You Might Even Say It’s a Christmas Miracle

Middle School Classroom

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Just like the ones I used to know. Where the kids are playing and not in school working, so my pounding headache goes awayyyy.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that I think teaching is a huge blessing. I love my job, and despite some of my kids’ popular beliefs, it’s not because I just love essays. It’s actually because I love them. I love kids and the influence I have the opportunity to make in their lives. 

If you’ve ever taught during the month of December, though, you realize it’s quite challenging. There’s something about the twelfth month that just screams cookies, Santa, and presents to kids. Between the commercials on TV, the gift shopping on the weekends, and the tree decorating in the evenings, my kids are getting quite excited. Which, in turn, makes it hard to get them to follow my expectations and focus on Language Arts. Understandable.

You might be wondering, then, what I do to help this problem. I tried for a year to just be excited with my kids, to talk about the holidays, and to even make cookies for them. Embracing it is totally encouraged. But, to help students be most successful, it’s important to keep them on track. So, instead of decorating my room with fancy tinsel and evergreens, I decorate mine with chains. Paper chains.

During the first week of December, I review the rules of my classroom with students. Then, I ask students what they think they are doing well, and what they think they are struggling with. I show them where their paper chain will go and tell them that each class period that goes well, they get a link on their chain. At the end of December, the class period with the longest paper chain gets a party. Pretty high stakes! In fact, when I told my class this morning this, one student called out and said “Steaks at the party?! I love steaks?” Oh, what fun it is to teach!! 🙂 

Now, you could use really anything to get your kids to behave during this month. Maybe it’s just tally marks on the white board, maybe it’s tokens in a jar, maybe it’s something else. The key to success is to have an opportunity to review expectations, give them a visual when they do well, and have them all working towards the goal together.

Not to be a Grinch and all, but I don’t give a paper link every day. It helps the classes that are slacking to see other classes beating them. That’s when the pressure really kicks in.

My favorite part of this “project” is that the students do the correcting for me. Yes, that’s right. For me. I tell the kids that the less I have to remind students to try their best, get to work, stop talking, etc, the more likely they are to earn a link for the day. Whenever a student begins to talk over me during directions, three kids near them turn around and “shhhhhh!” It’s truly magic!

You might even say it’s a Christmas miracle.

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