Holiday Writing Activities for Fast Finishers
"I'm done!" Ben shouts, slaps his assignment down, and saunters off to his desk where he proceeds to do one of the following:
A. take a nap
B. tap his pencil like the little drummer boy
C. ask to go to the bathroom because he's bored
D. pull out his cell phone and try to sneak in some texting (After all, it is Fri-yay!)
Sound familiar? This type of behavior is not unusual in December. Poor Ben. After all, he's excited about Christmas, and winter break is so close he can smell it. What's a teacher to do?
Simple. Be prepared.
If there's any month you need to have meaningful activities stashed in your back pocket, it's December. In this post, I'm sharing three of my favorite holiday writing activities to keep fast finishers focused, on task, and engaged in meaningful ELA content.
3 FAST-FINISHER HOLIDAY WRITING ACTIVITIES
1. SENSORY DETAILS
One of my favorite ways to keep fast finishers entertained is to always have on hand a stash of holiday candy. Candy canes are perfect, but teenagers always appreciate options. When a student finishes early, I hand them a candy cane and an instruction page.
The common core standards state that high school students should be able to "use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters" (W.9-10.D). Although it sounds simple, if you've tried descriptive writing with your teenagers before, you know it's a challenge for them.
When I provide my students with Christmas candy, I ask them to brainstorm ways they can describe it so that someone who is not actually eating the candy can taste it. This activity is enjoyable, and it's one that makes them think, so they are less likely to get bored and be disruptive.
2. A NOVEL PRESENT
I always enjoy wrapping books as presents for both my students and my own children at Christmas time. While I can't afford to buy each and every one of my one hundred and fifty students a novel, I can afford to wrap up some books from my classroom library for a fun fast-finisher activity.
Get some holiday wrapping paper, and select a wide variety of books from either your own classroom library or the school's. Wrap each book individually. Then, put them in a stack to help decorate your room for the month. If you have a student finish work early, ask him or her to select one of the presents from the pile. Give them a paper with probing questions on it, and have them write.
For example: What are your first impressions of this book after opening it but before reading the details? After reading the tag line and summary, does this book sound like one you'd be interested in reading? Why or why not? Read the first page. What type of lead does the author use to draw the reader in? Is it effective? Does it change your attitude about the book in general?
Even if students choose a book they don't want to read, they typically don't mind writing about their opinion, and it exposes them to texts they might not pick up on their own accord.
3. FAST-FINISHER WORKSHEETS
I always have fast-finisher exercises on hand. They are worksheets disguised as fun Christmas prompts, metaphors, and coloring activities. Students can write, doodle, draw, and make notes about holiday-related topics. While they are a lot of things, there is one thing they aren't: fluff.
Whenever I use fast-finisher activities, I make sure they directly align to curriculum standards. While I wouldn't hand my students a general coloring page and ask them to sit quietly, I would ask them to edit a passage about the history of Christmas and color their answers appropriately. Similarly, while I wouldn't ask them to write a holiday recipe just for fun, I would ask them to write a holiday recipe for an abstract noun with a focus on word choice and use of figurative language. The holiday pages I like to use focus on traits of writing: ideas, organization, voice, sentence fluency, word choice, and conventions.
Even though these exercises are perfect as fast-finisher activities, they also work beautifully when paired together as stations. This year, when students like Ben turn their assignments in early, you'll be ready. Keep meaningful holiday writing assignments like these in close proximity, and you'll be able to experience the comfort of feeling organized and prepared. Plus, your students will appreciate your efforts to incorporate the holidays into your curriculum. Who doesn't enjoy eating a candy cane? opening a present? doodling and coloring? Share the joy of the season with your students while also keeping them engaged meaningfully in ELA writing activities.
If you are looking for more meaningful holiday activities for secondary ELA, you can follow this Pinterest board where I post all of my favorite ideas.
These seven engaging Christmas writing activities will keep your fast finishers focused, helping you more easily maintain control of your classroom management this holiday season. Each exercise focuses on a different trait of writing, and they're also perfect for emergency sub plans.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melissa is the creator of The Reading and Writing Haven and a collaborative blogger on Teachwriting.org.
An English teacher for over a decade, Melissa is an avid reader and writer, and she loves sharing ideas and collaborating with fellow educators. Melissa use her degrees in English, Curriculum & Instruction, and Reading as well as her Reading Specialist certification to ponder today’s educational issues while developing resources to help teachers, students, and parents make learning more relevant, meaningful, and engaging.
When she's not teaching, Melissa lives for drinking a good cup of coffee, loving on her family, working out, and contemplating the structure of a sentence as well as how she can lead her students to deeper reading comprehension (Melissa's true nerdy passions).