Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes Santa Claus,
Right Down Santa Claus Lane…
Are you singing with me? Well, I’m singing because we have a guest today! I’m so excited to introduce to you Jessi from Cooties and Cuties!!!! Today she will be sharing some ideas on classroom management for this holiday season. I think you’ll love these ideas and will be able to implement them RIGHT NOW. Wahoo!!
Hi, it’s Jessi from Cooties and Cuties, and I am so excited to share some holiday gift ideas with you! There are so many perks to our job, and, for me, the holidays are one of my favorites. I enjoy giving gifts and surprising my students as much as the next teacher, but lately classrooms seem to resemble the set of an Oprah Winfrey show with teachers screaming “YOU get a prize, and YOU get a prize, and YOU get a prize! EVERYONE GETS A PRIZE!”
Me, not so much. (Stay with me – it’s worth it, I promise.) I love my kids more than anything, but I’m also a big fan of encouraging my students to earn their rewards. Instead of giving them a gift simply because they’re in my class, I have created a fun rewards system that allows students to earn them. During the holidays I offer more opportunities to earn rewards than I normally would to create even more holiday cheer.
Enter Santa Cam.
Santa Cams are the newest holiday craze, perfect for every teacher. A Santa Cam is “sent” to your class straight from the North Pole by Santa with a letter detailing how Santa will be watching for students who on their best behavior. I gravitated towards a Santa Cam because I’ve exhausted all of my creative energy crafting scenarios for my naughty classroom elf (Don’t worry; if you still love your elf, I have an Elf Cam, too!).
I love the Santa Cam for 3 reasons:
- Students learn the value of hard work and positive choices.
- Students have opportunities to earn individual rewards as well as whole class rewards. The value of these rewards far exceeds traditional student gifts. The “gift” is more of an experience, one your students will remember for years to come, which, to me, is far more valuable than the typical Christmas pencil or goodie bag filled with candy.
- Santa Cam is a rewards system for your kids, but it’s also secretly a gift for you. It will complement your current classroom management system, and you’ll have fewer behavior problems, allowing you to continue teaching right up to vacation. No more December crazies!
Ready to get your Santa Cam up and running? There’s no “one right way” to use Santa Cam with your class. Below I’ve detailed my favorite ways to use it, but certainly feel free to modify to best fit your class needs. The options are truly limitless.
Start with a letter from Santa, addressed directly to your class. This is one of the most magical parts of the process, so make it memorable and stuff the package full of glitter, jingle bells or small goodies from the North Pole. This may sound a bit juvenile for upper elementary classes, but if you’re excited and play it up, your kids will be hooked in no time. My third graders FREAKED OUT when our package arrived. They really believed Santa could see them through the camera and couldn’t stop waving to him!
The letter introduces the camera and challenges students to be on their best behavior. It’s customizable so you can personalize it for your class. Through positive choices, students earn prizes; small prizes at first and then larger, more significant prizes for students with the most consistent behavior.
I use the term prizes loosely because prizes do not have to cost money (which means more money for your holiday adventures! Woohoo!) Rather than purchasing prizes, I prefer to create experiences. Fun Christmas coupons such as Cookies and Milk with the Boss (teacher) and Elf Shoes (wear slippers during class) are always a hit. The cam comes with 8 coupons, and I love that you can twist them to mean almost anything! Add your own personal touch and let the holiday spirit drive your creativity!
Students earn prizes by coloring in pictures of presents on their individual “Naughty or Nice” cards when they’re caught being extra “nice” (following directions quickly, working quietly, synergizing, etc.). When all of their presents are colored, they hang them in “Santa’s Hall of Fame” and collect their prize. The more presents they color, the bigger the prizes get.
Caption: The cards say Naughty or Nice, but they’re really just tickets to keep track of good behavior. If a student is behaving poorly, they simply do not color any presents. The more presents a student has colored, the better their behavior has been. I never take presents away after students color them. Instead, I focus on rewarding positive behavior.
Throughout the month of December, I slowly add in new aspects to the Santa Cam. Santa sends the class new packages along with letters to let students know he’s still keeping an eye on them. He may compliment a few students in his letter or even call out a few students who’ve been extra naughty (without embarrassing anyone, of course).
By the end of the month, our classroom is happier and more studious than ever. The students have a memory they will keep for a lifetime, and I treat the top three students to an ice cream or movie date after school. Win-win!
Caption: Elf Kisses (whole class or table group rewards) also included! Let students vote on and plan a whole class reward they can earn through Elf Kisses. Push students to think outside the box! Instead of planning a classroom party with a bunch of sugar, create an experience like allowing students to decorate you like a Christmas tree!
In my twelfth year of teaching, I can honestly say that NOTHING has worked better than this system for managing crazy holiday behavior. I use this process with all holidays, and I find that my class is much happier, more cooperative, and more on-task during holidays than at any other time of the year. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Secret Santa Book Exchange
This is my FAVORITE way to strengthen a feeling of community among students during the holidays. Students love the challenge of keeping a secret from their friends, and I love helping them do something sweet for their classmates.
The day after we get back from the Thanksgiving holiday, students choose a classmate’s name from a stocking. We make a BIG deal about how this is top secret information, and we can’t tell a living soul whose name we’ve chosen… not your best friend, not your parents, not your favorite stuffed animal, nobody (besides me – I keep a list so I know that every student will give and receive a gift). I play the Mission Impossible song, and we pledge to each other that we promise, PROMISE not to tell anyone or the wrath of Santa’s coal will be upon us. Sounds extreme, but it works! The kids feel like they’re part of something important, and in 5 years I’ve only had one student spill the beans.
After we choose names, students start planning their gifts. We use our December Scholastic orders to shop during class, and if a student is unable to purchase a book, I buy it with my points. When the books finally come in, we have a wrapping party, complete with Christmas carols and cookies, and then we stick the presents under the class tree until it’s time for the big reveal.
Finally, on the last day before Christmas break, students reveal themselves, and the classroom comes alive with the spirit of Christmas. The kids beam with pride as they give their presents to their friends, and it’s truly one of the most magical moments of the year.
If your students don’t have access to new books, they can bring in gently used books from home or simply make a card for a friend. They will still feel the power of giving, and the effects will be the same. And who doesn’t love opening presents?
Caption: Wrapping tips: Use construction paper, ask parents to send in extra ribbon they have lying around, and, for quick and easy gift tags, print holiday clipart and let your students pick their favorite!
WHEW…that’s it. Christmas vacation begins, and your students take home happy memories of the Santa Cam and book exchange. And, best of all, they don’t even realize how you have tricked them into so much learning while they were having so much fun.
Thanks so much for letting me crash the blog today! You can find all of these products and much more on my TPT page.
Oh and one more thing–
*Ideas for students who don’t celebrate Christmas:
- Let them in on your Santa Cam secret and tell them that you need spies to help you spot good behavior. Give them a wink when you talk about Santa and a special thank you for playing the part!
- Call secret Santa a book exchange, and it’s suddenly un-Christmassy!
Thank you for being here Jessi!!