How to Do a Secret Santa in the Classroom or Homeschool [episode 45]

kids putting on santa hats- how to do a secret santa in the classroom or homeschool

Click below to hear how to do a Secret Santa in the classroom or homeschool:

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Christmas can be such a busy time of year, and sometimes it can be tricky to find time to do the “fun stuff” with your class along with everything else that needs to be done before the holiday break. So on today’s episode of the podcast I want to share an activity with you that will make it so you can walk away from this podcast and be less stressed this holiday season.

In this episode I share all about our Secret Santa Writing Activity! This Secret Santa activity isn’t only a fun way to integrate writing into the curriculum during Christmas time, but also as a unit to build classroom community- AND bring in Christmas cheer! I also want to note for the homeschool mamas or dads- you know I love you as a homeschool mom now myself! You could ALSO use this activity as a family if you homeschool.

For the intro lesson, I read the students a fictional story I wrote. As I read, I have students hold up the pictures to go along with it. 

The story is about a child named Andy who was not being very kind to his classmate, Carl. Santa had written him a letter telling him that since Santa couldn’t be there himself, he needed Andy to be his “Secret Santa” and look after him, this leads to introducing the “Secret Santa” unit.

I explain that students will draw the name of a classmate, and they will be writing letters and doing kind things for this person for the next couple of days or weeks, depending on how much time we have. Once students are all assigned, I give them their first writing prompt. The students are to write a compliment to their Secret Santa. It is so much fun to read the student’s clever responses!

That’s a just brief overview of what I dive into with this episode. This Secret Santa Activity is a wonderful unit to add to your curriculum this holiday season and you’ll hear all about why in this today’s episode.

Key points about how to do a Secret Santa activity in the classroom I discuss:

  • How to integrate a Secret Santa activity into your classroom
  • The story of how I developed this activity and how excited I was to put this holiday unit together
  • Step-by-step breakdown of how to put this unit into practice
  • The writing and classroom community-building benefits of the Secret Santa activity
  • Actual letters written by students who have done the Secret Santa activity

Resources mentioned:

Secret Santa-related episodes and blog posts:

Connect with Kelsey:

Read the transcript for episode 45, “How to Do a Secret Santa in the Classroom or Homeschool”:

Okay, so you heard that little teaser, you know that today, my goal is to blow your mind and help you have a little mindset shift around taking a day off. But we’re not going to be talking about that in the way you think we’re not going to be talking about putting together sub plans or what you need to do for your students or anything like that. Because I believe it can all start with our mindset. Because so many teachers are keeping themselves from taking the days off that they need and deserve. And honestly the ones that they earn is the promised benefit of your job. One in five teachers don’t take their sick days. And you’re probably not surprised about that statistic. While it’s not what most people think I really think mindset is the key to doing that. And I shared this in my session at Show Up for Teachers. It was an in person event here in Utah. And it didn’t quite make it in my Educate & Rejuvenate session because I kind of had this little epiphany on how to teach this in between Educate and Rejuvenate and the time I did my session at Show Up for Teachers. And when I shared this there, I did it two times in person with a roomful of teachers. And I could just see the light bulb click, I saw people nodding, even some raise their hands and we’re like, Oh, my goodness, I totally get this. This is incredible. So I wanted to bring it on the show today too. And I hope that I can do it justice in podcast format, because there’s definitely an energy with teaching in person. That’s just incredible. And I would love to do an in person conference or even lives with you. That is why I love our lives in the club. But I’m going to do the best I can to create this incredible episode for you today, too.

So first, I want to share a mindset tool that we use in Wife Teacher Mommy club, and it is called the model. It was created by Brooke Castillo and it’s kind of similar to like cognitive behavioral therapy. And I’m going to link to a tutorial of the model that Brooke created. I’m going to link to that in the show notes because it’s so good. And I really want you to understand this. This is what we use inWife Teacher Mommy club, it really has changed my life is pretty incredible. And I will give a caveat right now I am not a certified coach at this point. But Chrissy who is part of our club, she is and I plan on getting certified too, but I’m just sharing what Brooke has to share on her website and giving you a little bit of a snippet of it.

