By Teachers, For Teachers
With only a few short weeks before break, it’s tempting to let school run on autopilot until party time. This valuable learning time doesn’t have to go to waste or feel like a punishment.
To make these days count instead of countdown, here are a few tips and tricks to keep the energy and learning alive while having some pre-holiday fun.
Stick to Your Structure
Don’t let your rules and discipline go out the window. How you close out this year will set the tone for you return for the new year.
If your management for the first half of the year isn’t working, use this time to introduce a new system that’ll go into play when you come back. You can test it for the next few weeks and keep rolling after break. Here are some Classroom Management Dos & Don’ts to get you started.
Plan an Engaging Project
Instead of going into auto-pilot for a few weeks, why not let your students to get their hands dirty with an engaging project?
If you provide classroom time for independent work, you can oversee student progress and avoid putting excess pressure on parents during the holidays. The independent work time which will help you make the most of your time in the classroom.
Search Curriki for existing projects to save on prep time. One of my faves is to make a comic online using BitStrips website – it allows for creativity, application to curriculum themes and doesn’t require artistic ability. The general site is free and there is a school version to set up for the classroom with a 30-day free trial.
Keep Expectations High but Appropriate
(This tip comes from the Responsive Classroom Newsletter)
Appreciate the extra energy your students may have during holidays or other exciting times and anticipate that they'll need to expend some of that energy. Although students will benefit from periods of calm, it's unrealistic to expect them to be quiet for long periods. Working in some talk and movement throughout the day helps children stay calm enough to learn.
Don’t Be a Grinch with Classroom Decor
An inviting classroom with fun decorations will create an environment that you and your students will actually want to enjoy for the next few weeks rather than run away.
Get the students involved to brainstorm ideas for a classroom theme, bring in decorations and fill your classroom with PC, school-approved cheer.
Add Holiday/Seasonal Cheer to Themed Lessons & Activities
If you’re students are all hyped up for the holidays, use that to your advantage with themed activities and units within your curriculum.
Holiday/Season Activity Ideas:
Use Movement to Get Kids Focused
(This tip comes from How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class)
Ask all students to stand behind their desks and join in simple choreographed physical movement. Because most kids find it invigorating and it's easy to monitor full participation, it may become one of your favorite ways to get kids focused and kill dead time.
Here's how, for the primary grades: Teach hand-clapping patterns to accompany a chanted verse or a set of math facts. Add foot stomping or hand clapping with a partner to create variety.
Here's how, for the middle grades: Create a rhythm with finger snapping and hand clapping, which you model and they echo back. Vary the rhythm and pattern in intervals of 15-20 seconds to challenge them to pay attention and join in.
Here's how, for any grade, including high school: Offer a seventh-inning stretch, or the cross crawl. To do the cross crawl, stand up and begin marching in place, raising the knees really high. As you raise the left knee, reach across your body with your right hand and touch the left knee.
Then do the same for the left hand on the right knee. Continue this pattern for a minute or more. (You can also vary it by, say, having kids clap their hands over their heads between each set of knee touches.)
Keep Your Countdown Quiet
You may be counting down the days until break, but that’s not the attitude you want to demonstrate to your students. If you act like you don’t want to be there, why should they want to be?
Show your students how much you love school and enjoy your learning time with a positive attitude even when you have a vacation on the horizon. Even if you’re not feeling it, fake it ‘til you make it!
Spice Up Your Instructional Game
If you’ve had that new idea, approach, tech tool and lesson in your back pocket, now’s the time to give it try it out! It’ll keep class fresh for you and your students when you’re all tempted to check out for 2011.
Dedicate Time to Short, Fun Activities
When kids are all geared up, you need to fight for focus. Think of these activities as quarantining the goofing off and excess energy.
Schedule a fun, interactive activity at the end of the day/period/week or whatever works best for you. These activities are a reward for focus and engagement in the lessons, so students need to earn it. If you need ideas, I’m sure you’re students will be happy to supply them!
Beat the Holiday Stress through Efficiency
Holidays make life (ya know that thing that supposedly goes on after school) more stressful and make spare time virtually nonexistent. Now’s the time to work smart, not hard.
Not only will you be working efficiently, but students benefit from these time-saving strategies. Read more Time-Saving Assessment Strategies
As a final reminder, don’t load yourself up with lots of grading to do over break… You’ll live to regret it!
How do you keep your class focused before holiday breaks? Share in the comments section!