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Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Amazing Ways to Teach During the Crazy Days of Christmas

Some teachers are tempted to be babysitters during the holidays when, in fact, you can get some powerful teaching moments in your classroom. Take time to be creative and integrate holiday-themed teaching into your classroom. Please share what you like to do in the comments.

1 - Have a Social media activity relating to topics you're learning
Two of my most tweeted things from last week were the Facebook template and Twitter template that you can download and use in Microsoft Word. This is a great alternative for those of you who cannot use the online Fakebook template from Classtools.net.

Our AP Literature teacher has had students create a Facebook profile for their term paper author. They have to add at least 8 "friends" who are contemporaries of the author, a certain number of status updates with comments from friends. All of it must be believable. It is a lot of fun because students have to research their person, figure out the contemporaries and understand aspects of his/her life.

These spark fun conversations and can be done offline or online.

2 - Make an Interactive Story
This is a great time of year to teach students how to create interactive stories using PowerPoint. You can have them illustrate a popular story (like this Night Before Christmas PowerPoint) with their own narration or create an interactive story talking about their family. (see a review for Powerpoint 2007) The concepts you can teach with this idea:
  • Clickable hotspots (where you click and make a choice - this is basic programming)
  • Recording narration
  • Creating a self-running PowerPoint
There are many free online presentations full of Christmas ideas that you can adapt.

3 - Make a Review Game (to promote future recall)
If you're doing reviews, and know that content you shared this semester will need to be recalled next semester, you can have the students create fun review games using PowerPoint (see the video below.) You can save them and review. If you don't have Powerpoint, use the Free flash Online Jeopardy Generator and have them save the file or embed on your wiki for review later.


4 - Play Games to Learn
For elementary teachers, TES has the 12 games of Christmas which are perfect for the whiteboard. If you want to play this on the ipad, the last three games (the santa addition game - #11 is my favorite for my 10 year old) are available for free. You can download the game from the iTunes store. (There are 3 games in the app - a sequencing game with ringing bells, and a velocity and angle game where you shoot an elf at presents to grab them and get them into Santa's sack.) There is a free downloadable teaching guide for these games, a big plus. (On another note, you can write a review and tweet it with #tesxmas to Twitter and win an ipad on Friday.)

But you could take this further if you have older students. Why not come up with your own 12 games of Christmas and embed them in a wiki by having students create their own games at classtools.net? These can be used for review next semester before testing. You could start playing eLections to understand how elections work or make your own class stock market game. (I use the one at Market Watch.)

You could also take some of the fun holiday games over at Kaboose and adapt them to your classroom or activity.

5- Play Games to Make the World a Better Place
Or how about selecting a game that can change the world like Free Rice (answer vocabulary questions and rice is donated to areas in need), Darfur is Dying (not a happy game for Christmas but one that could give perspective), or other games that bring awareness to social issues. (Like Disaster watch, citizen Ship, or the Carpet game.)

6 - Make Games
There are a lot of places to make your own video games: Sploder (for arcade games) or MIT's Scratch or Microsoft's Kodu Game Lab. All of these are free. As the K12 online conference 2011 said, "Play with a Purpose."

7 - Create your efolio
The end of a semester is a great time to update (or create) your efolio. All of my students have their own website and their parents know the links. When they graduate, they put the links on college applications and resumes. My favorite place for student efolio websites is Weebly, but you could also do this on Google sites.

8- Create a DVD for the family
Use Photostory (free for PC), or iMovie or Windows Live Movie maker (free for PC) to make a simple DVD movie for the child's family. These are fun, simple programs that have built in tools to help make simple videos out of family photographs. If you do this option, my best recommendation is to have students bring the photos in already scanned on a CD or DVD or to have time outside class when students can scan photos.

9- Digital Picture Frame or Digital Jump Drive
The best picture I gave last year to my family was a digital picture frame with pictures from the year on it. My Mom keeps hers running in the kitchen all the time. You can get a nice Digital Picture Frame from Amazon for 20 something plus a memory card for a total of around $30. This would be a great gift for the principal or front office to have photographs and works of art. How about having students scan their work form the year and creating a digital portfolio for their parents using a digital picture frame? (You can also find small digital keychains for photos as well. I have seen them but don't have a specific one to recommend.)

You could even have students scan or photograph their work and take photos and put these items on a jump drive and give the jump drive for Christmas. Both of these gift ideas cost a little money but would be nice for parents or principals.

10- Make Christmas Cards or Have Fun with Photos
I have students create a movie poster using Adobe Photoshop to photoshop their face onto a movie poster. Then, we have the students assemble Christmas cards for the school board of directors to send to parents. If you teach graphic design, Christmas or Holiday cards are great things to do.

Have fun with Photos at Big Huge Labs
There are also many online websites like Blue Mountain where you can make ecards and send them to family. You could use this to introduce younger kids to email. You can also have students bring in family pictures and learn to scan them and pull them into a funny holiday site like Elf Yourself. (Or they can help you do this activity with the faces of teachers or administrators.) You could also use an app like Face in the Hole.

Speaking of fun with pictures, Big Huge Labs is a blast for anyone and can help you make fun, frameable signs like the one I made for my school's state championship football team.

11- Solve Santa's Murder
OK, this is a very different kind of activity, but I think that is why I like it. It is a writing activity but has students use clues to solve Santa's murder mystery. It is no secret that I spend quite a bit of time running around the free TES resources and this is another one I turned up there. Probably better for middle school but would spark interest.
Widad Kinard's Pinterest board with classroom activities

12 -  Share Your Ideas
Share your ideas for teaching during the holidays with others. Sometimes seeing what other teachers are doing is so helpful. For example, Widad Kinard has a lovely Pinterest board with classroom activity ideas overflowing with holiday ideas straight from her classroom.

Share on your blog (like I've done here.) Certainly there are many great ideas out there. Send them through your favorite hashtag on Twitter. (See Jerry Blumengarten's Hashtag Guide -he's @cybraryman1 on Twitter.)

Teach!
There are so many things you can do that will teach students.You don't have to watch another movie. But if you do, watch a classic movie. They will watch popular movies at home (most likely) but A Christmas Carol or "It's a Wonderful Life" will give the kids an insight into culture. There are lot of classic movies you can watch.

Recess is great but three recesses are a bit extreme in one day.

Some teachers go on autopilot this time of year and become glorified babysitters. You are too good for that. This is the week that separates the good from the great. Use every moment and find the power of teachable moments. As kids play and relax in other classes, they may just have more mental energy for your subject than you realize.

Take time and use your time! Please share your ideas in the comments.