Classroom Elf Pros & Cons

Dec 13, 2015 | Christmas, December, Simply Kinder Teacher Community, Winter | 4 comments

The Pros and Cons of the Classroom Elf.

Seems like having an elf on the shelf is the latest craze these days and it has become very common to use the elf in the classroom too.  But if you have never done a classroom elf with your class you might have some questions and really need to see the pros and cons of doing the elf in your classroom before you commit.

How the Classroom Elf Traditionally Works:

The elf comes to your classroom each day to watch your students.  The elf flies home to Santa each evening and reports to him how the students were.  Each day the elf finds a new place to sit – often times getting into mischief in your classroom. You cannot touch the classroom elf because that will ruin his magic.

The Pros of the Classroom Elf:

  •  Students can come in and find the elf each day, creating a feeling of excitement for coming to school each day.
  • Community building as the class has one elf.  Your students will have to come up with one name together (check out our elf naming activity), find the elf daily, and encourage each other to make the best choices daily.
  • The elf can catch your students doing desired behaviors thus encouraging more of that.
  • Having the elf miss a day or be disappointed can help correct undesired behaviors of your class as a whole.
  • You can have the elf write to your students in a journal.  Students can then write back during centers. (Or he can deliver a journal nightly from Santa too.)
  • The elf can write to your students each day encouraging reading and writing.  He/she can write daily messages on the board, a letter, or write in a journal to the kids.  This can be a note from Santa or from the elf.
  • The elf can promote some great conversations thus helping your speaking and listening standards.
  • Not all of your students may have an elf at home and so you are giving them an experience they may not get to do at home.

If you decide you want a classroom elf, Simply Kinder has you covered with this Editable Calendar and Elf Journal.  You can use the calendar to plan ahead what you want to do with it (trust me, it makes it so much easier) and the journal for the kids to document what happens.

Editable Elf Calendar and Journal. This will make your life so much easier and turn your classroom elf into a fun writing experience for your students. Perfect for kindergarten and first grades from Simply Kinder.

The Cons of the Classroom Elf:

  • December is already very busy for teachers.  Testing, data entry, report cards, classroom projects, holiday performances, conferences, and the list goes on and on!
  • Finding 25 different things for the elf to do can be a task.
  • Classroom management should be intrinsic and not related to an elf reporting on you.  The kids should make the right choices because they want to do the right thing.  Positive reinforcement is key.
  • This could takes away from a family tradition that can be special in your students’ homes.  You might want to make sure your parents are on-board with their children participating in this project.
  • Not all students celebrate Christmas.
  • If you have a classroom management system that works why mess with it?
  • Your students may already have a hard time focusing and having a crazy elf may add to the chaos of the students.
  • The novelty of having an elf may not the last 3 weeks of December.
  • Some students may have an elf at home and some may not.  This is hard to explain why Santa sends elves to some homes and not others not to mention make some kids feel less fortunate than others.
  • Having to write in a journal or write a letter from the elf or Santa each day can be time-consuming on the teachers part.
  • If your own child goes to the school where you teach you may have a hard time moving the elf each day if he/she is with your every day after school.  And asking people to move the elf for you each day is intrusive of others time.
  • If you have children you do an elf at home with you might find it a task to keep up with two elves.
  • Some people choose to have their elf bring treats for the students and this can get time-consuming and expensive.  If you have other teachers on campus who do have the elf bring treats it may make you feel like you need to as well.
  • Sometimes keeping your normal routine as long as possible is what’s best for the management of your class.
  • It can be very difficult for some students to deal with the elf getting touched or moved or bumped (etc) because the elf is reporting on the whole class.  Some students will have a hard time dealing with that if it does happen.

Some possible twists to the classroom elf:

  • Keep your elf positive and only let him report positive behaviors.
  • Make your elf a kindness elf encouraging students to do acts of kindness.  Each day your elf can bring a different task to promote kindness in your classroom or on your campus.  He can encourage your class to make cards for elderly, give another class sharpened pencils, or pick up trash on the playground.
  • Start your elf the last week of school before the holiday break.
  • Don’t have your elf do crazy things.  This may cut down on the chaos part of the project.
  • Do a school-wide elf.  This way he is not in your classroom.
  • Switch up the kind of elf you use or instead of doing an elf do a reindeer or snowman and don’t have him report to Santa.


More Classroom Elf Ideas

A huge thank you to the Simply Kinder Teacher Facebook Group for helping to fine tune the ideas in this article!

Related Posts:  99 Things Teachers Really Want for Christmas and Why I Don’t Buy My Students Gifts
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  1. Mandy Spear

    I made the mistake of having an elf on the shelf in my class this year. i have a student in my class that has extremely challenging behavior on a daily basis. I should have known better. He will not take “no,” or the word “don’t ” as an acceptable word in anyone’s vocabulary towards him. I made a mistake by quietly and sweetly saying, ” Don’t touch the elf, remember, he’ s magic.” In a matter of minutes he was beating the elf with a toy mop and screaming really nasty things at the elf. I think some students in the room were traumatized. You should put this in your list of cons for the elf on the shelf.

  2. Heather Cacak

    I have never participated in the EOTS craze (not even with my own children). Like you said, it seems like a ton of work…and teachers are already so time-strapped. Also, each of the schools I have worked in have discouraged pretty much anything to do with Santa, with the exception of my days teaching pre-k at a Catholic school. I really love the idea of a kindness elf who reports positive behavior and thoughtfulness, though! Teaching citizenship is so important, and the kindness elf would fit right in with that train of thought. I will mull this over for next year. Thanks for the idea and inspiration. 🙂

    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      You are very welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Patty

        Love this: “Keep your elf positive and only let him report positive behaviors.” Report on what you want to see, no focus for negative behaviors! Awesome fun inspiring article. Love Elf on the shelf.


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