Public Relations Today
Jayne Miller By Jayne Miller • December 17, 2015

Meaningful Pre-Vacation Activities for the Classroom



You’re almost there. You’ve almost made it to winter break, but you’ve got a few classes to go before you’re home free. A reasonable question emerges: how do we make the most out of the school days before a holiday break?

We’re interested in being realistic as we tackle this question.

Student and teacher energy is low. Diving into the next chapter or building a lesson plan that requires intense focus on new material is probably not going to work. But that doesn’t mean a student’s last few days in the classroom before break can’t be meaningful. A few quick suggestions.

Do Something Forward-Looking

Assigning work over break and expectations for keeping in touch with classmates remains at the discretion of the instructor. But there is an opportunity to leave students thinking about their coursework in the way that most interests them. Instead of setting school aside in the last days before break, what would happen if students were tasked with setting a goal for either their holiday break or the school days prior?

  • Develop a problem you’d like to solve and think about how your current course could help you solve that problem.

  • Consume your favorite holiday movies or music (or perhaps holiday traditions/events). And review any holiday-related media you’ve been looking forward to - anything from Stars Wars to a classic holiday film.

  • Read a book of your choosing that coursework has kept you from getting to.

  • Find one article that relates to what you’re doing in class that you’re genuinely interested in.

  • Journal about/start a class discussion on how the first half of the course felt and what your expectations are for the second half.

These ideas could lead to a last-day class discussion, a digital thread that continues over break, or a quiet personal challenge to keep students thinking and learning.

Give Students Choice

The pre-holiday space is an ideal time to experiment more with giving students additional agency during a course period. This means students are given more choice and ownership of their learning. (Many schools/classrooms already do this and they do it well, but there are still many high-compliance, low-agency classrooms that could benefit from this exercise.)

In the last few days before break, consider two to three classtime activities. They could be discussion prompts. Quick, in-class experiments. Podcasts to listen to and discuss. Research questions to consider.

And then let students choose. Will they spend the next 40 minutes with classmates discussing an idea from last term or will they opt to listen to a 25-minute podcast and journal a quick response? It’s all done in class and it’s all up to them.

Make Class an Event

The days before break are ripe for class events. Maybe your last big exam is scheduled for this time - that definitely counts as an event - but if you’re past the assessments and projects, you might consider a different kind of event.

When we say “events,” we mean in-class, high-engagement activities that require participation from everyone.

This includes classroom games, ranging from low-tech Jeopardy-style quizzing to high-tech gamification using Chromebooks, iPads, or other tools. Or maybe you’ll opt for an app attack session - using your class period to have students test, rate, and discuss free apps you’re considering for the future. Or instead structuring your final class period as a giant debate, splitting students into two groups and throwing course-related topics at them to hash out.

There is lots you can develop if you think of your time together less as a class period and more as a “final event” before students are dismissed for the holidays.

Check Out These Project Ideas from Edutopia

As we were working on this article, we also saw Edutopia tackle the same issue with some great thematic suggestions from Ben Johnson. Recommend taking a look for additional inspiration.

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