If you are like me, this week was devoted to pulling out Christmas decorations and setting some things up around the house. We put up lights outside, displayed the Nutcracker and nesting doll collections, and even got some visits from our Elf on the Shelf!
In the past couple of years I've opted not to decorate my classroom in Christmas/winter decor. The main reason is because I don't want to distract my students, another being I'm tired at the end of the day and I'd rather be at home with my family or at the beach! But there is still one important and fun tradition I hold on to: Polar Express Day.
When I taught in Oregon, Polar Express Day was HUGE at my school. There was even a Polar Express committee! I taught at that school for 5 years and have brought the tradition to each school I have taught at in Hawaii, now. The kids LOVE it!
Here's what we do:
1. I like to do this on the last day before break. They are already so excited about Christmas and break that doing academics is hard and you should be mostly wrapped up with all your units by then anyway. I make this day Pajama Day. I even dress up!
2. Find a special person to come read the book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg to your class. I've had my mother-in-law come, the Superintendent, the principal, a parent. Be creative! The class doesn't even need to know who the special reader is, it just makes it fun and exciting to have someone else read to them.
3. After the story, I pass out bells! So all the students get the first gift of Christmas! It gets loud with all the jingling, but they seriously love it! I have put them on long strings to be necklaces, on short strings so they hold them, and have put out beads so they can decorate them. This year I got 3 packs of bells at The Dollar Tree and will put them on long strands of gift-tying ribbon.
4. While your reader is reading, get the hot cocoa ready! I cook it in my crock pot all day, so the room smells delicious! I bring a ladle, cups, mini marshmallows, and mini candy canes. After the story, each student gets a cup of cocoa. I play Christmas music while we sip! My son's teacher gave all the kids coffee mugs for Christmas one year. That would be a fun gift for Polar Express Day!
These activities just make this day really special! I look forward to it and so do the kids! If you are allowed to celebrate holidays at your school, I suggest looking into creating traditions around the Polar Express!
What other holiday traditions do you have in your classroom?