Decorate the Tree

This is my game of the week in all my classes – a silly game to get them started on the Christmas spirit so we can plan our Christmas party for next week.

To prepare for the game, I took two dozen Christmas ornaments and glued or taped magnets to them. At the beginning of class, I drew two equal-sized Christmas trees on the white board, and prepared two sticky balls (with flashing lights inside, because I like sparkling lights).

To play the game, two students rock-paper-scissors (paper-scissors-stone) – loser asks the winner a review question. Then each student throws the sticky ball at the tree. Wherever on the tree the sticky ball hits, the teacher places an ornament. Once everyone has had a turn, or once one team runs out of ornaments, the game is over and the team with the best-decorated Christmas tree is the winner.

I’ve also got half a dozen variations on the game – if you have a classroom of your own, rather than ten different classrooms like I do, you could use felt trees, a velcro sticky ball, and felt or velcro decorations to make a longer-term display, playing by the same rules. Kids can wander up and move decorations around at will, which might make for chaos or break-time entertainment.

For a review game, teams can take turns throwing balls at the tree while the other team is reading or reciting material. The team with the most ornaments on the tree is the winner, and the losing team sings a Christmas carol as punishment.

For a Christmas party game, one team can sing a Christmas carol while the other team throws sticky balls at the tree. Then the teams switch.

For a ridiculously crazy party game, play hot potato by passing two or three sticky balls while singing along to Christmas carols. Whenever you stop the music, whoever’s holding a ball has to throw it at their team’s tree as fast as possible.

If you don’t want to go to the bother of preparing ornaments, you can draw them on the tree before the game, and have students race to undecorate the tree by erasing every ornament they hit with the sticky ball.

If you have more students than decorations, you can have the students throw left-handed (non-dominant-handed) or roll a dice to determine what silly way to throw (blindfolded, on one leg, over one shoulder, etc.) so as to limit the number of balls that actually hit the tree.

I didn’t do this, but it might be fun to decorate the tree with garlands as well as ornaments – each kid throws twice, and the garland’s two ends go wherever the sticky balls hit.

You can also do this game pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey-style, with kids taking turns being blindfolded, trying to place ornaments on the tree.

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Pin the Face on the Pumpkin

Before class, cut out several eyes, noses, and mouths from black paper and glue magnets to the back of them. Prepare two witch hats or sets of blindfolds. Draw two pumpkins on the board.

Divide the class into two teams. One member of each team comes to the front and gets blindfolded (or has a witch hat pulled over their eyes). Each person grabs an eye, nose, or mouth, spins around, and tries to attach it to their pumpkin’s face. The rest of their team can scream advice at them if you like. An assistant hands them the next piece of the face, they spin and attach it, and so on, until they’ve pinned the whole face on the pumpkin. The team with the better pumpkin face is the winner. Repeat the game until each person has a chance to pin the face on the pumpkin.

For beginner classes, you might want to coach the kids in how to yell advice at their teammates before the game starts. For example: Higher! Move left! Turn the nose!

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Horse Race

Draw a racetrack on the board – it can look like a ruler or a circular track with a marked finish line. Make sure it’s long enough for each member of a team to get a turn – about three or four spaces per person per turn is a good bet.

A simple racetrack design

A simple racetrack design

You’ll need a magnet for each team to mark their horse’s place. I drew game pieces in the shapes of frogs, horses, rabbits, and race cars on construction paper and stuck magnets to the back of them, but regular magnets will do in a pinch.

For game play, the teacher calls on one student from each team to come to the front. The teacher asks a question, and the students answer it. After students answer the question, they roll a dice to see how many spaces their team’s horse can advance. (The teacher can decide whether only the fastest student gets to roll the dice, or all students with correct answers.)