Going Beyond the Homework Packet this Holiday Break

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by Emma Brady
Integrated Special Education Program Manager

Happy holidays! Feliz Navidad! Happy Hanukkah! Heri za Kwanzaa! No matter what holiday you and your family celebrate, this time of year comes with some well-deserved rest, relaxation and a break from school or work. This is also a prime time to infuse skill practice into your holiday plans! While many students have homework packets to complete over break, sometimes paper/pencil practice is just not enough to prevent skill regression. Here are some ways for parents and families to introduce engaging skill practice into holiday activities to keep kiddos’ brains growing and working to eliminate academic regression.

1. Infuse academics into holiday cooking & baking

Parents and caregivers can easily make any holiday cooking or baking experience a learning one, too. Here’s how:


houseBuild a Gingerbread House
This fun family activity is a great way to practice math and story telling!

  • Lay out all of your materials and ask students to divide all of the materials equally between all participants
    • Example: if you have 20 M&Ms to use on your house, ask your child to divide them between your family of 4). This is a great way to practice math problem solving and division!
  • Ask kiddos to sketch the gingerbread house they want to build and label all components. Take this to the next level by having children write a story about their gingerbread house, or have children make up their own story and share their story with the family verbally. This activity will work on critical thinking skills, as well as writing and speaking skills.

Bake some Holiday Treats

  • Ask your kids to be your helper in the kitchen! Baking and cooking are the perfect opportunities to practice the concepts of measurements and reading (yes – reading!). Have your little helper read recipes to you and help you measure out ingredients.
  • You can take this a step further by creating written or verbal word problems that your helper has to solve
    • Example: We are having 30 guests over on Saturday. How many dozens of cookies do we needs to bake to make sure everyone can have at least one cookie?. These activities are a great way to practice real-life math, reading and critical thinking skills!

2. Use holiday movies and television shows to practice comprehension

moviesWinter break is filled with holiday films. Whether you are watching “Elf” or “Arthur’s Christmas”, remember that watching movies and television are amazing opportunities to work on comprehension. These sample questions utilize academic language that is practiced at school and they will get your kids thinking!

  • Pretend I’ve never seen the movie before. Tell me what happened!
  • What was the main idea of the movie?
  • Who were the characters in the movie?
  • How did the main character change from the beginning of the movie to the end?
  • What was the moral or lesson of the movie?
  • What was the setting of the movie?
  • What was the problem in the movie, and how was it resolved?
  • Which character did you like the most? Why?
  • How did (Character) handle (situation)? What would you have done? Why?

Take this a step further by asking children to create a play script of the movie/show they just watched and have them act it out! Use things from around the house to make your costumes extra special.

3. Read with your kids every day

readThis tip is the easiest, but it’s often forgotten when things get busy. Read their favorite holiday books when they wake up, after lunch and/or before bed. Don’t have any holiday titles at home, or is your book stock running low? Visit the library and stock up for free! Visit any of the San Jose Public Library branches or your local library. Here are a few helpful suggestions to make this happen:

  • Get into the routine! Find a time that works for the family to do story time and get animated! The more animated readers get, the more fun story time becomes.
  • Act it out! Act out the story with your kiddos! Make costumes and make it fun!
  • Ask the right questions:
    • Pretend I’ve never read this book before. Tell me what happened!
    • What was the main idea of the story?
    • Who were the characters in the book?
    • Which character was your favorite? Why?
    • What was the setting of the book?
    • What was the problem in the story, and how was it resolved?
    • How did (Character) handle (situation)? What would you have done? Why?
  • Have your kids read to you! Even if they are non-readers, they can “make-up” the words by using the pictures to tell you what happens on each page.

4. Make holiday shopping an experience for your brood

countHoliday shopping is a great time to practice math and money skills. Shop away!

  • Ask your kiddo to help you estimate prices of items you plan to purchase
    • Example: This toy costs $19.99. Can you estimate to the nearest dollar?
  • Have your Rocketeer pay the bill (just kidding…sort of)! When a cashier tells you the total cost for your items, have your child hand the proper amount of cash to the cashier. This requires children to count money, which is a challenging skill! Take this to the next level by asking your child if you got the proper change in return.
  • Done with holiday shopping? Do the same activities listed above with your holiday returns – there are always returns!

Enjoy this holiday season. Remember to make every minute of the holidays count for your kids, and make it FUN!

Sharing your holiday learning ➟ @RocketshipEd


Emma Brady came to Rocketship in 2012 as a Special Education teacher to make an impact in the charter school arena. Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Emma knew she wanted to make a difference in education, so she joined Teach for America and moved to the Bay Area after attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison and obtaining a business degree. Teaching was the change of pace she hoped for, and after teaching in the Alum Rock School District at both L.U.C.H.A. and Dorsa Elementary, she joined the Rocketship family at Rocketship Brilliant Minds. Emma is charged to make Rocketship a place that meets the needs of ALL children. Her passion for Special Education has led to her to her current role as an Integrated Special Education Program Manager within the Network Support Team. Emma is deeply inspired by the amazing families, students and co-workers that surround her. 

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