5 Tips to Make Your School Holiday Celebrations More Inclusive

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

It is well known that the month of December is a joyful and festive time in schools across North America. It signals the end of a term, a lengthy winter break, and a time during which many families engage in cultural celebrations. 

In addition to daily lessons, students participate in concerts, pancake breakfasts, as well as arts and crafts activities during this time. December can be exciting for students!

However, school holiday celebrations can also be a source of stress and anxiety. Students with attention issues can find the repetition of concert practice excrutiating. For students who thrive on routines, the change in routine can make the school day difficult to navigate. Students with social anxiety might suffer at the thought of having to participate in a school performance. Unfortunately, some students find school holiday celebrations very challenging.

Therefore, I encourage educators to use the following tips to make holiday school celebrations more inclusive of students with specific social, emotional, physical, and intellectual needs.


1. Keep the student's needs in mind when planning for activities outside of the classroom. (This includes any accommodations or modifications that the student will need in order to successfully complete and/or participate in the activity.) For example, if your student requires support for learning and attention issues and is expected to attend an hour long practice for the school holiday concert don't forget to make any necessary accommodations such as: 

a) making sure the student is in an area with low distraction

b) adjusting the duration of any practice time as needed

c) informing any assisting staff of the student's needs and providing strategies for support

2. Give the student (and family) a daily schedule (especially, if the schedule is changing every day). Providing a daily schedule can help:

a) make transitions between activities smoother

b) reduce anxiety in unfamiliar situations

c) the student identify areas/times of the day that might be challenging and prepare for it

3. Set the student up for success before, during, and after new activities by:

a) reviewing learning and behavior expectations before participating in a new activity 

b) ensuring the student has all the necessary supplies 

c) making the activity appropriate and accessible (for ideas and strategies to modify curriculum check out, Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Curriculum).

d) monitoring of the student for signs of success or areas of need 

e) give positive reinforcement and feedback as the student demonstrates success

4. Allow the student to have "down time" when there is a change in routines and activities. Learning a new song, making a craft, or even interacting with different staff or students can be physically as well as emotionally draining. Some students need time to re-charge or self-regulate after a new or unfamiliar situation. "Down time" can look like:

a) quietly reading a book

b) listening to music or a podcast

c) talking to a friend

d) writing in a journal

5).  Maintain some aspects of a "normal day" in your classroom. There is no need to throw out all your lesson plans during the month of December! Keep some time for regular instruction  so that students remain engaged and learning. Open-ended assignments and self-directed projects work well during this time as students can "pick up where they left off" when time allows. 

Do you have any tips or strategies that you can add? Comment below!

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