Relevant Topics to Keep Students Writing over the Holiday

November and December: This is a time of year when students and teachers alike begin looking forward to having a break from the daily classroom routine and what typically is a very busy part of the school year. The various fall breaks provide a good time for everyone to refresh and catch up on some of those things that you may have missed out on over the first couple of months of school. Although there is a break in school schedule, the upcoming break should not interrupt the opportunities for learning during that time. With so many possibilities to extend learning through technology and ways to promote authentic student learning, it can be a good opportunity to provide some fun activities for students to keep practicing their skills and reviewing the content during the break. Offering opportunities for students to create can decrease that “slide” that may happen during this break and provide a way to keep students practicing in a more relaxed and personal way. But how can we do this so it does not feel like traditional homework? Providing options for students that enable them to select what they wish to write about keeps students engaged in learning over the break. 

Topics

Depending on the content area and grade level taught, it can be easy to provide writing prompts that will not only engage students by promoting student choice and creativity, but that could also lead to extended learning opportunities and help students to develop new cultural understandings. Some ideas for topics are:

  1. Holiday Traditions I: Provide a prompt for students to share their holiday traditions. Students can be encouraged to share images and explain how their family spends time over any holiday: What are the typical activities, foods, and any favorite times spent during the break? Students can then read their classmates’ posts and not only learn about one another, but it can be a great way to build relationships in the classroom and recognize different perspectives.
  2. Holiday Traditions 2: Provide a prompt for students to explore the way that a different culture celebrates during this time of year. Have students choose their focus and share the information they learn using images or links that relate to their research. Students can make comparisons with their own traditions which often leads to more discussion and student-driven learning both in and outside of class.
  3. Holiday Entertainment: Provide a prompt in which students are to choose a favorite holiday movie, song, event and explain why it is their favorite, why they recommend it to others and give details about when they first experienced it, providing details to really craft a descriptive narrative.  
  4. Holiday characters: Imagine inviting your favorite holiday character to spend the holidays with your family. Who would you choose and why? What could the guest expect during this time? How would they react to the experience? Your students’ creativity will amaze you.
  5. Time travel: Provide a prompt in which students are to select a famous person, location, event from history and to recreate a story in a holiday them. This story will include their selection and weave the historical facts into a creative, descriptive holiday story.
  6. Winter wishes: Create a prompt for students to write about their winter wishes or even some goals they have for the holiday break and the start of the new year. Encourage them to create their wishes or goals by referring back over the year, and providing some reasons for their choices.
  7. Volunteering: Encourage students to write about some ways they can help over the holiday season. Perhaps they can find a local agency that is seeking assistance, or write about a community organization that is collecting items. In their post, they can craft a letter they would write seeking volunteers for one of these groups.
  8. Photos: Find a holiday or winter themed image or images, and use these as a prompt for students to tell a story about the image. This will promote student creativity as well as focus on the use of more descriptive language, and it will produce more authentic student work.
  9. Holiday memories: Students can write about their favorite holiday memory, sharing the details of what the memory is, why it is their favorite, including as many details to engage their audience and provide a clear description.
  10. Adventures: Provide a prompt for students to write about a place they would like to visit during the holidays. They can include the reasons they chose this location, what a visitor can expect, and share some details about what they would do while on their adventure.
  11. Resolutions: There are often resolutions made at the start of the new year. Ask students if they make resolutions, and if they will for this year. Students can choose to share a resolution and whether or not they had kept it throughout the year. It can be fun to have students read each other’s posts and see if there were some common themes in resolutions and discuss how frequently the resolutions were kept.
  12. Changing tradition: Students could write a post about a tradition they either participate in or are curious about, and explain what changes they would make to the tradition. The focus would be on writing a more persuasive blog, which could then be shared with a classmate, who would offer a differing opinion.

These are just some ideas for different topics focused on a theme of holidays and celebrations. Topics like these can be adapted to different grade levels and content areas and could easily be used in teaching a foreign language. Requiring more detail or including images to promote student curiosity and creativity in their writing is another great option. The goal is to encourage students to stay active over break,  continuing to express themselves through blogging with self-directed exploration of different perspectives and themes.

About the Author
I am a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. I am also an attorney and earned my Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and have a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology. I am the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, the President-Elect and Innovations and Resources Co-Chair for the Teacher Education Network and the PAECT Historian. I was selected as the 2017 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by PAECT (the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications in Technology, the PA affiliate of ISTE) and by the NSBA as one of the "20 to watch" educators. I am proud to be involved in several communities including being a Common Sense Media Educator, an Ambassador for BloxelsEDU, Buncee, CoSpaces, Flipgrid, Hoonuit, and an Edmodo Certified Trainer, Nearpod PioNear, Recap Pioneer, TES Ambassador and Ambassador for several other networks. I wrote chapter 3 of the Edumatch book “Snapshot in Education 2016”, and I am a contributing author to “Gamify Literacy” from ISTE. I enjoy blogging and writing for Kidblog and I am always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. You can connect with me on Twitter @rdene915.

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