Countdown in the Classroom

The Kinderhearted Classroom Countdown Calendar

Like it or not, the holidays are coming and our students know it!  This means they're a little more excited, a little less focused and things in general are a lot more busy and crazy.  So as teachers we can ignore it, try to keep things "normal" and end up a lot frustrated - OR - we can join the fun and embrace it in our classrooms.

I love bringing the holidays into the classroom.  In my classroom we call it an Advent Calendar and we use it to countdown to the Christmas holiday.  I use it as an opportunity to help shift my students' focus (even if only for a few minutes) from themselves and onto others.  We do a Giving to Others Christmas Countdown.

Yes, I am aware that in some schools you are not allowed to celebrate a specific holiday.  But that doesn't mean you can't use the time before a school break to help your students focus on giving back to others.  This countdown idea can be used any time of the year.  There's never a bad time of year to focus on giving or helping others.

One of the benefits I have seen over the years is that this class focus on helping others helps to build our own classroom community.  When we are all working together to pursue a common goal our relationships grow and our community grows stronger.

Giving to Others Countdown Calendar

The Kinderhearted Classroom Countdown Calendar

Every year when I put up the countdown calendar my students get so excited.  They love the idea of counting down and they love the idea of giving to others too.  What I love is the opportunity to model and teach the character traits of gratitude, selflessness and helping others to my students.

Easy to Setup

This calendar is so easy to set-up and use.  In the packet you will find an editable pdf that includes everything you need!

The Kinderhearted Classroom Countdown Calendar

All you have to do is open it up in Adobe Reader and then type in the tasks you want your students to do.  Simply count the number of school days you have in your countdown and type of cards for that many days.   Don't worry - I haven't left you hanging without any ideas.  I've given you 25 ideas for the classroom and 25 ideas that are ideal for home.  You can mix and match the ideas you like or come up with your own ideas too!  

The Kinderhearted Classroom Countdown Calendar

Once you've printed out your task cards, simply cut them out.  I chose to put mine inside small 3 inch by 3 inch envelopes that I found at Michaels.  You can also find them on Amazon too!

The Kinderhearted Classroom Countdown Calendar

Then I added the countdown numbers to the envelopes.  But if you don't want to purchase envelopes you could also print or copy the cards onto colored paper or card-stock and put the numbers on the back.

Then choose where you want to hang your countdown.  I like to set-up mine so that you can see all the days.  We practice counting with it and make a big deal about flipping over the daily card.  I use the window blinds in our classroom and it works perfectly.  You can also hang them on a ribbon or add them to a Christmas tree as the ornaments.  If you are short on wall space, you could always just post one card a day in your calendar area or a small space at the front of the room.  However you choose to set it up your students will love it!

The Kinderhearted Classroom Countdown Calendar

Planning it Out

Just a note on taking a few minutes to plan.  This may or may not be from personal experience.  😉 The holidays can get very busy.  As you plan the tasks you will do, think about the other things going on as well.  If you know that you have an assembly or class party, choose a task for the day that takes less time. 

In the classroom, I have even posted the calendar in the room without filling all the envelopes.  This has allowed me to decide on the tasks as I plan for the week, or even in the morning before class starts.  This allowed me the flexibility of scheduling around those last minute additions to our day.  

Start Counting Down!

When your countdown begins, introduce it to your students.  I'm a firm believer that the way something is introduced has a direct effect on whether my students buy-in.  If I'm excited about it they are too.  Make a big deal about the new countdown calendar - if they are not already curious.  Ask what they think it is.  Build a little suspense.  Then flip over the first card and read it to the class.

After reading the first task, take a few minutes to discuss the task with the class.  Ask for their advice on how your class could accomplish the task.  Let them be creative and get excited too!  Then get started completing task number 1.

The Tasks  

Some of the tasks I choose have a direct tie to academic activities in our day.  For example if we are writing a letter or thank you card to someone we do it during writer's workshop.  Now don't get me wrong, writer's workshop usually gets moved to "right now Mrs. Coller - please!" but it still counts as writing.  By connecting some, many, all of the activities to your curriculum standards you can stay on target with your teaching and tie in the calendar too.

Some of the tasks are simple: use kind words with 5 people; let someone cut in line without getting mad; play with someone new at recess.  Others require a little more planning: make paper snowflakes to give to others; play a board game with a friend; watch a holiday movie.  And some require a little more time: read a holiday book with a friend; write an encouraging letter; make a thank you card.  These are just some of the ideas that I have given you.  But the list is only limited by your imagination! 

A Few Extra Ideas . . .

  • If you are a teacher that uses a small visitor from the North Pole in your classroom, let your elf deliver your daily task cards.
  • Make some of your activities things that the students do at home in order to get the families involved too!
  • Encourage involvement in a school service project by having a task that incorporates it.
  • Allow your students to experience the joy of anonymous giving by doing some tasks in secret.
  • If you can't do a countdown, set aside a time for 25 Days of Giving or 10 Days of Service that have no connection to the holidays.

Not Just for the Classroom!

The Countdown Calendar is also a great activity to do at home with your family.  Since it is editable you can easily customize the calendar for your own children, Sunday School class, youth group or neighborhood friends.  

Doing is a great way to learn when it comes to math, science and reading.  But it works great for character traits too.  In fact, much of what our kids learn when they are young is what they see us do. So why not be intentional and focused on teaching them to help and give to others.

Just as I plan out the activities in my classroom, I do so at home with my boys too.  There are days that I know are busy.  Those days our task might be reading a special book.  On a weekend, we might bake cookies for a neighbor because I know that we will have more time.  The goal is not to add more stress to an already busy time of year, but instead to let these activities bring a sense of love, peace and helpfulness.  And if you don't complete a task every day - that's OK too!  

Whether you use the countdown in the classroom or at home (or both) remember the purpose - staying others' focused in a season that is often about me, me, me. 

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