Dolph Petris | December 2019

10 Ideas for a Holiday Countdown

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

But why is this so? There are so many variables that come into play.  If you live in a part of the world where the temperatures begin to chill, you may be looking forward to those cold snowy days when the fireplace can be used to warm-up the house.  The orange glow is soothing. Nighttime arrives earlier in the evening due to the time of year and angle of the sun. As a result, shadows are longer throughout the entire day and temperatures do not peak very high at all.  Seasonal aromas waft through the air, and leaves fall from trees fall only to be blown by occasional winds. The sound of leaves as they scatter and skate across streets and sidewalks is yet another signal that change is in the air.  The excitement of winter is enchanting for children who look forward to being at home, sipping hot chocolate along with many other seasonal goodies.

Winter Magic

Winter is as with most other seasons, somewhat predictable, yet somewhat not.  Sure once the snow has fallen and real-life drudgery of shoveling the sidewalk and driveway become reality, the enchantment of the season can become lost for adults.  However, as educators, it is our job to keep the magic alive for our students who typically have a heightened sense of excitement during this time of the year.

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As I write this article, I am reminded of seasonal elements that get children excited.  It is those elements that we can use in the classroom to create connection to student experiences.  Most every child likes to talk about him or herself. Most every child enjoys being the center of attention and wants to find connection of anyone else’s story to their own so that they can then talk more about themselves.

Engagement and Expression

Allow your students to share their excitement and dreams of the season through art.  Depending on your schedule, make a calendar that includes a countdown until winter break and then identify various holiday art projects that your students will do each day.  Don’t worry about the daily art activity and the amount of time and preparation required. During this time of year, anything that can keep teacher life uncluttered is most definitely welcomed.  Keep it simple. The ideas listed below are more of an activity to keep students engaged with their learning, while expressing themselves through various arts media. Here are some of my own ideas that center around the student and his/her own experiences.  Feel free to take these ideas and expand on them, modify and make them your own. Also try integrating the basic elements of arts and principles of design to take your students’ learning to another level!

1. Draw a favorite holiday story but include yourself in the picture.

Embellish the picture with a framed border to make the piece special.  You will want to display various border/pattern ideas for students to use.

2. Make a list of 5 places you visit during the Holidays and then create a folded card pop-up of each scene.

Simple pop-ups are not difficult.  If you are unfamiliar with the process, do some online research for ideas and procedures.  You will see just how simple and effective pop-ups can be.

3. Create a short video and highlight/interview each family member about their excitement for the holidays.

Obviously this one is not done inside the classroom.  Students can use either a school-assigned device, their own, or one from their parent or guardian.  Depending on your grade level, you may want to create a simple rubric for the video so that your student is able to stay on track.

4. Create an abstract collage of colors that make you think about the holiday season.

Construction paper can be cut or torn, it doesn’t matter.  This activity is an opportunity for students to display and arrange colors of their particular faith or family customs.

5. Create a six-panel storyboard in graphic-novel style depicting a favorite holiday activity.

Graphic novels are very popular with children these days.  This activity will provide students the opportunity to put themselves into the story.  They can use library issued, or personal graphic novels to reference style and format.

6. Write a magical holiday story and include pictures.

For those students who say they cannot draw well, this activity will provide an opportunity to be creative, even if inserted drawings are stick figures.

7. Write, and sing a song about your past holiday experiences.

I am pleasantly surprised at how many students of mine enjoy singing.  This activity allows every level of singer to create their own song.  If electronic devices are available in your classroom, students can enhance their songs with music.  You may also want to challenge your students with fun lyric parameters such as alliteration or other rhyming patterns.

8. Create tessellated art on construction paper using shape and color.  

Use seasonal shapes such as leaves, pine cones, vines, or fruit. Prior to this activity, have a parent helper cut/stamp out many of each shape.  The number of shapes you use will depend on your grade level as tessellation is the focus using shape and color.

9. Finger-paint a seasonal mood.

Ambitious… yes!  But definitely one of my most memorable art pieces from elementary school.  You will want additional parent help in the classroom for this one.

10. Make a customized card for Mom and Dad.

Make a card yourself to model what this project can look like.  What parent wouldn’t want to receive a beautiful customized card for their holiday experience?!  Your students will really focus on this culminating activity as it is most personal.

My hope is for these 10 ideas to spark creativity and excitement with you and your students.  At this time of year, it is challenging enough to maintain student focus on learning. Keeping them on track with a countdown art/activity plan will be a motivating incentive to complete other classroom assignments.

About the Author

Dolph holds a Bachelors of Science, Product Design from Art Center College of Design and a Masters degree in Education. He has spent most of his teaching career as a 6th grade teacher in the elementary school setting with a focus on Gifted and Talented Education and is currently teaching a 5/6 combo in Fullerton, California. He and his wife have several four-legged kids: Bonnie and Clyde, Golden Retriever litter-mates, a street-rescued stray that looks like ‘Benji’ named Noel, Athena the cat, and two American Quarter horses.