The holidays are the perfect time of year for lessons on gratitude and generosity, holiday cheer, and happiness. One great idea to help spread those ideas is through a class Secret Santa activity.
Every year, right after the Thanksgiving break, I would have my sixth graders begin our Secret Santa activity. During the first week after Thanksgiving, I would have students complete a survey about their favorite snacks, books, colors, etc. It was a simple ten-question survey. If I were really on top of things, I would have them complete the questions before Thanksgiving.
Then I would mix and match students and assign them a person for which to play Secret Santa. I kept this assignment on a checklist, which enabled me to make sure that everyone was doing their part. It was also a way to make sure everyone was receiving gifts. We would run our Secret Santa activity for two weeks before revealing them at our class Christmas party.
Secret Santa Rules
Once everyone had a Secret Santa, I would explain the rules and answer all the questions. Even though I didn’t have a lot of rules, there were always a ton of questions. Make sure to leave time for this critical component.
First, decide how many gifts students must gift each week – one, two, or three is good. In my class, students were required to give two gifts per week. Gifts, however, did not require any money to be spent. Students could gift class dollars, the promise of fulfilling class jobs in the new year, a sweet note, or anything along those lines. Of course, they were also allowed to gift candy, treats, soda, books, school supplies, toys, etc.
Secondly, remind students repeatedly that they can’t tell anyone their Secret Santa identity.
Students would bring me gifts in the morning, during a break, or during recess. They would hide them in a backpack, jacket, or bag so no one else could see the wrapping paper and put two and two together. The gift had to have a tag telling me to whom the gift should be given. I would then place the present into a prepared box under my desk.
Then, when students went to a specialist like music or PE or went out to recess, I would take just a couple of minutes to check off my checklist and place gifts on desks. I also kept a small stash of Dollar Tree-type items wrapped and ready to go just in case a Santa snubbed their student.
The best time was when students returned to their desks, and you saw their faces light up because they had received a gift. It was a little bit of magic and holiday spirit every day.
Secret Santa Revealed
Finally, during our class Christmas Party, we would play a guessing game and reveal our secret identities. Students brought a gift of up to $5 in value for this final reveal. I would then have every student find their last gift from a big pile made earlier in the day. Before they could open it, students had three opportunities to guess the identity of their Santa. Raucous laughter usually ensues if the Santa escapes the guessing without being named.
Once all the presents were open, we would partake in a potluck feast and share some fun and fellowship.
If you want a copy of my editable Secret Santa activity papers, click here to receive them for free. It includes the survey, a checklist, the rules and explanations, and a letter home for parents. Most of it is editable for your convenience.
I hope you have a marvelous time celebrating the holidays with your students.