Elf on The Shelf Alternative: The Elf Door

I know there are some kindergarten classrooms that have an Elf on the Shelf that visits at Christmas time. I have a fabulous alternative that I have used the last few years and I LOVE IT! I prefer this way of bringing magic into the classroom because it is very child-centered and focuses on important life skills. It's also a great alternative that can be easily adapted for classrooms that cannot or do not wish to celebrate Christmas.

In December a small door appears in my classroom. To get a door like this you can purchase a "fairy door" or make one. I added a backing of cardboard covered with cloud scrapbook paper so that when the door opens the backdrop adds another layer of discussion and wonder. Once the door was assembled, I screwed it right into the wall. I don't worry about the holes it will leave because it's small and I have Spackle. I don't mind that the screws show because they too will simply add to the conversation the children have about the door.

I don't introduce the door to the children, I simply wait for the students to arrive and find it! Suddenly the classroom is full of questions and discussion. I use this as a jumping off point for a Guided Writing lesson in which we write a letter to whomever is behind the door. The letter the children came up with was:

Dear Owners of The Door,
Who are you?
And why is there a door in our room?
Love Us,

Can you picture the children's excitement when they came back from recess and saw a new note tucked into the door?

Dear Kids,
We are little elves.
We have been sent to help you be good by Santa!
And it is our job to help you keep the rules of your classroom all month long.

We quickly use a modeled writing activity and responded:

Dear Elves,
We love you and we love Santa.

That was how things ended today, but now a new green note is hanging above the door for the children to find tomorrow. It says:  

Hi Kids!
Santa loves you too.
By the way, we are a girl and a boy elf named Sam and Sally! Today we will be watching to make sure you keep I Care Rule Number 1. We listen to each other!
Good luck practicing that rule.
Let us know how it goes today.

Tomorrow the children will find the note, and instead of working towards a vague goal of "being good" they will know how to shape their behavior appropriately, and they will be able to work toward that goal collaboratively. Tomorrow they will know that the elves want them to listen to each other.

I love the Elf Door! The uses for it are limitless. We will use it to practice our reading skills and writing skills (students will soon begin writing their own letters), we will use it to practice mathematics (sometimes elves need help figuring out the number of toys to make for Santa), we will have art projects about the elves, we will do special things for them, and they might even do special things for us. I can't tell you exactly the path we will take, because it is different each year. I am simply guided by the students in my classroom, and that is my favorite thing about this activity!

You might wish to check out our Thematic Unit Elves and More Elves. It will be our focus this week, so I will post some elf updates throughout the week.

Elves and More Elves is a 110 page thematic unit that is strategically aligned to the Common Core Standards. 
Contents Include:

Shared Reading Activities:
The Elves and The Shoemaker: Retelling Story and Story Cards, Thinking Map, Story Element Page, Venn Diagram
The Little Elves Poem: Five Day Activity Plan

Literacy Lessons With Independent Options:
Back to the Pole: Blending and Segmenting
The Elf Dance: Alphabet Fluency or High Frequency Word Fluency
Santa’s List: Reading Nonsense Words or Naming Sounds
Elf Inventory: Writing Letters for Sounds or Spelling Words

Independent Activities: 
Elf Hunt: Finding Letters in Alphabetical Order
My Little Alphabet Book: Matching Upper and Lowercase Letters

Scripted Math Lessons With Independent Options:
Elf Convention: Counting Forward From Numbers Other Than One.
Elf Roll Call: Adding a Number to Make Ten
The Elves’ Tree: Matching Quantity to Numbers

Independent Activities: 
Find the Elves: Writing Numbers
The Elf Friends: Comparing Written Numerals
Packing Presents: Ways to Make 10

Social Studies
Kindness Elf Activities

Guided Reading Books
The Little Elves


I Can:
Write A Story
Make A Card
Write A List
Write A Letter

Elf Painting

Santa’s Elves
The Friendly Elves