Activities for Before Christmas Break

The week before Christmas break is always crazy, and I tend to have plans A, B, and C ready to go because I never know what to expect.  For the most part, I try to keep things as normal as possible for as long as possible, while at the same time knowing things may not pan out as I hope.  I usually leave the last day before break somewhat open so I have some wiggle room if something else comes up and I would need to push a test to that day or if a student was gone and needs to take a test, etc.

Even on that last day, I usually have several different options ready to go that I could use in case something else would fall through.

Here are a couple of my favorite things to do with students the last day before Christmas break.

1. Sara Van Der Werf’s 5×5 Activity.

I have used this activity for the past 3 years, and it is an absolute favorite.  Read all about it here on Sara’s blog.  It’s not super mathy, but there’s addition involved.  In short, as I call out numbers, students place them in a 5×5 grid with the goal of earning the most points.  You earn points by having the same number in adjacent boxes.  Read all the details in Sara’s post.  I am always amazed at how quiet and into the game students get.  I will intentionally pause extra long sometimes before calling out the next number just to see if students will stay quiet -they do.  🙂

55game00

2.  Flextangles

I stumbled on this last year, and it is a keeper.  I honestly had no idea how this would go over with my 7th grade boys, but they really seemed to enjoy it.  I had students asking if they could work on this in their free time long after the day we did it in class.


I had some extra time with some of my students in a class this week, and on a whim, I decided to try Function Carnival.  I had never used it with students before, but I thought this would be a good group of students to test it out on.  They loved it!

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It was the perfect activity to use a couple days before break because it was fun and engaging for students, and there was still a ton of great math conversations happening amongst my students.

I’ve already used these Desmos activities in a few of my classes, but may pull them out this week again if needed.  (That’s the one downside to teaching students multiple times -I can’t use all my activities the first time I have them, because I will have them again within the next two years and need to save some of my favorites.)

  • Trees and Tents (one and two)
  • Wolves and Sheep
  • Jay Chow creates awesome Desmos Breakout activities.  This is above where my students are at, but if i taught high school, I would definitely consider using this.

I may also pull out several of the different things I’ve put out on my Play Table, or some of the board games I have in my room (Rush Hour and Blokus are some of my students’ favorites).

I also just found out you can play Otrio online!  I have the game, but I honestly hadn’t had a chance to play it until now.

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Game about Squares is another great one!

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I would love to hear your favorite activities to do with middle schoolers in the day or days leading up to Christmas break!

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