So the model goes C T F A R, and that stands for the C is circumstances. T is thoughts. F is feelings, A is actions, and R is results. So with the model, our circumstances are neutral, right? So circumstances are something you could prove in a court of law. So people aren’t going to be thinking different things about it. Like the circumstance is that there is a sub shortage there are fewer subs than there used to be. There are fewer subs then can go to every classroom that might be a circumstance like you could prove that you could look at this is how many subs we had before. This is how many we have now. Thoughts are the meaning we put behind the circumstances what we think about it. And this is what drives our feelings, which is the F line of the model. So our thoughts, our drive our feelings, and then our feelings drive our actions and our actions create result. So it’s pretty mind blowing and I can’t totally teach this in one podcast episode. That is why it takes years of practice and learning to fully be able to apply it but even just learning this tool can create such a mindset shift. So when you realize that a sub shortage is the circumstance, your thought might be that you can’t take a sick day. But you can question that, right. And we’re going to talk about that and see how it fits into the model. So what the model really teaches us again, I’m not diving too deep into that in one short little podcast episode. But what it does teach us is that we can’t change our circumstances, right, that we need sub plans to take a day off, or that there is a sub shortage, etc, we can shift our thoughts and perspective about it.

So here’s an example. Here’s what your brain might naturally offer to you, when you realize there’s a sub shortage or you might want to take a day off or whatever, you might think I can’t take a sick day because of the sub shortage, or sub plans are too hard. Or it’s easier to just go in sick. Now think about those thoughts. Think about it. How do those make you feel? Does that make you feel empowered to take a day off? Or does it make you feel, maybe some anxiety? Do you feel some anxiety in your chest? Do you feel like oh, yeah, I can’t I really can’t. And it feels true, right? When you tell yourself that. But what I want you to do is question these thoughts. And if it’s really what’s best for you and your students, so be conscious about what you were thinking? And the question, because what we automatically think doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s 100%. True. So let’s question it. So let’s look at the thought I can’t take a sick day, because of a sub shortage of alternate thought you might think is, I deserve to take a day off, it’s better for me to recover, so I can be fully present for my students and family. And even if there isn’t a sub, my class will be okay, my team and I look out for each other. Another thought you might think is there is a sub shortage. And that’s not my responsibility. I can have compassion for the situation and compassion for the fact that it’s difficult for everyone. But at the end of the day, it’s not my responsibility. And actually something I would think so again, this proves that it’s a circumstance, it’s not a fact that you can’t take a day off because of a sub shortage. In my opinion, if all teachers just keep going in when they’re sick and you don’t take those days off, it’s going to stay that way. If nobody kind of pushes back and is like, No, I’m taking my days off, I earned this then nothing is going to change, right? So we need to be able to do that. Anyway. So when you think a thought such as like, even if there isn’t a self, my class will be okay, my team and I look out for each other, just so I just feel a little bit more relief, like a little bit of a relief going off your shoulders. It feels better, right? The one thing with this, though, is any thought you shift to it has to be believable for yourself. So maybe if you don’t feel like you can quite get to my class will be okay, my team and I look out for each other. Maybe you don’t think your team looks out for you. Maybe you don’t think that I was just talking about that in an interview with Kristen on Easy Teaching Tools, her podcast, Real Teacher Talk, we were talking about like maybe your team doesn’t support you. And what I would have to say about that is think about the model, the circumstance is that you are taking a day off, and is their thought that oh, she’s not being a team player. She’s not doing this, but what they think about you isn’t your responsibility, if you were doing something to try to make them more comfortable, versus what you really need to take care of yourself. That’s not serving you. And I posted a quote on Instagram recently. And the quote said, “There will always be someone who doesn’t see your value as a teacher, don’t let it be you.” And that one had a whole bunch of likes, like over 400 likes on that post. And kind of under that same thing is if no one else is going to take care of you or anything like that you have to be that advocate for yourself. And one of the ways to do that is by using those sick days that you earn.

We talk about this even more in episode two of the podcast reasons why you shouldn’t feel guilty taking a sick day. So definitely be sure to check out that episode. But the four reasons I gave in that episode, I’ll give just a short summary. The first one is that nobody wants your germs. Right? If we learned nothing else from COVID it’s that we don’t want to be passing around germs to each other. Number two is that mental health and burnout are real and huge deals for teachers right now. If you are feeling burned out and you just need a mental health day then is it is absolutely your prerogative to take one and that is just as justified as if you had COVID. Number three PTO is a promise benefit of your job. So you should not be punished for using those. And number four, again, your classroom, they are going to be okay, everything is going to work out. It is not the end of the world. If you take the day off, the world will still keep you spinning. So you deserve to take those sick days.

