 4th grade teachers Jen DeWard, Amy Wallace, and Fred Billings send a letter asking parents to send in an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots in lieu of a gift for the teacher. Each year they love the joy that their students get doing a good deed for other children.

    Don't Forget the Thank You

    I take a student photo that becomes the cover of thank you cards that I use the whole month of December. Click here to download the letter cards seen in the picture below.

    Deck the Halls and the Walls and the Doors . . . 

    Let Your Students Decorate the Room    A few years ago, I decided to let my students decorate the room for the holidays. I set out tubs of decorations and gave them full access to construction paper, glue, and whatever else they wanted. My room was filled with laughter and excitement, and the students could hardly wait to bring their parents in after school to proudly show them what they had done. They now decorate for other holidays, and, of course, are also in charge of taking everything down and putting it away for next year’s 3rd graders.

    Three-Dimensional Snowflakes   For many years, one of my absolute favorite decorations in our school has been the beautiful snowflakes our 5th graders make each winter. They hang these from the ceiling all the way down their hallway and the effect is stunning. Thanks to our 5th grade teacher Lisa Carruthers for sharing this project:

    Three-Dimensional Paper Snowflakes


    Gather materials. You will need 6 pieces of square paper, a glue stick, stapler, scissors, and tape.

    Fold each of the 6 pieces of paper in half, diagonally. If the paper doesn’t make a perfect triangle, cut off the rectangular edge that sticks out to make it line up perfectly. You should end up with a square folded into a triangle. Fold the triangle in half again, keeping the folded "bottom" of the triangle closest to you.

    Cut three lines on each side of the triangle from the bottom going up toward the crease. Do not cut all the way through.

    Unfold the triangle so it makes a diamond.

    Roll the two center pieces toward each other so they overlap and form a tube. Tape those pieces in place.

    Flip the paper over and roll the next two pieces together in the same way and tape it.


    Keep turning the paper and joining the sides until all have been connected.


    Continue to do the same thing with the next five sheets of paper.

    Join three of the completed sections together by pinching at one end and stapling. Repeat with the remaining three sections.

    Staple the two sections of threes together to make a complete snowflake.

    Glue or staple where the edges touch to hold the sides of the snowflake together.

    Punch a hole and thread some string or ribbon through to hang. A whole collection of snowflakes made by your students makes for a great display. Plan on this taking older students about 30 minutes. 

    Share Your Ideas With Others

    These are just a few of the things happening in my building at this busy time of year.  I hope you find an idea or two that you can use this month, but I know there are many more wonderful ideas. Right here on Scholastic you can find holiday ideas including teaching themes, activities, more crafts, and a collection of classroom ideas. Please share what you do in your classroom to spread holiday cheer in the comments section below. If you have showcased something you have made or do with your students on your class website, blog, or on Pinterest, share the link! Here's hoping everyone enjoys every moment of this holiday season! 


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Susan Cheyney