How to Run Secret Santa Activities in your Classroom

The holidays are the perfect time of year for lessons on gratitude and generosity, holiday cheer, and happiness, and what better way to spread those ideas than with a class Secret Santa activity.

Text "Secret Santa Activities" with a Santa hat positioned as if the text is wearing the hat.  Also includes The Colorado Classroom logo.

The Timing

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. 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, so I could track that everyone was doing their part. It was also a way to make sure everyone was receiving gifts. We would run our Secret Santas 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 important component. First, decide how many gifts must be given 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, they just couldn't tell anyone their Secret Santa identity.

The Process

Students would bring gifts to me in the morning or during a break or 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 on it telling me who the gift was for. I would then place the gift into a box I had prepared under my desk.

Then, when students went to a special like music or PE, or when they 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 student was being snubbed by their Santa. 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

Santa Claus standing with the text next to him that says, "How to Run Secret Santa Activities in your Classroom" along with The Colorado Classroom logo.

Finally, during our class Christmas Party, we would play a guessing game and reveal our secret identities.  For this final reveal, students were asked to bring a gift up to $5 in value.  I would then have every student find their final gift from a big pile made earlier in the day.  Before they could open it, students were given 3 opportunities to guess the identity of their Santa.  Raucous laughter would usually ensue if the Santa was able to escape the guessing without being named.  Once all the presents were open we would partake in a potluck feast and share some fun and fellowship with one another.

If you would like a copy of my editable Secret Santa activity papers, which includes my rules, questionnaire, checklist, and party flyer, please click here to receive them for free.

I hope you have a marvelous time celebrating the holidays with your students.

The Colorado Classroom Signature - Brittany


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