Even now, I can still remember the thrill I felt as a child when I stepped out into the first cold winter morning of the year. My cheeks and fingertips tingled. I’d take a deep breath, inhaling as much brisk air as my little lungs could hold, then let it out in a big whoosh to see if winter had come to make a dragon of me yet. That was always the test—just as a robin heralds the start of spring, whether I saw my breath or not determined whether winter had truly begun.
Winter is an exciting time regardless of the weather. Even if snow is out of the question and a cool breeze is the most you’ve learned to expect from December, the holiday season is a time of year that kids around the world anticipate with glee. As a teacher, now’s your chance to harness that energy and enthusiasm in the classroom by providing your elementary students with the sort of winter writing prompts that will let their imaginations run wild.
Prompt #1: “Write instructions explaining how your family celebrates the winter holidays as if the reader has never taken part in a celebration before.”
Rather than simply writing about a holiday they celebrate, framing the narrative as a set of instructions opens this writing exercise up to new learning opportunities. Not only does it encourage your students to work on their descriptive language, it also emphasizes the importance of clarity and simplicity when considering the reader’s perspective. Plus, it’s fun and easy to share and compare with classmates to see how traditions differ from family to family!
Prompt #2: “Make up a new winter tradition.”
Winter holidays are all about tradition—but even the oldest traditions had to start somewhere. Encourage your students to come up with a new tradition their family can try out this year. Their new tradition can be holiday-related or simply a way to celebrate winter in general—the only rule is that it has to be something practical that they can actually try out over the break!
Prompt #3: “Pick one thing you love about a winter holiday of your choice. Write as much as you can about it in 5 minutes.”
This writing prompt is a great exercise in both deadlines and descriptive writing, not to mention following instructions. Even better, it’s great material for a class guessing game. Once your students have stopped writing, ask them to pass their papers to the front of the class and read their responses aloud, omitting their names and any holidays or people they have accidentally identified in their writing. Ask your students to guess what the holiday is and see if they can name it correctly!
Prompt #4: “Imagine how your winter break would be different if you lived somewhere else.”
Add a little geography and culture to your holiday lesson plan mix with this prompt by asking your students to consider how their climate and society impact their experience of the holiday season. If your school is up north where it snows every year, what would it be like to celebrate Hanukkah on a tropical Caribbean island? Or, if you’re located somewhere where snow is scarce, what would it be like to have a Hallmark-style white Christmas?
Prompt #5: “Design your own Winter Wonderland.”
Bring a sense of wonder back to the holidays by asking your students to create a magical world in which the spirit of every winter holiday originated and resides. What does this place look like? What sort of people or creatures live there? What kind of food do they eat, and how do they prepare for the holidays? Ask your students to choose one thing to write about in detail, or make a list of their top five or ten favorite ideas.
Celebrating Winter Through Writing
Whether your elementary students celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, another holiday or none at all, they all have one thing in common—they’re all looking forward to winter break with eager anticipation. These five writing prompts can provide a creative outlet for all that pent-up energy and allow them to reflect on all the things that make this time of year so special—and perhaps create something special of their own by becoming published authors in the process.
If you want to take advantage of any of these awesome winter writing prompts to publish a holiday classbook that can double as a wonderful, personalized gift for students’ families, make sure you check out our delivery schedule so your magnum opus arrives in time!