Okay, so now that we have shifted those thoughts and feelings, remember so the thoughts were like I can’t take a sick day shifting that to something like I deserve to take a day off or it’s going to be okay. Right. So we’ve shifted that. We find it out that we believe that we can feel a little bit better about we need to take the actions we need to take to drive the results we want to see. So I think one of the biggest things after mindset that gets in the way of taking a day off is not having the plans done ahead of time. So actions are what we want to do to get that desired outcome. If we’re working backwards with a model we’ll look at, okay, the result I want to get is this. And then you kind of work backwards. Okay, what that made me think and then what feelings and what actions am I going to take, if we don’t take the time to plan ahead, there’s a lot of resistance when it comes time to decide if we want to take a day off or not. So if you are sick, and all of a sudden, and you’re like, I would love to call in sick. But if I call in sick right now, that means I have to write up a full day’s worth of plans and figure out how I’m going to get it to whoever needs to get it and how make sure they’re gonna have everything they need to have. And that just feels like a lot of resistance. Right? At that point, it feels like the path of least resistance, even though it’s no fun, it’s no fun to go in while you’re sick. And this is where that misconception of where it’s easier to go in than to call in sick. But it’s only because of the lack of preparation ahead of time. If you took the time to plan ahead and make it easier to call in sick than to go in sick, then that makes the decision a whole lot easier when that comes around. We’re going to do it and take care of yourselves. And it’s easier than you think. S

o all you need to do to do that is ahead of time, create your sub plans and your sub binder. I talk about this a lot in episode six of Wife Teacher Mommy the podcast, so be sure to check that out. But basically, your binder is the information your sub needs to know about your class. So like your class list, any schedules that might happen on the day that you are randomly out. So your regular schedule, if you have an early out day, if you have special schedules, assemblies, schedules, anything like that, make sure you include those seating chart, attention prompts, arrival, dismissal. Only one time I’m putting this together and then it is done. Then your sub plans are the lessons and teaching content. So this can be super simple, just like some bullet points for each subject, and then activities to go with each one. And remember, these are your emergency sub plans, they don’t have to be exactly what you would have been teaching that day if you were there. That is a common misconception. They’re like, well, I can’t plan ahead of time, because it has to be exactly what I would do that day if I were there. But then can you remember you can do that if it’s like you know, if you know like a week ahead of time, oh, I have this PD or I have this trip or I’m have a wedding I need to go to then sure, go ahead and put together sub plans that are what would have been that day, I can understand that. But if this is like you’re calling in sick, you just mean to have something there that they can use. And if you plan ahead, it can be better than what it would have been last minute, it can be still spiral review. It can be standards aligned, it can be engaging, there can be some actual teaching the sub can do. Again, remember they’re substitute teacher, not substitute paper hander outer they are there, especially if they’re still there right now with COVID. They are there because they want to be there. They want to be with your students, they want to teach them. So I really believe you can have some high quality activities that you leave. And that is why I also created a free sub planning starter kit for you. So it includes two lessons along with activities to go with them that you can implement in your classroom. We have versions for pre K through sixth grades included in that starter kit, and then a few of those essential forms for your sub binder I mentioned too. So you can find that at And then if you want us to do all the planning for you, we’ve got that too. We have a full sub binder that has almost 3000 reviews on TPT. People just love this binder. We also have sub plans for pre K through six grains. And we have all kinds of options. We have big bundles where you get everything, we have special education bundles where they’re selections from each grade level, we have maternity leave, we have departmentalized, we have monthly themes, we have so many sub plans, but you are more than covered. They are available for individual purchase. Or remember if you join Wife Teacher Mommy club, you get everything. So if you are a member, be sure to check those out.

