It's Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas (and it's giving me a headache!)

I'm linking up today with the folks over at Blog Hoppin for their We Are Thankful linky party.  

My pile of papers to grade must be growing because this is my third post in five days!  I just couldn't resist getting in on the topic for Tuesday...Helpful Hints, what we do to get through the day without losing it!

I don't believe I am exaggerating when I say that there have been days between Thanksgiving and Christmas when I look like that poor cat by 3:30 (maybe even by 10:30)!  A few years ago I started an incentive specifically for those days counting down to Christmas break, and I am not kidding when I say that it works like a charm!  I honestly believe...It's the most wonderful time of the year!  

So, you're thinking what could possibly calm kids down when all they are thinking about is the gifts to come in the holiday season, right?  Well, that is the!  

This is how it works:

1. Count how many school days you have between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Come up with that many gifts you can give to your entire class.  They can be items you purchase like gum, candy canes, etc.  I always get my entire class mechanical pencils, erasers, things like that.  But most of them can be things that don't cost much if anything like 15 minutes to play a game (Quiet Ball is my class favorite), watching a movie, having a holiday read-in, an extra recess, a homework pass, etc.  Get the idea?

2. Number the gifts in terms of which ones you want them to earn first.  Maybe you want to start with all the freebies first.  I do some gifts that go together.  For instance, I always have "Watch a Holiday Movie".  Another gift is "Have popcorn during the movie", and a third is "Have pop during the movie".  Obviously, I don't want them to get the popcorn or pop before the movie, since that would spoil the surprise.  So, the movie would be before the popcorn and pop on my list.

3. Write each class gift on a small notecard, put it in a box, and wrap it in holiday paper.  Very important!!!  Write the number of the gift on the bottom of the wrapped box, so you will know in which order they should be earned and opened.  Now keep the presents hidden until your class earns them.  Here's how they do it.

4. Every day write HAPPY HOLIDAYS on the board.  Anytime the class is noisy or not following directions (or doing whatever you don't want them to be doing!) erase one letter.  I created a set of letters with magnets on them, because I just can't stand it if it's not cute!  So, I just remove one from the board each time.  The class must have at least one letter remaining at the end of the day.  If they do, they earn a class gift!  Hurray!  Place the gift (remember to start with gift #1) under a tree or in a special spot where all the kids can see it.  (Helpful tip within this helpful tip...I never put letters back up once they are erased.  I think that teaches kids that they can goof off, but if they are quiet for five minutes, they'll get it back.  No way, Jose!)

5. Your class will love to see this pile of presents grow day by day!  And if they don't earn one, that's ok.  I bet they will be extra good the next day.  A couple of days before Christmas break, open the gifts as a class.  I always draw name sticks to choose kids to unwrap a present, and remember to start with gift marked #1.  The student who opens the gift reads it out loud to the class.  I have had years where my whole class cheered after each gift was read!  It's so fun!

6. The last couple of days before break, schedule all the gifts that take class time like your movie, read in, extra recess, etc., and now it's a gift for you too!  Remember you can still do gifts for those last two days before break, just make them something that doesn't take time you need to schedule like a piece of candy.

If you would like to use my letters, gift ideas, mini posters, etc., you can find them at my TPT Store.

Don't forget to hop on over to Blog Hoppin' for all the other helpful hints!

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