The Elf on The Shelf® in the Classroom

In recent years, The Elf on the Shelf® has become a cultural phenomenon around Christmastime. Kids can't seem to get enough of Santa's watchful scout, and they look forward to finding the Elf every morning.

For those unfamiliar with The Elf of the Shelf® it works like this. Santa sends an elf to keep a watchful eye on children. These Elves are unique to the family they watch over; some are playful and silly, while others are sweet and nurturing. It all depends on the family. The Elves keep tabs of the behavior of the children for Santa and report back to him with a list of who is naughty and who is nice. The kids know that the Elf is magical and they expect it to move around while they are sleeping at night. When returning from the North Pole, the Elf situated himself somewhere new in the house. This leads to a game of the kids searching for the Elf each morning.

The Elf continues to watch over the children only if they are well behaved. If kids start acting out or misbehaving, the Elf goes back to the North Pole and will not visit the children until the following year.

The Elf on the Shelf® has become a celebrity in his own right. Even kids who don't play The Elf on the Shelf® at home are aware (and have an understanding) of the Elf. From parade balloons to The Elf on the Shelf® toys and other products, The Elf on the Shelf® is a very well-known Christmas figure. Of course, it helps that all Elves report directly to Santa.

Many variations of the classic The Elf on the Shelf® have been made over the years. As a family gets to know their Elf better, the entire tradition grows in new and fun ways. Below are some examples of riffs on the classic The Elf on the Shelf® that can be adopted by parents or teachers.

  1. Scavenger Hunt Elf – This one may take a little planning at an already hectic time of year. Parents can have the Elf holding a note on the final day before he leaves to go back to the North Pole the last night before Christmas or Christmas break. The note should require problem solving skills in order to find another note and so on until a prize is discovered at the end. Teachers, likewise, can create a scavenger hunt by dividing their classroom into teams. Each team needs to solve a riddle that focuses on a recently taught lesson in order to find the next clue. Each riddle can center on one of the areas of learning such as: spelling, math and science. The prize at the end of the hunt can be a small item, such as an The Elf on the Shelf® Pencil or notebook. This game reinforces lessons as well as teambuilding.
  2. Hide and Seek Elf – Elves are known to be mischievous little creatures. It will come as no surprise, then, when they swipe an "important" item from the home or the classroom and leave a little clue as to where it might be found. These clues can be based on the age of the children. For example if the elf were to take the whiteboard markers, the clue could be something like, "What rhymes with 2 + 2? That's where you will find me and the markers!" So what rhymes with four? Door! The markers are hidden behind the door! At home, this game can be incorporated to help children learn household tasks, such as chores.
  3. Flashcard Elf – Flashcard Elf likes to help children learn with flashcards. This also can be used at home or in school. Each time the kids find the Elf, he is holding a flashcard or small assignment, such as drawing a picture. The Elf can even be in charge of assigning homework or asking kids to open their book to a certain page to begin that day's lesson. At the end of the week, if the flashcard or assignments have been completed by the children each day, they receive a small prize like a holiday-themed eraser. The parent or teacher can use a chart to show the progress of the children by week.

The Elf on the Shelf® can be more than a tool to keep kids on their best behavior during this high-energy time of year. It can also be used as a fun teaching aid at home and in the classroom. Here at Geddes, we encourage parents and teachers alike to use their creativity to inspire learning in kids of all ages.

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