While we’ve just had some time to rest and relax with our families, most of us are heading back to school today for the next few weeks to finish out the semester. Even though we are back at school, this time is filled with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and many of us are excitedly preparing for the holidays, even if it’s just to enjoy an extended break from school. (Yes, I am already counting the days!) At school, these next few weeks are filled with field trips, holiday performances, parties, various other interruptions, and end-of-the-semester exams. All of this, combined with the students’ excitement, can make it challenging to feel like you are moving forward with your curricular goals.
In today’s blog post, I highlight my favorite ways to celebrate the season and keep your students engaged during these last few weeks of the semester. If you’ve been a reader of my blog for any length of time, you know how much I love puzzles and critical thinking activities. (New to this blog? Check out my Solve It! Friday page!) With this in mind, I’m sharing three ways to put a creative spin on using holiday-themed critical thinking and problem-solving activities in the classroom.
Create a Puzzle Box
The Puzzle Box includes hanging files where a variety of critical thinking and problem-solving activities can be stored. Storing the puzzles this way serves a couple of purposes. First, it keeps all of the puzzles in a convenient location. Second, it allows students to search for a task that matches their ability level. (I keep the puzzle box at the back of the room on a shelf with a variety of manipulatives, like centimeter cubes, toothpicks, and pattern blocks, students can use to support them while they are working through the puzzle tasks.) Students love the puzzles and when they find the right “fit,” they are willing to invest the time to complete the task. After students complete a puzzle, they submit their work, it is reviewed, and the student receives a reward of some sort, such as extra credit, classroom cash, incentive, etc, for correct solutions.
Create a Math Menu
After a variety of tasks with which students can be successful have been identified, a simple menu, like a Choice Board, can be created to present the challenge. Using the choice board, students complete all of the activities in a column, row, diagonal, or the four corners. This provides a unique opportunity to strategically place the activities in a way that will produce the greatest amount of student effort, no matter which path they choose to complete. After students complete the menu, they submit their work, it is reviewed, and the student receives a reward of some sort, such as extra credit, classroom cash, incentive, etc, for a completed menu.
Create a Task Card Challenge
For this activity, 15 – 20 (or more) tasks are collected and numbered. (If I have some fun holiday paper, I will copy all of the tasks on colored paper to provide a more engaging and uniform look.) To help students keep track of the tasks they complete, a tracking sheet, with a numbered-space for each numbered task can be created. Students can then complete the tasks as a “scoot” activity where they move around the room completing the tasks, they can complete the tasks during math stations, or they can complete the tasks as a fast-finisher activity. Once students complete the tracking sheet, they submit their work, it is reviewed, and the student receives a reward of some sort, such as extra credit, classroom cash, incentive, etc, for a completed tracking sheet.
Freebie Alert! You can find a variety of tasks to use in the “Problem Solving and Critical Thinking” section of my file cabinet. Click here to check it out!
Looking for More? You can also find a variety of resources at my Teachers Pay Teachers store, like my “Problem Solving in Santa’s Workshop: Holiday Task Cards” pack. Click the image to the below to find out more about this resource!
Sound Off! Which idea will you try this year?