I’m interrupting my regular series this week to share a few writing ideas to round out the last week of the 2018-2019 school year. Many of us will struggle this week to hold the attention of our vacation-bound students, and while maintaining our regular schedule can be the perfect antidote to candy-crazed kids, spicing up the routine and planning something that not only engages the students in your classroom, but is in dialogue with season in which we are living, can be the most meaningful way to corral the crazy and make the best use of your last few days of the year together.
Below I share seven winter and holiday writing activities for you and your students this week. Pick one and intentionally stretch it out over a period of few days. Or go all out and invite students to do one a day. Let your students choose which mini project will be most meaningful to them this week, or select one activity as a class and plan a writing celebration on Friday.
1) 19 for 2019
I have been binging on Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier this month. Gretchen and her sister co-host the podcast together, and they share so many try-this-at-home hacks for making your life happier and simpler. I just love their dynamic and find myself trying many of their suggestions as soon as the episode ends. This week, in episode 199, they evaluated their 18 for 18 lists, an inventory of things to accomplish for the 2018 year. The items on their lists range from small tasks that can be completed under an hour (like “figure out how to use Instagram stories”) to larger tasks that require major planning and execution (like “take a family trip to Paris”).
I love this writing exercise for myself, for my students, for everyone! It’s a perfect example of real world writing–list-making–and it brings the excitement of a new year to the surface while inviting the list-maker to reflect on what accomplishments would make his or her year feel rich and full and HAPPY.
Gretchen explores this concept in a few other episodes as well: 152, 147, 170. Consider listening to excerpts of the episode(s) with your students, or viewing their lists within the corresponding blog posts. Model making your own list in front of students, then bask in the happiness oozing off that page in your notebook.
2) Twelve Personal Commandments
I wasn’t lying when I said I’ve been binge-listening to the Happier podcast! Another idea that resonates with me is from an older post on writing personal commandments. Gretchen describes this writing activity as a “creative way of distilling core values.” The task is straightforward but requires a lot of deep thinking work: make a list of 12 commandments, or statements, that describe how you want to live a life.
Two of my friends and I created a Google Doc this week into which we’re uploading our 19 for 19 and personal commandments. It’s been so fun to watch this process unfold and to be inspired by one another’s lists. Consider having your students share in writing partnerships or small groups as they tease out their mantras for 2019. Be sure to share Gretchen’s post with them for tips on how to get the list going.
3) Have a Warm Writing Party
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some of Mari Andrew’s work in this post. If you scroll through her Instagram account, there are numerous infographics that would work for end-of-the-year writing, including her December heart from 2017, Snow Day To-Dos, and Nice Things About ______ (insert year here), but I was particularly drawn to her infographic “Warm,” in which she illustrates and captions the tiny things keeping her body and her soul warm in the winter months. This gram inspired me to host a “warm writing party”. Here’s how:
- Invite your students to wear their favorite winter accessory (winter hat, scarf, gloves, etc.)
- Project the realistic fireplace screensaver in your room
- Serve up some hot cocoa or tea
- Iinvite students to create their own Mari-inspired warm infographic to share.
How fun does that sound?!
4) Writing as Gift (and Wrapping Party!)
One of my favorite writing invitations for students during this time of year is to turn a piece of writing into a gift for someone. I invite students to look through their writing notebooks and choose a piece of writing that might delight someone they want to find a gift for. As a teenager, this was my go-to gift for my parents, and my mom compiled all the poems I gave her over the years into a beautiful book that I can now share with my own children.
I love this portrait poem by Carrie Shippers. Although deeply sad, her poem zooms in on a man in the winter months when the cold “reminds him which bones / he’s broken.” It reminds me of the poems I would gift my parents–small bits of writing about experiences we had as a family: hearing the loons in Maine, combing the beach for shells, eating lobster around a thick wooden table. Sometimes I would write descriptions of my parents and brother in different settings, tiny verses that would show off what I had observed about them. Like Shippers’ poem, portrait poems make beautiful gifts; they say, “I was thinking about you a whole lot. I took time to observe you and think about what you mean to me and to the world.”
For a special touch, bring in various rolls of wrapping paper on the last day of school, and have a wrapping party. Students can complete their writing gifts by wrapping them in shiny paper with holiday themes. Teach them the art of curling a ribbon. Celebrate the beauty of homemade writing gifts.
5) Make Your Own Gift Guide
The ubiquitous gift guide can provide fun writing inspo for students and a seed for future writing projects. Encourage your students to develop original gift guides that highlight their passion. For example, a baseball player might write Gift Guide For Baseball Players. Students in the choir might write Gift Guide for Teen Musicians. Your Comic-Con fans could write Gift Guide for the Comic-Con Fan. Have them do some light gift guide research: searching on their favorite blogs and websites might be a good starting place. Encourage them to add a visual element and link up to the products and experiences they’re recommending. Create a master gift guide list that can be distributed to all students for a last-minute shopping resource!
6) Holiday Analysis
During this time of year we see a lot of wintry-inspired analysis cropping up, in which writers analyze holiday traditions, music, movies, and experiences. Consider reading these analysis pieces on the popularity of Home Alone and a feminist reading of the song “Baby Its Cold Outside” (note: this piece is intended for very mature students) for some mentor text inspiration before inviting your students to explore their own holiday “why” or “how.”
7) What Holiday Light Display Are you?
I love this whimsical piece of op-art from the New York Times for inspiring any number of wintry pieces. The title provides a fun frame for students to write around. Here are a few possibilities I’ve brainstormed:
- What Ornament Are You?
- What Holiday Song Are You?
- What Holiday Recipe Are You?
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to dig into each of these activities myself! There’s nothing like a cup of hot cocoa or tea, a little bit of holiday music tinkling in the background, and a clean page as white as snow, to usher us into the final weeks of the (school) year. Happy writing, friends.