Ideas for Celebrating the Holidays with Students Virtually

As the whirlwind we know as 2020 comes to a close, many schools are operating on a virtual platform. Even though educators can’t see many of their students in person, it’s important to keep the rituals and holiday routines intact for students. This is a year where many families suffered the loss of a job, illness, isolation, and even the loss of a loved one. This isn’t to say that the holidays need to be somber during virtual instruction, but adding some ideas to your online curriculum for holiday celebrations can bring some light and life into your classroom. Here are some low-maintenance ideas for celebrating the holiday and winter season with all of your students:

1.Reserve Time for Fun Zooms

Every student needs a chance to be on Zoom and not have it oriented towards academics. Sharing that unstructured time is critical for building relationships with you, having time for students chat with each other, and just creating a safe space to hang out. Reserve space every week that is meant just for fun and has no academic content. This can be done per classroom, per grade level, or even as an entire school building. You can award extra participation points for students who show up, and it’s a great way to introduce some of the following fun holiday and winter activities.



2.Complete a Holiday or Winter Themed Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is an excellent activity that gets students up and moving around their space. Come up with a list of 12-13 items that have either a holiday or winter theme, and give students 10 minutes to find them around their space. Items like a winter scented candle, a holiday-themed movie, or an item that represents their family’s holiday or winter traditions are great additions to the list. Once your timer goes off, send the students into smaller breakout rooms with another adult. Here, students can go through the list and show off their items. They will enjoy having a chance to explain personal items that are connected to their heritage, family, and traditions.


3. Winter Themed Crafts

If your school has the ability to mail home items for students, this is a great chance to complete winter crafts. Mail home the necessary supplies a few weeks prior, and use your free space Zoom to show students how to create easy winter decorations. Cutting out snowflakes using special patterns, doily snowmen, and the 2020 appropriate toilet paper roll penguin are great ideas for relaxing with your students.


4. A School-Wide Gimkit Challenge

If you’re not familiar with Gimkit, it’s a quiz-style program that’s similar to Kahoot. The difference? Kids can take their time to answer each question, and earn enough points to buy special privileges. This would be a great school-wide or grade-level wide activity where even the teachers and administrators participate. One of the fun features of Gimkit is that it allows students to “ice” or “blur” someone else’s screen once they’ve earned enough points. You can bet that if students see their teacher or principal playing, they’ll be the first to get frozen! The topic of the Gimkit can be holiday traditions worldwide, top-selling holiday presents, or any other topic where students might not have in-depth knowledge and just have to take their best guess. The questions continue to loop until the time is up, and then a leaderboard emerges. You can choose to award the top finishers, or draw numbers to ensure a more random distribution. If possible, send home a small prize to your top finishers to reward a job well done.


5. Spruce Up Your Space

Give your students a challenge to create a themed background for their Zoom space. Perhaps you go with “winter wonderland”, “Whoville”, “Frozen”, or “what my family does” as ideas for giving their learning space a fun makeover. For “what my family does”, have students display items from their home that may have a spiritual, religious, or ancestral meaning.


6. Cards Never Go Out of Style

An old-fashioned greeting card with a handwritten message is a nice way to show your appreciation to students and families during this difficult situation. For students who made great connections so far this year, they’ll love seeing something just for them in the mail. For students who you’re struggling to reach, a word of encouragement to keep trying could mean more than you’ll know.


Keeping these cornerstones of the holiday season intact are great ways to reassure students that even though things are far from normal, we can still find joy during this time.