It happens every year. Just when your students have gotten into the groove of schedules and studying, along comes winter break, ready to derail your efforts. This January, avoid the blank stares and cricket chirps by keeping your students engaged in learning throughout the holidays.

If you’ve got a few minutes this break, we’ve got 50 simple solutions (from 5 social media sites) that will bring an end to winter break’s intellectual breakdown. Because if you and your students are already planning to be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, or Flickr this holiday season, you might as well be learning something at the same time.

Facebook

  1. Start a group or page for your class on the next topic you’ll be discussing. Ask students to think of questions they have about that topic and then write them on the wall.
  2. Create a fan page for the author of the last book your class read. Encourage students to write their favorite quotes on the wall and to comment on other students’ choices.
  3. Have students update their statuses with a couplet or haiku on something that happens to them over the break. Best poem wins a prize or maybe extra credit.
  4. Ask your students to look for literary devices on their Facebook news feed—they might be surprised how often people use similes and metaphors in everyday usage.
  5. Go on a grammar hunt. Tell students to be on the lookout for the worst grammar offender in their news feed or on their friends’ walls and to bring evidence back to class.
  6. Encourage students to play a Facebook word game, like Scrabulous, with other members of the class.
  7. If you work with English learners or you teach a foreign language, post a photo and ask your class to tag the different items in the photo using a target language. Post a new photo each day or title the photo with the date they must complete it by.
  8. Put a new writing prompt as your status every day, and ask students to add at least one note to their profile addressing one of the prompts.
  9. Tell students to look for and ‘like’ their favorite authors’ Facebook pages.
  10. Create a “We love grammar” group, “Crazy about Hunger Games” group, or any other group that focuses on your curriculum that your class can join. Invite students from other schools in your district to participate.

Twitter

  1. Tweet a new clue each day about the next book your class will be assigned. Include details like the year it was published, where the author was born, and other trivia to see if your students can guess the right book by the first day of class in January.
  2. Write the first sentence of a story and end your tweet with the hashtag #neverendingstory. Students then tweet additional lines to keep the story going. Ask each student to contribute at least once during the break, and then read the complete story aloud when class begins in January.
  3. Set up a class chat time and create a unique hashtag (like #mizmclasschat) where you can chat during the break. Any writing is better than none.
  4. Tell your students to pick a favorite author and follow him or her on Twitter. Extra credit if they hear about a book signing through Twitter and then attend the event.
  5. Play 20 questions on Twitter. You pick the topic, your students tweet the questions.
  6. Have students tweet links to any interesting articles they read over the break. Extra points if the article relates to your class curriculum.
  7. Create an online poll asking which topic your class should cover next. Students must vote and then tweet their reason in order for their vote to be counted.
  8. Start a new hashtag for your class (like #whatwasthat?) where students can tweet grammar mistakes they hear on TV or read online.
  9. Tweet a sample test question every day during the break. First student to tweet the correct answer gets one bonus point on the next test.
  10. Tweet an obscure definition (or word) and see if any students can figure out the word it defines (or the meaning of the word). Students must then use the word in a tweet.

YouTube

  1. Ask students to pick a monologue from a play you’re reading and post the videotaped performance of it on YouTube.
  2. Post a video of you reciting a few lines from a poem. Challenge students to figure out the title and author of the mystery poem.
  3. Ask students to post a video book review of a book they recently read. Encourage video responses from students who agree or disagree with the review.
  4. Tell students to write a dramatic or humorous prose piece about something that happens to them over winter break. Ask them to post the performance on YouTube and share it with the rest of the class via Facebook or Twitter.
  5. Have students search for book trailers on YouTube, then ask them to create their own trailer for a book of their choice.
  6. Send links to catchy videos and songs on prepositions, adjectives, pronouns, or a host of other topics, courtesy of School House Rock.
  7. Ask students to write and perform a catchy song a la School House Rock. Share the YouTube link and ask other students to leave encouraging comments on it.
  8. Give students a topic before they leave for the break and ask them to find a great YouTube video on the subject, whether humorous, informative, interesting, or all of the above. Watch several of the videos back in the classroom if you have access to YouTube. Otherwise, share the links with the class to view at home.
  9. Tweet YouTube links to author interviews. Try some especially animated authors, like young adult author John Green, who video blogs via YouTube several times a week.
  10. Ask students to find a music video that portrays the same emotions or the same feel of a book they recently read.

Blogger/WordPress

  1. Before the break, create a class blog and give every student rights to contribute. Ask that each student post at least one anecdote from their winter break.
  2. Make a questions blog. Each student must post one or more questions they had over the break, whether humorous or even philosophical. Allow students to leave comments with possible answers.
  3. Teach story mapping by assigning the same plot to each student, but allowibg students to pick the setting and characters for themselves. Ask students to post an outline of their story on the blog, so they can compare and contrast their ideas.
  4. Encourage students to start their own blogs and share the web addresses with each other. Prizes go to the student who leaves the most comments (only meaningful ones will count) and to the student who posts the most to his or her own blog.
  5. Share links to blogs of prominent authors and encourage students to leave comments.
  6. Post a quote from a book you’ve read or from an inspiring figure. Ask students to share their feelings about the quote in the comments section.
  7. Ask students to post a favorite quote on the blog and explain why it means something to them.
  8. Post a few photos of authors, celebrities, or famous figures from history. Ask students to pick one and leave a comment that describes why they are similar to the person they picked.
  9. Ask students to post links to other blog posts they recently read with an explanation of why they enjoyed that particular post.
  10. Once a week, ask students to write a reflective blog post about the most memorable moment of the week. Encourage students to look beyond the first thing that comes to their mind.

Flickr

  1. Post a photo and have students share humorous captions for the photo in the comments section.
  2. Post a photo of a family (find an antique photo through Google Images) and ask students to think about each member of the family and to imagine where they come from, what they like to do, and what their biggest desires are.
  3. Each day, tweet a new adjective and ask students to find an image on Flickr that perfectly captures the feeling of the adjective. This would work well with an emotion too.
  4. Post a photo of an object or some scenery and ask students to pick an emotion the photo portrays or describe something the photo reminds them of. Share these emotions or experiences in the comments section.
  5. Post a photograph of a big event–a graduation day, a wedding day, a funeral–along with a quote from a book that applies (like Tom Sawyer’s funeral experience). Ask students to imagine how they would like their own big day to be and to leave a comment about how they will make it so.
  6. Do a search for your first or last name on Flickr and pick an image that you feel describes you well. Ask students to do the same and share what they picked on the blog or back in the classroom.
  7. Post a photo from a different era and ask students to write a letter as if they were living in that era. Post the letter on the class blog.
  8. Post a famous work of art and ask students to post the name of a famous book that was written during the same time period in the comments section.
  9. Tell your students that the publishing house of the book you just read is looking to do a book makeover. Ask students to find an image on Flickr that would make the perfect book cover.
  10. Post a photo of an old map. Ask students to write a journal entry as if they had just discovered a new land. Make sure they describe the sites, sounds, and smells. Back in the classroom, read the journal entries of real explorers.

Before using any of these ideas, please teach your students how to safely navigate social media sites and how to contribute in a respectful way.