CRAZY SCHEDULE DURING THE HOLIDAYS? Here is what I do the last week or so of school:

(For lesson ideas in the elementary, middle, or high school art classroom, scroll to the bottom of this post!)

The winter holidays are quickly approaching, and I am brainstorming ways to keep my middle school kiddos busy in the coming weeks. Semester exams start this week, which means that all their assignments have been completed and we will have some "down time." Exams will be every day for nearly a week, with a "make-up" day scheduled for the last day of school, December 20. The last few days of the semester will see fewer and fewer students who show up. After their exams in the morning, many kids check out and the afternoon classes are constantly interrupted with school-wide intercom announcements, "So and so is checking out!" There is no way to have any quality structured learning time, so here is what I am planning for the last week and a half:

1. Reflection & Art Class Survey: I like the kids to reflect on their time in Art class and I give them a chance to assess the class itself. I hand out Reflection Sheets with a Survey on the back. They are asked which projects they enjoyed the most and why, and which projects didn't turn out as well (and why!) Which ones were the most challenging, what problems had to be solved, etc. The Art Class Survey asks, "What is one thing you would keep about the class? What is one thing you would change about the class? Would you recommend this class to a friend?" etc. (My 6th and 7th graders will rotate to a new elective in January, so December is their last month with me.)

Tacky Art Trophy with palette base
2. "Art Jeopardy:" The day before the kids take their exam, we will play this game. The table groups compete for small prizes while answering review questions. A student volunteer keeps score on the board and calls out questions. The questions come straight off of their semester exam study guide. I like to do a "speed round" or a "Final Jeopardy" question worth five points, just to keep it interesting! I am trying out a Tacky Art Trophy for kids to pose with if their table group wins! They think it's a hoot!

3. Scrub down the classroom! Selected student helpers will be working to assist me in cleaning up and organization. This work will be taking place every day during exams. Only two exams are scheduled each day next week, so what will the other classes do? They will choose one of the activities from #5 (see below) or they will help me clean. Some kids really, really like to clean! Go figure! 

4. Contest: This year, we will have a "Make-Off" competition, thanks to an idea from this video from Michael's Arts and Crafts store. Disclaimer: a contest will be guaranteed to get kids excited and I do NOT recommend this be done the last day or two before the break. I plan on doing this on the day of their exams, after the kids are finished testing. I like my middle school kids to be   c   a   l   m  .  

5. Activity Stations: (these will be closed on the last two days, Dec. 19 & 20, due to the kids' lack of motivation to leave them neat... I have learned the hard way not to do anything that requires any type of clean-up right before a holiday 😜!)

*Lego Building Station - Table One

*Ornament or Card Construction - Table Two ... this is the only really messy station and can be quickly cleaned up. I have markers, ornament blanks, blank paper, stencils, and texture sheets for kids to use at this table. If I am feeling very, very brave, I will have glue and a glitter bucket for kids to dip ornaments in. This requires very close supervision, however! 

*Puzzles/Games such as art related jigsaw puzzles or "Pictionary" - Table Three

*Drawing with "How To" drawing books on Table Four

*Art Appreciation Activities a' la Maggie Moschell on the Art Teachers Facebook Group ... I requested the digital version of her handouts which consist of around 40 full color pages of artists and their work, complete with student friendly biographies and an activity sheet. 

6. Videos: The last two days before the holiday there will be zero art supplies out except for paper! I will give kids the choice to watch the video and/or draw. I have handouts with tons of drawing prompts for kids who would like to draw. Click on the above link for an extensive list of videos. (I am very fortunate to have Internet access and a digital projector!) Below are the video clips I plan on showing the last two days:

Art For Kids Hub, by Rob Jensen...this will be good for 6th and 7th graders to draw along with the artist. 
PBS - Castle - David Macaulay, Youtube (this is about an hour long)

8th graders will be watching these: 

A word about discipline: 
My students know that if they act up there will be a consequence. I have several ready-made discipline assignments that I will quickly hand out if I see them horseplay, throw paper, or in any way abuse supplies. For some reason (a few) kids are more tempted to abandon all sense of self control right before a holiday - perhaps they think that teachers are too tired to hold them accountable and will relax the rules? Not so, my friend, not so! This time of the year, right before Spring Break, or the very last week of school is when I write the "Alternative Assignment" on the board. Kids can choose to do something fun, or they can choose the dreaded "Alternative Assignment." It's up to them! 

Further Resources & Ideas:

photo credit: Jamie Hyche Kolb
This awesome idea for using up wrapping paper scraps is from Jamie Hyche Kolb: "Have parents save the sample sheets from wrapping paper fundraiser catalogs. My students love mixing them with fun add-ons to create holiday miniatures. I give them glue, scissors, a small piece of mat board (4x6) and set them free with their imaginations! These were made by my second graders. The only parameter I gave them was to consider a subject that reflects on what their family celebrates in December. I love seeing what they come up with!"

Here are a few terrific articles by Michael Linsin (smartclassroommanagement.com) about handling kids right before a holiday: 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols

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