During the month of December, students obviously have much more on the brain than reading, writing, and arithmetic. When it comes to teaching core subjects in those weeks leading up to winter break, you can either fight the crazy holiday excitement, or lean into it. One of the best ways to use all that holiday energy to your advantage is with winter centers for language arts and math. A normal center activity is made instantly more engaging when it’s themed for the season.
Here are 5 hands-on winter centers that can be easily implemented during your small group time. Any of them would also work well as a holiday party rotation if you might want to sneak in an activity that is academic, but still fun!
1. Jenga Bells (Math & Language Arts)
Jenga games can be used all year long for math and literacy centers, but student engagement is “up through the rooftops” when they play these festive versions for the holiday season. The kids have so much fun playing the game that they don’t even realize all of the brainwork happening.
These make for a great addition to winter centers for language arts and math. Two less centers to have to plan for in two different subjects!
If you’re new to Jenga for the classroom, you can find out all the details (how to play, tips for organization, etc.) by clicking here or the image below.
If you’re already familiar with the regular games and are wanting to add some holidays themed ones into the mix, they’re available individually or in a discounted bundle. They’re also included in the 1st and 2nd grade math MEGA bundles in my website shop and TPT store.
2. Building Arrays (Math)
This hands-on center helps students practice foundational skills for multiplication, and it incorporates the winter and holiday mini erasers that kids love so much. All of the erasers in my own collection have come from the Target Dollar Spot, but you can also get them in bulk on Amazon.
And if you’re not wanting to hop on the mini eraser train, this activity works just as well with any kind of counters or math manipulatives. The work mats still have graphics to fit the winter season. Students simply use the mini erasers or counters with the mats to build arrays and practice repeated addition.
You can also change these up with dice games.
These winter work mats for building arrays can be found in my web shop and on TPT, and they’re also included in a year round bundle (work mats also themed for fall and spring). I plan to add a set for summer too, so if you grab the bundle you’ll get that set for free once it’s been added.
If you’d like additional details about these work mats and more ideas for teaching arrays, you can also check out this blog post or click the image below:
3. Shades of Meaning Trees (Grammar/Language)
Here’s one for your literacy centers this December. Students enjoy the holiday theme of this activity, and it helps them build vocabulary as well.
The word boxes can be cut up, mixed up, and used for a word sort. Students can also color the boxes from lightest and darkest and sort them from weakest to strongest by their shades of meaning.
After practice with the word sort, students can also use those words to make their own paper tree craft.
And you can click here or the image below if you’re in need of more ideas for teaching shades of meaning.
4. Holidays Around the World (Reading Comprehension)
Students take along their own suitcase, passport, and travel guide book for their winter center travels.
For this center, students open their guide book to read and learn about a new country and its holiday traditions. You might have them “visit” one country each day, or work at their own pace through the travel guide book.
These same pages come double-spaced too in case you want to have them do a Close Reading. Students can annotate the passage to help with comprehension.
Once they’ve finished reading about the country, they get to color a stamp and glue it into their passport! You could also have them shade in the place they “visited” on a travel map.
5. Compound Sentences (Grammar/Language)
This grammar activity can be used for a literacy center in December. But if things get too busy that month (as they typically do), you could save it for January or February. It’s themed for wintertime in general, so it’s a little more versatile.
Prior to implementing the center, you could do a whole group lesson using this helpful visual of a snowman.
Once students are ready for some independent practice, these laminated snowman pieces make for a great hands-on (or arms-on?) 😉 center. Students mix and match the arms onto the snowman to try and build compound sentences that make sense. They write the sentences that they create on the middle of the snowman.
An additional center you can implement for compound sentence practice is one with snowman-themed task cards. Students can write the sentences they create onto the matching recording sheet.
You could give your students an opportunity to get up and moving. Tape these cards in random spots around the classroom. They take the recording sheet along with them on a clipboard. If you prefer to have everyone seated during center time, this could also be done whole group.
I hope you and your students enjoy this time of year together! When it comes to all the holiday excitement, I say if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And a great way to do that is to give ’em some fun winter centers for language arts and math!