December Activities for 5th Graders

Being a 5th grade teacher can be hard.  The students are still young, but (sometimes) don’t like all the “fluffy” things teachers do around holidays.  Don’t get me wrong–I know the fluffy has educational value still!  Upper elementary kids just don’t necessarily buy into all the hype, or pretend they are too cool for it.

But, I love December.  It’s the month of: my birthday (13th,) snow, warm drinks, peppermint everything, Christmas trees and decorations, and a genuine feeling of joy in the air.  So, I make my students celebrate the month with me anyways!

Here is a (mostly) complete list of activities I squeeze into the days between Dec 1-22 (we actually have Friday the 23rd off this year as a trade day for conferences!)  I tried to link up everything I can.  See anything you like?  Other ideas?

For Classroom Community Building:

Stocking Stuffers-A Community Building Activity {FREEBIE} from Thank God It’s First (Susan Jones)

I shared a a photo of this on my Instagram this week, but here it is again:

Each student creates a stocking.  I have glued 1/2 an envelope to the back where I will place all the notes classmates write to them throughout the month.  I give each student a class list and encourage them to find 1 thing to write to each person, but don’t require it.  I do check the notes to make sure things are readable and appropriate (although that usually isn’t an issue!) and also read a few of them aloud each day to promote the project and give students examples.  I used a regular old mailbox found at Menard’s last year, but after my teaching colleague Upper Elementary Adventures posted this on her Instagram I KNEW I had to go get one from T.J. Maxx!  I have the red one!


Sweet, Sweet Synonyms 

Each month we have done something with synonyms and finding better, more exciting words to use in our writing.  In October we did our “Said is Dead” (and other words) graveyard, and for November we completed Blair Turner’s Gobbling Up Descriptive Words {Freebie} activity (linked below.)  For December, I created this activity where students write their synonyms on the swirl of the candy piece–check it out, it’s only $1!  I have students cut out two candy pieces and glue to construction paper so we can display them on the clothesline I have hanging in our classroom.

Figurative Language Snowglobes from Runde’s Room

If you saw my Instagram post earlier this week, you would’ve seen this photo:

We started creating and assembling our Snowglobes and have them placed on top of our lockers for all to see!

Holiday Figurative Language Worksheet from Deb Hanson AND
Christmas Simile and Metaphor Task Cards from Teaching With a Mountain View AND Figurative Language {Freebie} Sort from Ideas by Jivey

After completing our Figurative Language Snowglobes, these three activities will be a great review of different types of figurative language, and can play into our next activity…

Winter Writing Center Bundle from Runde’s Room

Similar to the snowglobes, there is an AWESOME snowflake craftivity in this pack that we complete, as well as a bunch of other winter-themed writing activities!

Mentor Texts and Sentences from Ideas by Jivey

During the 3 weeks we have from now until winter break I have three books we focus on Mentor Texts and Sentences, all taken from Ideas by Jivvy.  If you haven’t check these packs out yet, you are missing out!  They have transformed by Reading/Language block and given me an overall scope and sequence to follow (as my district does not provide us with curriculum in this subject area.)

First up is Owl Moon which I pair with Owl Moon: Figurative Language {Freebie} also by Ideas By Jivey.  I usually use a YouTube version of this, as then I can walk around to help students as well as link to it on their iPad for re-watching/listening as we complete the graphic organizers and work.

Next up is Polar Express, one of my absolute faves!  (I have a bell on our Christmas Tree at home that I got from the Dayton’s exhibit in downtown Minneapolis when I was a kid—it still rings!)

One of Jivey’s organizers has students compare the book to the movie–I tell them that sadly, we don’t have time to do so this week.  I neglect to tell them that we watch this movie as part of our Winter Party! :o)

Third comes The Stranger, also by Chris Van Allsburg, so it leads into great discussion about how the illustrations help the reader understand the story, comparisons to Polar Express, and finally SO.MUCH.INFERENCING!  Jivey has created a {Freebie} Mentor Sentence lesson for this book, go snatch it up!

How to Wrap a Present Writing Activity from Clutter-Free Classroom

Not only is this activity fun, but it also hits technical writing skills and mechanics/grammar!  I start by bringing in the makings for a PB&J sandwich and have students tell me how to make a sandwich.  Of course, I make it silly, so when they say, “Put the peanut butter on the bread,” I take them literally and place the jar of peanut butter on top of the bread bag.  They get a kick out of it but also understand what is going on.  We discuss being specific and giving details, and how that improves technical writing or directions, and then I introduce the activity.  I have often bought rolls of paper from The Dollar Tree and have students wrap up all the boxes of Kleenex we have, but there is a donation letter provided.

