6 Clever Ways to Keep Students Learning Before Winter Break

Don’t lose control during those last days of school before winter break. Keep your students focused and learning with these quick and easy activities you can do in 15 minutes or less.

The final stretch before winter break is one of hardest parts of the year.  Students are both exhausted and ramped up, and teachers are just trying to survive until they can catch up on sleep.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to resort to popping in a holiday video and hiding in the closet. Here are six quick and fun activities that will also sneak some learning in at the same time.

1. Hold a riddle competition.  

Keep a list of riddles handy. Put students into small groups and give a prize to the first group that solves the riddle by working cooperatively. Give extra bonus points for the team that works the best together.  (Two bonus points on the next quiz or a free homework pass is usually enough to motivate all students.)

2. Play a quick round of fictionary. 

This game is a great way to trick students into learning new vocabulary. Choose a difficult word, one that students will likely not already know. Then get four student volunteers. One student will have the correct definition, while the other three will make up their own. The class will vote on which one they believe to be the right one. Points for the student who gets the most votes—and a new vocabulary word for the rest of the class.

3. Assign a 5-minute creative writing prompt.  

Keep a list of fun creative writing prompts and get students writing for five or ten minutes. Though this is an obvious choice for ELA classes, it could work for other subjects as well—just find prompts that are thematically related to other lessons that you are teaching. It doesn’t need to be graded. It’s just a good way to keep creativity going all the way until break.


Girl Writing

4. Play two truths and a lie.

This game is another simple choice, but it’s always a favorite. Students tell three quick stories where two are true and one is a lie. Then, the class votes on which one they think is the real one. It’s a great tool to teach the elements of storytelling as students try to add just enough detail to make their lies convincing.  

5. Play a podcast and engage students in a discussion on its themes.  

This is another one that takes a little preparation, but if you ever listen to podcasts, you know that there are plenty of compelling and instructional pieces out there. This seemingly light story, told by a professional comedian, is only 7 minutes long. But it highlights the way that cellphones and technology disconnect us from the outside world. Students could write a quick response to a writing prompt on the podcast, and they won’t even know that they were doing work.

6. Hold an internet scavenger hunt.  

If students in your school are allowed to use personal devices for learning purposes, this is another fun game that gets them learning and working cooperatively. You’ll need to prepare a list of questions ahead of time, but make them simple facts that won’t likely be disputed like “How many poems did Emily Dickinson publish in her lifetime” or “What is the circumference of the Earth in miles?” This is fun, and a great learning opportunity for all.

Kids in class

I know these last few days can be exhausting, and students are often tapped out. But this doesn’t mean this time has to be a lost cause. With a little preparation, you can trick your students into learning and having fun.

Christina Lovdal Gil is a teacher who specializes in writing. She blogs about her tips for empowering students to think for themselves at GilTeach.com.  You can also see some of her work on her Teachers Pay Teachers site.