So let’s recap what we learned. So first, we talked about the model that Brooke Castillo created. She is the owner of The Life Coach School. That is incredible. I’m linking to her tutorial in the show notes. And the model is C T F AR circumstance thought feeling action result. I really recommend trying this out right down C T F AR on a piece of paper. If there’s something you’re feeling stressed about write down what you’re thinking, realize what the neutral circumstances. How is it making you feel? What actions are you taking? How is it driving your results? Try it. I promise it’ll blow your mind. Okay, so we talked about with the model, we want to notice the thoughts and how they’re making us feel. Shifting those thoughts about taking a day off. So if you’re feeling tons of resistance, if you’re feeling like you can’t question your thoughts and see how you can possibly spin it, turn it into something a bit more doable. That feels a bit better to you. And it has to be true to you. So I can’t tell you exactly what you should shift it to because it has to be a thought that is believable for you. But I know you can do it.

Once you’ve shifted those thoughts and realize that you can take a day off. You need to take those actions to get those results you want the results of taking a day off without stop thing. So the actions you need to take are getting your sub plans ready getting them put together, and doing it ahead of time. So you can have that path of least resistance where it’s easier to call in sick than it is to go in while you’re sick. And remember, go to To grab our free sub planning starter kit, we also have all the sub plans and resources in our shop to make sub planning easier. And they’re all available to you when you join us in Wife Teacher Mommy club.

And if you’re interested in this mindset stuff, like I’ve been talking about today, like the model with Brooke Castillo, this is just a tiny fraction of the mindset work you’ll get inside Wife Teacher Mommy club, because yes, so remember, we are unlimited resources. But we believe teachers need more than that right now. You need resources to help you save time, but you also need hands on support. Someone walking there with you, helping you manage all the thoughts, all the feelings, all the stress that comes with being a teacher. That is what our coaching is here for. So make sure to check out that link from Brooke in the show notes. And as you dive more into life coaching, you’ll see that it’s usually quite expensive life coaching is a premium offer. They pay tons of money to go through this program. It is very chic right now very a premium thing because it really is incredible, it helps you so much. But we have added it to the club at no additional cost. And I’ve looked and I’ve yet to find a life coaching membership that costs as low as ours, plus you get all of the resources including our sub planning ones. So you can shift the mindset of not taking a day off. And in one fell swoop get all those planning done too win win. And don’t forget the we have a special coupon for our podcast listeners. So use code podcast10 to save 10% off your first payment to Wife Teacher Mommy club.

So when you make that mindset shift that you can take your days off, you know, remember to think something that feels believable to you. Some examples might be I deserve to take a day off. Do you believe that? Do you believe you deserve it? If so, that might help. Or it’s better for me to recover so I can be fully present for my students and my family. Even if there isn’t a sub my class will be okay my team and I look out for each other. See if any of those feel good, or keep exploring, see what feels good to you. Grab the free starter kit you can do this you can plan ahead to so you can take a day off and take a mental health day when you need it. Take a vacation when you need it. Take a sick day for you or if your child is throwing up, you can take care of them you couldn’t be mom first. So if you found this mindset shift helpful at all, be sure to share it with a friend who you think could benefit from it as well. I know you probably have a friend who needs to take a day off too. So if you’re not driving right now, copy this link to the episode and just send it to them. Send them a text I can hint maybe we need to hold each other accountable. So we both take our sick days this year. Accountability buddies are the best or share the link to this podcast episode with your colleagues or in a Facebook group for teachers. I truly think this is a message that every teacher needs to hear. It would also mean so much to me and it would help me if you help spread the word about this podcast. I love giving this free support free mindset work for teachers here.

More about Wife Teacher Mommy: The Podcast

Being an educator is beyond a full-time job. Whether you’re a teacher or a homeschool parent, the everyday to-do list is endless. Between lesson planning, grading, meetings, and actually teaching, it probably feels impossible to show up for your students without dropping the ball in other areas of your life.

Wife Teacher Mommy: The Podcast is the show that will bring you the teacher tips, practical strategies, and inspiration that you need to relieve the stress and overwhelm of your day-to-day. Your host, Kelsey Sorenson, is a former teacher and substitute turned homeschool mom. Tune in weekly to hear Kelsey and her guests cheer you on and help you thrive as a wife, teacher, and mommy. Because with a little support and community, you can do it all. For access to every single Wife Teacher Mommy resource, join the club at

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Hey there, new teacher bestie! I’m Kelsey, and I created Wife Teacher Mommy just for YOU! I blog about teaching and create elementary school and homeschooling resources to make your life easier. Be sure to sign up for my FREE sub plans here!

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