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Tips to Teach During the Holiday Season without Sacrificing Instructional Rigor

Tips to Teach During the Holiday Season without Sacrificing Instructional Rigor

As the holidays approach, excitement brews in and around the school. Students show signs of frequent distraction, off-task behaviors and increased energy levels. Teachers are excited too but oftentimes their holiday spirit takes a hit as they try to calm the chaos brewing in their classrooms.

Stop swimming against the current. There is a way to use student energy and distractibility to your benefit. With a little intentional planning and clear expectations, students can engage with holiday content while still spiraling previously learned skills. It’s a win-win for all!

Below are ways you an indulge in the holidays in the classroom without sacrificing instructional rigor as you meet school, district, and state standards. Activities suggested can be used as warm-ups, centers, or small/whole group instruction.


  • Cinco de Mayo– Allow students to decode math word problems in a collaborative effort with their peers. Simply provide task cards with only a word problem, number sentence, or solution printed on them. Pass those out to students and have them find the matches so that the cards create a perfect math sequence (word problem, number sentence, solution). Try it here.
  • Easter– Task cards are an interactive and collaborative learning opportunity for students. Spiral simple math skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division as well as provide a challenge for ready students that contain multi-step practice!  Try it here.
  • St. Patrick’s Day– Pass out funky green glasses to students from a discount store to help them “decode” holiday themed math word problems! Try it here.
  • Valentine’s Day– Incorporate literacy into your math block by having students find the value of holiday themed vocabulary using a point value key. Try it here.

Or do you want something to supplement for Math during ALL of the holidays? Use the same format of a word problem activity sheet so students know exactly what to do without needing directions or modeling. Try it here.

Literacy (and History)

  • Reading
    • Columbus Day – This holiday has a LOT of information to cover, so plan on spreading activities out over a week’s time or dedicating an entire day to all things Columbus. Incorporate reading passages, writing prompts, sequencing activities, and some fun project type activities like making a foldable based on researched information or illustrating a comic strip of important events!  Try it here.
    • Earth Day– Educate kiddos on the huge responsibility they have as citizens to keep their planet clean. Use informational reading passages and corresponding comprehension questions to teach concepts such as global warming, climate change, and the greenhouse effect. Try it here.
    • Election Day– Use an informational text to teach the main content of your lesson so that you can free yourself up to pull small groups based on recent data points or struggle areas for students. Try it here.
    • Flag Day– Provide a variety of reading passages for students to become “experts” on, then swap and teach! This makes a great jig-saw activity. Try it here.
    • Halloween– If you need a large chunk of time to prepare for a holiday party, prepare grades, pull small groups or provide a sub with enough materials, a literacy holiday themed packet is the way to go. Just to name a few… 1) use a reading passage to check for reading comprehension 2) a writing and illustration assignment that can be used during a writing celebration read-aloud 3) a holiday overload book log competition and much more! Try it here.
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day– Provide students an opportunity to learn independently through a presentation stored on their device with corresponding reflection questions. Then bring students together for a rich, deep discussion on their learning. Try it here.
    • Polar Express– If you want to make an entire day of fun activities that are educational but address the standards, try a literacy learning packet. Be sure to spiral past skills like comparing moral vs main idea, sequencing events, vocabulary matching, identifying character traits, inferring meaning, and much more! Try it here.
    • September 11th– Embrace the tragedy of this day by educating students on the facts while opening their hearts to lives that were lost, but now celebrated. Use reading passages to teach content vocabulary while students answer text- dependent reading comprehension questions. Reinforce cause/effect relationships and sequencing with task cards. Try it here.
  • Writing
    • April Fool’s Day– Who doesn’t struggle with getting students to put their names on their paper or read directions for an assignment? Have a little fun by providing a challenging “who knows the most” about the United States activity, where the secret to a perfect score lies in the directions. Try it here.
    • Constitution Day– Help kiddos learn to glean important information from a variety of sources, especially online. Provide questions to answer and a presentation that students can view on their own device while allowing them additional opportunities to research the holiday. Try it here.
    • Groundhog Day- Allow kiddos multiple formats to practice showcasing their newly learned knowledge with activities such as true/false, fill-in-the-blanks, and free write. Try it here.
    • Labor Day–  Instead of just enjoying a day off from school, help students prepare for the gift of an extra day of rest by understanding the hard work and sacrifice of the American people via reading passage, comparing and contrasting illustrations, sorting and matching vocabulary, as well as a producing a persuasive writing assignment about futuristic jobs.  Try it here.
    • Memorial Day– Set up writing stations around the classroom supplied with simple writing prompts clip boards. Help kiddos reflect on the importance of this day and the many Americans that sacrificed their lives in honor of our country. Try it here.
    • President’s Day– Allow students to work in groups to research past presidents. As a culminating activity, allow students to compete in a “who know’s more” fun fact activity on the U.S. presidents. Try it here.
    • Thanksgiving– Grab highlighters and provide an opportunity for students to practice annotating a short reading passage while answering text dependent questions. Or provide short writing prompts to collect student data via a writing sample. Early finishers? No problem! They can write ‘thankfuls’ to their family and friends! Try it here.
    • Veterans Day– Build in some content with an informational reading passage and corresponding comprehension questions. But, spend the bulk of your time reflecting on the sacrifice of veterans who fought for our country. Line up a local veteran association and write personalized cards to them. Spread kindness while educating students on our history! Try it here.

Now you are totally equipped to take the holidays head on without sacrificing instructional rigor or fun in the classroom!


About the author, Adam &

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.