For Science and Social Studies:
Christmas Around the World Webquest from Rockin’ Resources

I have used this for a few years and the kids love it!  There are great pages linked, and our librarian also created a Symbaloo to all the research resources our students should use that they can access.  I usually print the pages in a book.  I already printed them this year, but because we are 1-to-1 with iPads, I am actually going to let students decide how they want to present the information to me: in the booklet, PicCollage, Creative Book Builder, Google Slides, etc.

Candy Cane Activities for Upper Elementary {Freebie} (note, link takes to her blog post!) from Jennifer Findley

This includes a variety of activities including the History of the Candy Cane Video, Research and Comprehension Questions as well as a Dissolving Candy Canes Science Experiment.  The later is really good this time of year, as we have students complete an experiment based project for trimester two as part of their science grade.  With the Candy Cane Experiment we work on the scientific process and forming hypotheses/making observations.

There is also a math worksheet!

For Math:
Decorating the Christmas Tree: A Decimal Operation Craftivity {Freebie} from Teaching to Inspire In 5th aka Jennifer Findley

I give each student a tree and copies of the ornaments (printed on both red and white,) and give students about 15 minutes to decorate their tree.  Then, I introduce the activity asking them to compute the cost of their tree, as well as some other math decimal problems!

Ugly Sweater Christmas Logic Puzzle from Beyond The Worksheet’s Lindsay Perro

I actually do this with my class as a bell-ringer activity.  I was planning to do it the day we have our staff Ugly Sweater Contest, but that date has switched around so I am not sure when I will do it.  I love working through the problem with students and teaching them how to use their deductive reasoning skills and logic to solve!

Christmas Math Project: To Grandmother’s House We Go from Teaching With a Mountain View

A comprehensive math project that covers topics like: mulit-digit multiplication, long division, money/decimals, multi-step problems, etc.  My students have been begging for another project since we completed Teaching With a Mountain View’s Place Value Detectives, so I am excited to introduce this one!

Snowman Math Color By Code 3D Character from Pink Cat Studio

A fun little activity students should be able to complete in one math block to review operational skills…best part is that provided are various operations and levels for differentiation!

Christmas Activities:Taking an Elfie {Freebie} from Dirt Road Teacher

I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun my students had with this last year!  I am going to bring my selfie stick in this year and let students have at it!  I print one of their photos and glue onto the Polaroid-like frame provided (printed on red or green,) and then laminate them for students to take home as a fun keepsake from 5th grade!

Christmas Tree Ornament: Mini Dodecahedron Project from Created by Mr. Hughes

Each piece has it’s own direction to follow, and my students have loved creating this and bringing it home to put on their tree.  I have a small Christmas Tree in our classroom where we hang these until break.

Watercolor Sun/MoonPainting Project

Without going into too many details, we have students create a beautiful watercolor art piece to take home.  Students will wrap them with wrapping paper (if any left over from our wrapping activity) or butcher paper (which they can draw/write on.)  We get the frames from Amazon each year with grade level money.

A student made this one for me as an example many years ago…isn’t it beautiful?!?!

Some other examples:

Party Time:

Earlier in the week I give students a pre-cut white piece of paper and ask them to draw a snowy/winter scene.  They DON’T know this is for mugs that we give them–I put their scene inside and have them ready for them on party day! We purchase these from the Dollar Tree:

We have our holiday party the last day before break.  Before lunch we play a game where students each receive a small gift from The Dollar Tree.  The presents are all wrapped so students can’t see them until the reveal–We have played a dice game in the past, or a number/stealing game.  Depends on what I am in the mood for!

In the afternoon we sip hot chocolate from the mugs students decorated, and watch movies.  Each classroom has a different movie that students can choose to watch…my favorite is The Polar Express!

Finally, I leave students with the following activity to complete during winter break:

Winter Break Marshmallow Reading Challenge from More Than a Worksheet

I give students a prize and brag tag when they come back from winter break with it complete!

WHEW!  So many fun activities and so little time!

For more ideas/activities head to Primary’s Creations blog, where she has linked up to a bunch of other great teachers!

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