Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Traditions in the Classroom

Growing up, my family never really developed any holiday traditions. My parents are divorced, so every year was spent at a different place, visiting different family members, trying to squeeze in time with everyone. Not a lot of time for yearly traditions!

I think that's why I was eager to start my own traditions in my classroom during the holidays. This is my fifth year as a homeroom teacher (sixth year overall), and each year I do a few holiday activities. I've had students design the North Pole, study Wilson Bentley, etc. Those change from year to year. (What doesn't change is that I stink at taking pictures of all of this!)

But, there are two things that I have done every year since 2010 that I'd like to share!

Tradition #1: Puzzle Piece Ornaments

Fun fact: I made this ornament in 2nd grade, which is why I chose it to make with my students. I swipe it from my dad's tree to show to my students every year. Of course, I left it in my desk, but I'll add the photo to this post when I return to school! Mine is still intact, except all but one of the sequins have fallen off! My sister also made it because she had the same 2nd grade teacher a few years after I did. =)

By looking at the ornament, it is pretty self-explanatory as to how to make it, but here are the steps I take, and it works for me. I make it over three days, for about a half hour each day.

Materials Needed: cheap gift boxes (for the base of the ornament), cheap puzzle with small pieces, bottled glue, sequins, yarn/ribbon, spray paint (I used green or gold), glitter spray

Prior to crafting, I cut out all of the trees from gift boxes. You could have your kids do the cutting, but I don't know about your kids, but mine always lack the skill of cutting in straight lines in an efficient manner. I also hole punch the top of each tree for the ribbon.

Day 1: Students use bottled glue (not stick glue!) to glue puzzle pieces to the backing. I instruct them to glue the ornaments "puzzle picture side down." That way, the spray paint will go over the pieces evenly, and I don't have to worry about the puzzle picture peeking through. They are instructed to cover the ornament with one layer of puzzle pieces, then they may overlap if they'd like. After school on Day 1, I spray paint each tree gold or green. I let the students tell me which color they'd like beforehand. I let the trees dry overnight.

Day 2: Students use bottled glue to decorate their ornament with sequins. You could use any decor you'd like. Pipe cleaner tinsel might be cute. =) I make sure to tell students to leave a space in the middle of the tree for their picture. When students are finished, I give each tree a few sprays of craft glitter if the students want it. I let them dry overnight.

Day 3: I put each student's school picture in the middle of the tree and tie ribbon for the ornament. I give each student a white paper bag to decorate like wrapping paper. They put their ornament inside, and I staple it shut with a bag topper. Here is a finished product:

Adorable, right?! If you don't like the Christmas tree, you could do this same technique with any shape you want. I think it would look cute with whatever! I just love the "old school" look of these. Nothing flashy, just a good old fashioned keepsake. =)

Tradition #2: Miniature Stockings

I work in a low income area, and I really don't know how many students have a stocking to call their own at home. So, I make them a personalized one at school! On Monday, they see their stocking hanging, and each day after than until break I put a little treat in there. I add things like crazy straws, candy canes, pencils, stickers, homework passes, etc.

I purchase the stockings at the Dollar Tree. The sassy sequin stockings pictured are from 2012. This year, I did a mixture of snowmen, gingerbread men, and Santa. They also have traditional white/red stockings. To make sure I get the ones that I want, I start stalking the local Dollar Trees right after Thanksgiving. =)

I have two windows in my classroom, so I put up two curtain rods. I use pipe cleaners to attach the stockings to the rod, making for easy put up and take down. The kids are always so excited to take these home!

I'm linking this post up with Ashley at Just Reed for her Christmas Crafting linky!


Now that I've graduated with my Masters in School Counseling and am actively looking for a position in that field, every Christmas may be my last one with a homeroom. That makes me so sad! Any else recently leave the classroom and had to deal with this?!

Do you have any holiday traditions that you try to do in your classroom. Tell me in the comments! I hope everyone has a safe and joyful holiday!


  1. Fantastic ideas! I am "adopting" these traditions...if I may. One question...what do you do with students that do not celebrate Christmas? Thanks!

    1. Hi Pamela!

      Up until this point, I haven't had any students who do not celebrate Christmas. If/when that happens, I would talk to their parents about appropriate accommodations. If the family doesn't mind the stockings and ornaments in the classroom, then that student could make a puzzle piece picture frame and I could put his/her goodies into a little gift bag.

      Thanks for commenting!