Surviving December in the Classroom: A Comprehensive Guide for Elementary Teachers

Hey, ya’ll it is that time of year…December! While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, the excitement, the sugar, the burnout is real! All of this combined can lead to a chaotic month for your classroom. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. December is one of the most challenging months in the school year even though it’s fun filled as well. However it doesn't have to be! I have great tips for surviving December in the classroom. So, grab a cup of hot chocolate and read on! 


Surviving December in the Classroom 

When December hits, a unique set of challenges and opportunities pop up in your classroom. Of course challenging because students are a combination of tired and excited. However, there is so much joy during this season. In the spirit of surviving December in the classroom, let’s talk about the different ways you can maintain structure while still celebrating the season. 

Hold Onto Behavioral Standards 

The pure amount of sugar and adrenaline coursing through kids this time of year is insane! While being excited is great, the classroom atmosphere should never be compromised. You’ve worked too hard to build it, so you need to uphold your high behavior standards.

One way to keep hold of your behavior standards and survive December in the classroom is by using positive reinforcement. You can use a holiday-themed rewards system to encourage good behavior. For example, use a Snowflake chart where students earn snowflakes to complete a winter-themed picture. Once they earn all their snowflakes, they can earn a reward like extra free time, a dance party, or other classroom favorites. You can put a December twist on many reward systems that we have talked about at Farrah Henley Education. 


Surviving December in the classroom is also about ensuring all of your classroom rules are clear and  your expectations are consistent. You can do this by having a mini winter rules review sessions with students and practice a bit more than you normally would. As a matter of fact, you can choose the student who struggles the most to model the best way to walk to the restroom for example. This gives the student confidence and might save you a bit of time later. 

To ensure surviving December in the classroom doesn’t feel like a drag, make sure you are maintaining consistently so students don’t get confused and you don’t lose your sanity. 

Surviving December in the Classroom Means Keeping the Routine 

Sometimes because there are so many things going on, our routines get tossed out the window. It’s important to keep daily habits like morning meetings, greeting songs, leaving songs, and more! Consistency gives students comforting structure. If you make your classroom a stable environment, it can help keep the calm a bit more. 

To do this, you should use your schedule cards to help students remember the routine. You can add some holiday to them by adding themed icons for a festive look. In addition to visual cues, you’ll want to give verbal cues to reinforce your routines. A simple prompt like “after our holiday read-aloud, what comes next?” can with the transition process. 

Another way to be successful is to review the next week’s agenda. Preparing your students ahead of time for any events, assemblies, or other out of the ordinary activities can help prevent chaos later. 

Finally, give your students ownership by giving them responsibilities like leading the class during clean up before lunch or at the end of the day. Using a checklist of things that need to be done before recess or a special can be super helpful. 

Add Some Holiday Cheer…But Keep It Simple!

Ramp up the holiday season by adding some twinkling lights and festive decorations. While you can turn your whole classroom into a holiday wonderland, you don’t have to! Going overboard with decorations can be exhausting and oftentimes a distraction to your students. So, yes, bring in some magic but keep it simple and educational. 

One way to mix in some magic is to reinforce learning while having holiday-themed educational games. Playing games like “Holiday Word Bingo” to review vocabulary is fun and easy. You can also use our holiday themed centers for kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade to add a little razzle dazzle to the classroom. Plus, with the bundle, you get more than holiday themes; you get them all! 


Group projects are a great way to add to academics. For a fun STEM project, have students collaborate to create a gingerbread house. Then allow them to display their work to other students and teachers! 

In addition to adding holidays to your academics, you can do quick crafts that align with your curriculum. For example, you can make paper snowflakes when discussing symmetry in math. You can aro write letters to a loved one who you won’t see over the holidays to review your writing skills. 

Always keep in mind that not everyone celebrates the holidays differently. Make sure you are incorporating all the holiday ideals. You can do this by reading stories about different ways to celebrate the holiday or by making crafts from holiday celebrations around the world. Getting into the holiday spirit in a low-key way can make surviving December in the classroom that much easier. 

You Don’t Need to “Keep Up” with Anyone 

Do you ever look at another teacher's classroom, door display, or whatever and compare what you did to what they did? Some teachers love to compete to create the most magical classroom experience, but it’s not a competition. So, while you scroll through social media, you might find yourself feeling like you haven’t done enough. It’s important to remember that meaningful educational experience isn’t about one-upping someone. It’s about connection and learning…oh and surviving December in the classroom. 

Instead of checking out all the Pinterest perfect classrooms, limit the amount of time that you are spending on social media to avoid the comparison game. You can also decide what works for you and your style and stick to that. There’s nothing wrong with staying true to you even during the holiday season. Instead of doing all the things, do what you do best and leave it at that. Your students will enjoy anything and everything you do to make the holidays special. 

Make Self Care a Priority for Surviving December in the Classroom 

When the holidays ramp up, so do our to-do lists. Because everything is so hectic, it’s easy to push self-care to the back burner. However, that’s the last thing you should do! When working on surviving December in the classroom, you need to make sure you are doing a good amount of self-care. As a matter of fact, it should be a part of your daily routine. In fact, taking 30 minutes to do something relaxing can be  the perfect way to keep you in mind while surviving December in the Classroom. 


In addition to taking time for yourself, don’t be afraid to say no to things. You don’t have to add more committees or holiday parties to make the days even more stressful. Anything that needs to happen can be simplified and things that are needed can be delegated so it’s not all on you. 

Finally, take some time to celebrate all the great things you’ve done thai school year no matter how “small” they are. If you got through a full lesson with no interruptions, give yourself a gold star! Did you create holiday gifts for your students’ parents without a glitter bomb going off…that’s dance party worthy! Surviving December in the classroom is all about celebrating wins and keeping your boundaries. 


Surviving December in the classroom is something you CAN do because you’re amazing! However, it becomes much easier if you keep these ideas in focus. All you need to do is hold your behavior standards, keep your daily routines, stay true to you , and take some time for self-care. Cheers toa  December that’s both joyful and a whole lot less stressful. 

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