December lesson plans need to be engaging and festive yet curriculum-focused and rigorous. What a challenge! Many teachers say December is the hardest month of the year. The lead-up to the winter break can be brutal. Students are excitable, they’re in need of time off from the classroom, and they’re losing focus. Special events are regularly pulling students from class.
But, despite all of these odds stacked against you, you’re still expected to be productive in the class time that you do have. The good news is that if your lessons are engaging, you and your students will all have an easier time getting through this hectic month.
Follow these 4 tips for engaging December lesson plans that will take you to winter break in one piece:
Use High-Interest Stories and Topics
As English teachers, we know the power of a good story. We know that the right story can pull in even the most reluctant students and lead to exciting, high-level connections and discussions.
It’s especially important to ensure that we’re choosing high-interest texts that will hold students’ attention. One unit that I teach every December is my Christmas Truce of 1914 Media Analysis Unit. The Christmas Truce of World War I took place between the British and German troops along the Western front trenches in France during Christmas of 1914.
Students are always fascinated by this story, and as we study it using readings, videos, and songs, we’re led into many conversations about historical context, human relationships, the ways that we remember history through media, and more.
I’m able to assess oral presentation skills, writing, and media literacy all through this one short unit. The texts and lesson types included in the Christmas Truce study are varied too. We look at videos, an advertisement, song lyrics, and a reader’s theatre script.
Students are offered a wide range of media both for taking in information and for expressing their own learning and ideas. This goes a long way in keeping class engagement high. Find this resource on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.
Keep Lesson Types and Assignments Varied
As students (and teachers) become increasingly worn-out and tired throughout December, everyone’s ability to focus on longer projects may begin to suffer. That’s why, this month especially, I make a point to focus on shorter, varied assignments.
While I believe in offering a diverse range of assignments in my classroom year-round, using a variety of shorter assignments is especially key in December as it keeps students from getting bored.
Here are some suggestions for assignments and activities:
- Christmas Digital Escape Room (or buy on Shopify CAD)
- Winter Digital Escape Room (or buy on Shopify CAD)
- Christmas Creative Writing Assignment (or buy on Shopify CAD)
- Winter Creative Writing Assignment (or buy on Shopify CAD)
- Global Holiday Celebrations Research Assignment (or buy on Shopify CAD)
It’s a good idea not to have any major project deadlines or important exams in December if you can avoid it. Don’t make this month the only time that you cover something crucial in your curriculum, and try not to start any major new assignments, either.
Students will be coming and going a lot this time of year. Many leave early for winter break, or they may have extra events and obligations (holiday performances, family gatherings, etc.) this time of year that cause them to miss days of school.
Maintaining a flexible mindset is also going to be key for you to maintain your own mental health in this dark, cold month. For more holiday stress survival tips, check out this post.
Keep Things Simple
If there is ever a month when keeping things simple is necessary, it’s December. Because it’s a short month, usually with a lot going on, you won’t have a lot of extra time or energy for lesson planning, prep, or grading.
You’ll also want to avoid taking marking home over winter break if you can. The break is an important opportunity to recharge so that you stay healthy and are ready to come back and be the best teacher you can be in January.
So, don’t overcomplicate December.
It can be tempting to plan dozens of extra-fun holiday-themed activities, to spend hours decorating your classroom, or to cram in several big assessments that you’d prefer to get done before January’s report cards. But the chances are that you don’t have time for all of this.
And you, as well as your students, will be at risk of burning out if you try to fit in too much.
So keep your December lesson plans (and assessment/grading strategies) simple, and follow the other tips on this list. Opt for short, varied activities, and focus on reinforcing key skills. Picking up ready-to-go, pre-prepped resources is a great way to go or ask veteran teachers at your school for ideas if that’s an option for you.
December can be rough for teachers, but you’ve got this. Breathe, keep your coffee (and hot chocolate!) supply well-stocked, and remember that winter break is just around the corner.
Check Out Additional December Lesson Ideas
- If you’re looking for more December lesson plans and assignment ideas to add variety to your classroom this month, check out this blog post about my December lesson plans for middle school ELA.
- Strategies To Avoid Teacher Burnout
- Teacher Mental Health Strategies