Christmas is right around the corner and as veteran teachers, we know these next few weeks can be extremely busy and exhausting. We are here to help! We’ve created FREE, NO PREP Christmas reading and math activities to keep your students engaged and help calm the Christmas chaos.
Is Christmas craziness taking over your classroom? As a veteran teacher, I’ve tried every behavior management trick and technique to calm holiday chaos that predictably arrives every year around December 1 and have found limited success. These three weeks should be full of fun and learning, but for years they left me exasperated and exhausted. I decided to take back control with Reindeer in the Room, the teacher’s version of Elf on the Shelf. Just like the Elf on a Shelf, the Reindeer in the Room features a special helper (a reindeer) who is sent to watch over the classroom and reports nightly to Santa. It’s made a tremendous difference in my classroom and I’m excited to share this idea with other teachers. Follow these easy steps to introduce Reindeer in the Room to your class:
1.Purchase a small reindeer. I found my reindeer at the Hallmark store but I’ve seen them everywhere including the Target Dollar Section.
2. Activate background knowledge and build excitement. I call the students to the carpet and I read Elf on a Shelf to introduce Reindeer in the Room. The majority of students have an elf at home and it is a perfect connection to the Reindeer in the Room. I explain that Santa sends elves to watch children at home, but Santa gives teachers an extra special helper, a reindeer. He comes down from the North Pole and gives Santa a daily behavior report. This report provides valuable information to Santa because education is very important to him. Santa expects that all children listen, participate, and give their best effort.
3. Introduce Reindeer in the Room. Show students the reindeer and read the accompanying poem. Explain that the reindeer works just like the elf, watching the class carefully and then reporting to Santa each night.
Each day the reindeer will give a special antler reward to one or two well-behaved students. The reindeer will also leave a hoof on the desks of misbehaved students as a symbol to “stomp out” poor behavior immediately.
4. Record reindeer promises. Discuss behavior goals with the class and record on board. Students write 3 individual behavior goals and record them on the Reindeer Promise sheet. Explain that the reindeer reads these goals and watches students’ progress towards them.
5. Create a Reindeer in the Room on a bulletin board. Prominently display promises on a Reindeer in the Room bulletin board.
6 .Move the reindeer nightly and award antlers and hand out hooves. In order to determine who receives the antler and hoof each day, I take quick notes on a Post-It throughout the day. I specifically look for students that I see going above and beyond (helping others, picking up trash on playground, etc.). I select one student to get an antler award; I place the antler headband, printable antler certificate and Santa chocolate on student’s desk before I leave work for the night. I give a hoof to any student who lost a star (as part of my classroom behavior plan) or who has a messy desk. I place the hoof printable and coal on the student’s desk.
Antlers and hooves can easily be used with existing behavior systems. For example, antlers can be given to students who get to blue (excellent behavior) and hooves can be given for students who go to yellow or red on stoplight behavior system. There are days when no one gets a hoof. I track antlers and hooves in my grade book to ensure that everyone (or most) will get an antler award.
7. Move the reindeer nightly. Each night before I leave school, I move the reindeer to a new location. I try to get creative and also make sure that the reindeer has a good view of the classroom to carefully watch behavior.
Students are so excited to discover the reindeer’s new location and see who earned antlers and who got hoofed. I briefly discuss this with students before we go over the schedule and take attendance in the morning. It sets the tone for the day and reminds them about their behavior goals.
8. Have fun! Download Reindeer in the Room to calm the Christmas chaos in your classroom. I’d love to see pictures of your Reindeer in the Room in action.
There are still a few more weeks until winter vacation, but Santa, stockings and sugar are the focus of children’s minds! Olive the Other Reindeer is coming to the rescue! Our adorable Olive the Other Reindeer Unit will capture students’ attention while engaging them in integrated reading and writing activities aligned to Common Core Standards. Olive the Other Reindeer is one of my favorite holiday books and my students always come to love Olive each year too!
Activate background knowledge and build excitement: To begin the unit, make a foldable reindeer KWL. Discuss why it is important to think about what we know before starting a lesson, ask questions about what we want to learn and summarize our learning at the end of the unit.
Introduce key vocabulary terms: Teach key vocabulary terms using vocabulary anchor charts and accompanying graphic organizer.
Make predictions with Peter Predicting Possum: Teach students how to make predictions using background knowledge and text features and use textual evidence to confirm or revise predictions.
Introduce Peter Predicting possum and read his poem to teach predicting strategy. Explain that good readers make predictions before and during reading. They stop to confirm or adjust predictions based on evidence from the text. This makes reading more enjoyable and helps build comprehension.
Model prediction strategy by using the cover of the book. Think aloud as you explain, “I’m reading the title, Olive the Other Reindeer and looking at this picture. I see a dog hanging from a sleigh, but I know that reindeer guide Santa’s sleigh. I think that Olive is a dog who will serve as a reindeer on Santa’s sleigh. I will have to read to see if my prediction is correct.As I read, I will look for clues and evidence that support my prediction or will help me change my prediction. Then read the first two pages of the text and discuss. “Based on what I’ve read, I am going to confirm my prediction. Olive thinks the song says, ‘Olive, the other reindeer’ and so she thinks she is a reindeer.
Make predictions on the following pages:
- Read until Olive gets to the North Pole just in time. Make a prediction–will Olive join the sleigh? Ask students to support prediction using clue from the text. After confirming that Olive will join Santa’s sleigh, brainstorm a list of dog behavior and discuss how these behaviors might be helpful to Santa.
- Read until the sleigh crashes into the tree. Have students read the first 3 paragraphs of the page and discuss. Refer back to dog’s behavior list and ask what behavior might be helpful in this situation Students will make a prediction and then pull Post-It to read, confirming or revising prediction.
- Turn the page and show students only the picture of falling gumdrops. (You can cover the text on opposite page with a large Post-It.) Use background knowledge about dogs to help make a prediction about how Olive will keep the sleigh safe from falling gumdrops. Remove Post-It, confirming or revising prediction.
- Turn the page and have students stop right before, “Olive had to howl louder than the wind instruments. Cover this sentence and rest of text on page. Repeat prediction process using background knowledge.
- Read the first paragraph on the page with North Pole Fog (the rest of the text should be covered). Repeat prediction process. Lift Post-It, read and confirm or revise prediction.
- Read the last page and have students stop right after, “There was just one present left. It was for Olive.” (The rest of the text should be covered). Repeat prediction process.
Students’ reactions are priceless as they reveal the Post-It to confirm or revise prediction.
Integrate informational text: Each student uses his/her question from KWL reindeer and records it on the question and answer reindeer printable. I set up a reindeer research center with key vocabulary terms and leveled reindeer text where students can read and research to answer the question.
Have fun: Students can read and follow directions to make Reindeer Munch while practicing key measurement skills.
Wear your hair in a bun and add googly eyes, pipe cleaner antlers, and a red pom-pom for a festive hairdo.