Once students start to get excited about the Christmas break it can be tough for teachers to keep them on task. Many teachers fall into a habit of playing videos, giving busywork or otherwise marking time right before the holidays, and when the kids come back to school in January. Don’t waste valuable teaching time waiting for your class to settle back into school routine! Plan now for fun and educational activities that will help smooth the transition and counteract any signs of learning loss. These are great projects that both students and teachers will enjoy!
Valentines for Vets
This is an activity that accomplishes a number of educational objectives – in language arts, social studies, and art. It may seem early to be thinking of Valentine’s Day, but start planning now to allow time for each stage of the project. Creating a Valentine card to send a veteran involves composition, grammar and spelling, creative self-expression, and an awareness of world history. Take advantage of the opportunity to use left over Remembrance Day materials, or to teach about one of the global conflicts of the 20th century.
Cards for the Valentines for Vets program are distributed to veterans across Canada from one central address, and must be sent to Charlottetown by January 14th. Please do not include any candy or chocolate, or any breakable items in your cards. For more information on sending Valentines to Canadian veterans, check out the info from Veteran Affairs Canada. In the United States, contact your local VA hospital to ask about sending Valentine cards to veterans during the National Salute to Veterans Week.
Creative Writing Using the Snowflake Method
Teach your students how to plan their creative writing, and do a little science at the same time! This writing approach, developed by author Randy Ingermanson, was originally intended to teach adults how to plan out a novel. If you have an advanced English class and are ready to tackle novella writing, use it as is! For a less ambitious project, simply adapt to your students’ needs – use it to create smaller projects like short stories or children’s books.
The snowflake writing method builds on the understanding that snowflakes are fractals, and uses several steps to shape a story. It begins with a broad idea of what the story will be about and then at each successive step it asks the writer to add more depth and detail. Teach your students about both character and story arcs, and how to develop them. A fiction writing project could be set up as a unit that will take a month or more to complete. Writing fiction methodically will also give your students a better understanding of concepts required to appreciate and analyze literature you assign them to read. Learn more about snowflakes as fractals by reading the Snowflake Method web page – don’t forget to visit the link for the Koch Snowflake too!
Get involved in citizen science! If your school is located close to a river or lake, get your students bundled up for a lesson in climate change. Data collected by ordinary citizens is collated and analyzed by scientists who can then learn more about the changes in the yearly cycle of winter freezing and spring thaw. Pick and observation point, then teach your students how to make and record scientific observations. Back in the classroom, get students involved with graphing, drawing diagrams, or creating a web page or slide show presentation to share with the rest of the school at an assembly. Check out IceWatch Canada or IceWatch USA to learn more.