There are so many activities you can do with your students during Christmas time that it can get overwhelming to try to do it all. Yet, I ALWAYS try to do it all because I can’t seem to let anything go. Gingerbread activities are some of my favorite to do during this season. The first and second grade teachers and I have started a tradition at our school where we mix our classes and students get to design gingerbread houses. This activity, plus a gingerbread man in class project, make for a perfect gingerbread filled day! Here are two gingerbread activities that are too much fun to give up!
Design a Gingerbread House
Like I said, my kiddos, the first graders and the second graders all get to design their own gingerbread house. The day before this event, parent volunteers assemble these houses. (Tip- use very sturdy plates, a large tub of royal icing and milk cartons for extra support.) Then, the day of, I split my class into three and some kids go into the other rooms and they get to go to town on designing a gingerbread house. Many kids get very creative and add a front or backyard! It’s an activity where students surprise you on their creativity and attention to detail.
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Gingerbread Man Project
For this activity, students try to disguise a gingerbread house so the gingerbread man won’t get eaten by the old lady or any animals. This project is apart of my Kindergarten Projects for the Years growing bundle. It can be used as a take home project or in class. Since I didn’t have enough time to send home the project, I chose bits and pieces of the project and students completed it in class. Check out this project here.
Elf on the Shelf is typically known for getting into trouble and doing mischievous things. Not my Elf! My classroom elf promotes kindness throughout the holiday season in my kindergarten classroom.
I am obsessed with everything the holidays have to bring! My favorite time of year is right before Thanksgiving and throughout the month of December. This is when we start to cozy up by the fire, set out decorations, light scented candles and spend quality time with our friends and families. It’s also a time of fun activities in our classrooms as well as reflection on what a great year it’s been.
The holidays in the classroom can be a tricky time. It’s hard to balance doing exciting activities to celebrate the holidays while still managing to teach the academics and not let your students spiral out of control.
The Classroom Elf
I’ve always loved Elf on a Shelf and the magic he inspires. (Not to mention students are always on their best behavior while the elf is watching.) And, I love using my creativity to make our elf get into trouble. However, I wanted to give our elf a bigger purpose. So last year, our classroom elf, Elfie, challenged us each day to complete an act of kindness.
Each morning, my students find our classroom elf in a different spot of the room, up to some sort of silliness, next to a letter. The letter explains what the elf is doing and encourages the class to spread kindness or Christmas cheer through a specific action.
For example, I introduce my elf by having him sit in one of our buckets we use for bucket filling. Through this letter, he tells students to spread kindness through writing a bucket filler for someone they wouldn’t normally write one for.
These letters state many different ways students can share joy through the holiday. From giving a hug or smile, to donating old books or clothes, these letters give students as young as kindergarten concrete ideas of how to show love and spread kindness.
One of the things I love most about teaching kindergarten is the ability to go ALL out on every holiday. It’s like a built in addendum to our contract that in kindergarten, you must celebrate everything and anything! This year, I incorporated many fun, engaging and also educational Christmas lessons to spread the magical joy in my kinder room.
This is my fourth year using Elf on the Shelf in my classroom. I use Elf on the Shelf in a unique way, to encourage acts of kindness throughout the holiday season. The first day our elf arrived, students spotted him immediately! Some of my kids had an elf in their home and knew the rules so I wasn’t surprised when one of my students shouted “don’t touch him!” Each day, students look forward to seeing where our elf was in the room and what shenanigans he was into! I start our day by reading the letter from Elfie and discussing what act of kindness he challenges us to try. Find a full list of acts of kindness and what the elf does in my TpT store through this here.
The last week before break, I’ve made it a tradition to celebrate Polar Express week. This is where I take a break from our language arts and math curriculum and incorporate different lessons all about the Polar Express. I purchased a few different TpT products to make this week happen. I useThe Polar Expressby Teaching in High Heels for our “write the room”, to compare and contrast the book and the movie and to describe our time on the Polar Express through our five senses. I useAll Aboard the Polar Expressby Free Falling in SDC to make our conductor or reindeer hats. Last, I use The Polar Express: Book Companionby The Curious Catfish for my North Pole tickets and my writing craftivity.
I’ve also come across a few freebies on TpT that I incorporate into my week of everything Polar Express. My absolute favorite lesson I’ve used during this week the past few years is the sequencing activity from Erica Bohrer’s Polar Express Movie and Craft Activities – FREE. I do this whole class first, then students sequence on their very own Polar Express train. This week is very language arts heavy, but this freebie Polar Express Doubles/Doubles Plus 1 by Studly Peaches is a fun way to incorporate math, with various versions of a five in a row game. The Polar Express has been one of my all time favorite Christmas stories since I was a little kid and bringing this love to my kindergarteners makes for a very magical week before Christmas break.
I am so blessed to work at a school with the BEST co-workers. This year, our lower school team teachers (grades k-2) are some of my best friends. We planned a kindergarten through second grade gingerbread house decorating party! Parent volunteers brought in graham crackers, icing, and candy. The day before our party, our volunteers assembled our houses and then day of we had a few parents help pass out the candy or fill up student’s cups with extra icing. Every year, I am amazed with student’s creativity!
Each year, I’ve made a different parent gift for students to give to their parents. I’ve never been super impressed with anything I’ve had them do in the past so I turned to my favorite addiction – Pinterest. After browsing pinterest for what seemed like hours, I settled on a salt dough handprint ornament that the students paint to look like Santa.
This was a very ambitious project but with only 15 students and the help of my assistant teacher, we were able to accomplish these gifts and they turned out AMAZING! Check out this link to see the full tutorial of how to make these ornaments. Students loved seeing their handprint after I baked the dough and felt so proud when they turned their handprint into a Santa ornament.
What kinds of traditions do you have in your classroom around the holidays? This time of year is very hectic but also extremely magical. I wish you and your students a happy holidays and restful winter break!
This is the first Black Friday that I have NOT been running around all over town trying to get all the best deals. As much as I’m missing the chaos today, it feels good to be bundled up in our Tahoe house, looking at the snow on the roofs and relaxing with my husband, family and mother-in-law.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is so overlooked.. Christmas decorations have been in our stores since the end of October! I love ANY and EVERY holiday. Spending time with family makes my heart happy. Last night, we taught my mother-in-law three different games and played for hours while drinking our favorite wine.
Now that Thanksgiving is complete, it’s off to the races to finish all that is Christmas by the time the 25th comes around. When we go back to school next week, my school has three weeks until Christmas break. I always feel like this time of year we’re squeezing in tons of fun holiday activities as well as trying to stay on track with our regular curriculum.
I’ve created an Elf on the Shelf unit to promote kindness in the classroom. This will be my third year using Elf on the Shelf in my classroom. The last two years my silly elf was just a fun way to incorporate Christmas magic into my kinder room, but this year, I’m hoping to inspire my students to spread the holiday cheer through these letters that our elf brings each day. Each letter discusses a small act of kindness that young children can do to spread joy throughout the Christmas season. If you’re interested, click here.
If you’re interested in other products I’ve created, check out my TpT store by clicking here. Starting Monday, you can purchase anything in my store for 20% off! Check out other sellers on TpT on Monday and Tuesday to see if you can snag some other great deals through the Cyber Sale.
I’m hoping this beginning to a crazy time is however you imagine it to be. Through the long days and the classroom chaos, just remember that our profession is so important and we are changing little lives each and every day! What are you looking most forward to in your classrooms this season? Share a story in the comments box below.