By Michael and Sandi Brown, education consultants with Tutor Doctor Front Range
November is almost over, which means holiday school breaks are rapidly approaching. Let’s face it, the last thing on a student’s mind during the holidays and the holiday break is learning. Anything resembling school or homework will not be well received.
However, the unfortunate truth, especially for struggling students, is that holiday breaks interfere with any academic momentum that has been achieved during the school year. Spending some time learning each day, even during school breaks, is the best way to keep students achieving their academic best.
Luckily, learning doesn’t have to be boring or look like homework. In fact, many traditional holiday activities already include learning aspects while staying fun and family-centered. Here are our top five suggestions for keeping students in “good academic shape” over the upcoming holiday breaks.
1) Explore the December holidays for a fun history lesson – Many students celebrate Christmas, while some observe Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice. Have students complete a Venn diagram that helps them recognize similarities and differences between these special occasions. Include details about traditional celebrations, the history behind each holiday, common foods, what culture celebrates the holiday and more.
2) Listen, laugh & learn – Listen to audio books while traveling to visit family, wrapping gifts or cooking that Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. Read and sing holiday song lyrics together, and try writing your own lyrics to familiar tunes.
3) Explore the science of cooking – Thanksgiving and the winter holidays can be a terrific time to learn and practice scientific concepts while cooking – what temperature do you need to melt enough sugar to make candy? Why doesn’t a lower temperature work? What chemistry is involved in baking bread?
4) Practice math with holiday word problems – This allows you to shift students’ eagerness for presents into a teachable moment. Collect newspaper ads and use them to create holiday word problems. For example, “Mrs. Jones has seven children and a budget of $200 for holiday gifts. She wants to give each of them a video game. Each game must be different but be the same price. What games should she get and how much will each game cost?”
5) Write your own holiday story – Many popular holiday stories may include old concept that are not relatable for today’s students. Why not have students write their own holiday tales? They could update a classic or create a totally original story that celebrates something they love about the holiday season. Go a step further and create children’s books of these new stories, complete with illustrations and “publish” them. Consider having students read their published books to a class of younger students as part of a holiday party.
These are just a few ideas to incorporate learning into your holiday break without adding extra homework and stress to a student’s plate. With these and other activities, students can maintain and improve their academic progress during breaks and the whole family can have fun. Happy Holidays!