Writing Into Winter Break

Winter Scene with the words "Writing into Winter Break"

With only a few weeks to go before Winter Break begins, student engagement often starts to wane. Rather than lament their lack of focus, try shaking things up by integrating Writing Wednesdays into your own classes. These weekly creative writing breaks keep students focused on learning when they might otherwise begin to mentally check out. 

  • Food Narratives: The holidays are the most delicious time of the year. Have students consider their favorite meals, preferably the ones they associate with the holidays. Then, have them write a food blog in which they explore the significance of that meal to their own lives before providing the recipe (ideally the real one but this can be fictional if they don’t have access to the recipe when drafting).

    Variations: 
      • Have students work in small groups to design a fictional December menu for the school cafeteria. Their menu should reflect seasonal traditions both at-large and within their own school (capturing, for example, any special events that are held in December, student holiday traditions, and the like). They should sequence their meals in a way that tells a story and provide a rationale explaining their choices. 
      • Have students bring in holiday notecards and ask them to use their Writing Wednesday time writing personal cards to family and friends, tucking in their favorite recipe, along with an associated food narrative, as part of the letter. (This is a great opportunity for students to learn about the conventions of personal note-writing, including how to address and mail a letter, which many students do not know how to do). 
      • Pair this activity with a book your students are reading by asking them to consider what types of foods a character of set of characters would enjoy and why. Then, they can create fictional recipe cards based on their findings. These recipe cards can be in the form of emotional, rather than edible, ingredients as desired. For example, if your class is reading Frankenstein, the recipe you may ask them to write might be how to make a monster.

  • Holiday Traditions: Explore narrative perspective with this fun take on holiday traditions. Place students into groups of 3-4 and then ask them to come up with a holiday tradition they would like to explore for this activity. Have students consider multiple different perspectives associated with that tradition – for example, the perspective of the adults versus the children, or the shoppers versus the workers (students should brainstorm as many perspectives as possible, coming up with no fewer than one unique perspective per student in the group). Students divide up the perspectives amongst themselves, either by assigning or randomly drawing a perspective for the list they generated. Then, students write the story of their chosen tradition from the perspective of that person. 

Variations: 

      • Explore personification by requiring students to choose the perspective of inanimate objects attached to their tradition and personify that object in order to tell the story of that tradition from their object’s perspective.  
      • Level up the challenge by requiring students to write not only from a unique perspective, but in a variety of different genres as well (for example, one version of their story may be told in the genre of a short story, but another version must be told in the form of a poem). 
      • Make this a mini-research task by asking students to spend some time exploring origins or variations of a particular tradition and then writing a narrative non-fiction piece based on their findings or, if you want to keep the task creative, a fictional piece inspired by their findings.

  • Holiday Scrapbook: Bring students’ memories to life with this holiday retrospective. Ask students to bring in a few photos of holidays past (they can usually pull these directly off their phones, making this low prep for students with access to their own devices). Then, using the photos as inspiration, have students write a series of vignettes that tell the story of holidays past. Keep the activity standards-aligned by requiring them to integrate narrative techniques into their writing. Each vignette should include thoughtful consideration of setting and conflict at a minimum, adding in characters, dialogue, and figurative devices as desired. 

Variations:  

      • Get students to explore genre: instead of vignettes, have students use their images to create photo essays or a series of fake Instagram-style photos with “captions” that reveal the story. 
      • Have student select the one photo that is the most meaningful to them and write a single personal narrative centered around that photo 
      • Pair this activity with a book your students are reading by having them create a fictional holiday scrapbook for one of the characters in their book and writing a series of vignettes that trace their evolution as a character. 

When deciding how to integrate these activities into your own classes, be sure to consider your own student population. For example, some students may have experienced loss or hardship that could affect which variations represent the best fit. The wonderful thing about Writing Wednesdays, however, is the flexibility of the lessons, making them easily adaptable to suit your students’ needs. Selecting activities from the variations that best align with your student population is a great option, as is the flexibility to provide all of the variations for any given task on a choice menu for students to self-select. However you choose to integrate Writing Wednesdays into your classes, your students will love the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and you are sure to love how easy it is to keep them engaged in meaningful writing instruction as you head into the holiday break! 

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