Holiday Fun! FREE White Elephant Party and Real-Life Writing Instruction Lesson

Laura Randazzo
Grade Levels
7th - 10th
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
2-page PDF
Laura Randazzo


Who says high school kids can’t have holiday parties? As long as you tie your class party to a Common Core writing standard, you can justify having a little fun before leaving for your winter break.

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the idea of a White Elephant gift exchange, receive a small bit of the idiom’s background, and bring an item from home to donate to the class gift exchange. Then, after the fun of the swap is over, have students learn to write a properly formatted thank you note to their fictional Aunt Ethel, following the step-by-step instruction sheet.

I usually introduce this lesson on the last Wednesday before Winter Break. On Thursday, I host the White Elephant exchange (depending on your class size and the procedure you choose, this could take most of a class period) and have students begin writing their thank you notes. On Friday, allow students time to finish their thank you notes or collect any that you assigned as homework. I’ve found that many students are so laden with real gifts for their friends on the Friday before the holiday break that they enjoy this White Elephant exercise more if it’s a day or two earlier in the week.

Also, I always bring extra wrapped White Elephant gifts from home so those students who forgot or weren’t able to bring anything don’t feel left out. The gifts don’t have to cost much. I’m always able to scavenge a bunch of random things from my home (previous gifts I’ve contributed have included an old karaoke machine, a grab bag of discarded Halloween candy that nobody in my house wanted, a package of Ramen noodles, a 4-pack of out-of-date AAA batteries, and a roll of toilet paper) and my T.A. has fun wrapping them in colored butcher paper a few days before the big swap.

There are many, many ways to organize your non-denominational White Elephant gift exchange. Some people like to allow participants to “steal” a gift from someone else, but I’ve found that this becomes much too cumbersome in a class of 34 kids. I usually just run a lottery, pulling each kid’s name out of a hat and allowing him/her to select from the pile of remaining gifts. If you enter “how to white elephant” into Google, you’ll find plenty of variations on this classic party game. Have fun!

Want a two-day lesson plan on the greatest story of love and gift-giving? Click HERE for my lesson materials to use with O. Henry’s classic short story, “The Gift of the Magi.”

Thanks for stopping by!

Cover image credit: Pixabay, Public domain

Total Pages
2-page PDF
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
55 minutes
Report this Resource to TpT
Reported resources will be reviewed by our team. Report this resource to let us know if this resource violates TpT’s content guidelines.


to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Establish and maintain a formal style.
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Questions & Answers

Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original educational materials.

More About Us

Keep in Touch!

Sign Up