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Baby, It's Cold Outside! Surviving the Winter Blues

Outside the Box Teaching Ideas

beating-the-winter-bluesHere it is mid January and not a snow day in sight! For Connecticut this is a rare phenomena indeed. We have had our share of cold, damp, and rainy, weather but no accumulated snowfall to cause both teacher and student alike to be glued to the evening news awaiting those wonderful words flashing across the screen “New Haven Schools Closed”!

With winter days passing one into another and no hope of an early spring, I find myself struggling to escape the winter doldrums or as I like to refer to it as “hibernation season”. It is at this point I find myself overly tired, less excited, and in much need of a seasonal makeover.

I have noticed over the last couple of weeks that my students now enter the classroom dragging. What was once a bouncy, excited, fourth grader has been replaced with a slow-moving, cranky bear.There are even times a morning greeting is met with a low grunt. Activities that once produced a loud (sometimes too loud) cheerful response has evolved into a low whining “ do I have to” response. Ever so slowly heads are beginning to bob side to side or  fall gently onto desks as I read aloud. I am losing my students quick- hibernation is starting to set in. Worse part, I am ready to join them!

It is not uncommon for classrooms to experience these “winter blahs”. The lack of sunlight, shorter days, and earlier sunsets, affect mood as well as activity level. Poor weather conditions that prevent outside recess create cabin fever which can lead to stress and strain in the classroom  . Togetherness is great but sometimes we need our s-p-a-c-e.  Students become antsy, bored, and eventually mischieveous.

My wake-up call was when I noticed my head bobbing up and down during our latest reading session. Embarassed to say, I was the one reading! It was time to create a plan to bring these kids and myself out of hibernation.

I knew if I looked on google I would find a few creative ideas. I started with the obvious- get moving.

  • When at all possible, in full winter armor, at least it looks like armor after donning the hat, scarf, mittens, and heavy coat, I take the class outside  for at least 5-10 minutes of “fresh air”. Sometimes it is just a walk around the building, sometimes a quick game of kickball. Either way, they are moving and the fresh air tends to revive a sleepy class. If weather prohibits this excursion, taking a few minutes to run in the gym, dance around the class, or play a  game of four corners will give the same results. The key is to move!
  • Switch things up with the class schedule. I am a creature of habit. I take great care in scheduling our day down to the last minute, but I like this idea of flipping our routine. To liven up the class, rearrange the schedule for a few days. Move math to the morning, grammar to the afternoon, or read a story first thing in the morning (while coffee is still fresh in your system)
  • Allow students to teach a lesson. I would not recommend this everyday, but if you notice your students getting especially antsy, try allowing volunteers to come and demonstrate or teach a lesson. Not only with this grab attention of your students, give you a little break, but also serve as a great assessment tool
  • Open the blinds.Sunlight provides us with Vitamin D. and  it also improves your mood. Keep your shades up or blinds open during the day to let more light in.
  • Plan and complete a themed project. Keeping busy with a specific project will help keep students focused. We just began THE BFG by Roald Dahl (such a great book) and we are creating giants, identifying and listing adjectives, editing the giant's speech, creating a map of the giant country, and so much more. Just from one book, I have created projects to connect to other subject areas to make them more interesting.
  • Plan a special day. At the completion on our read aloud, I have planned a special winter picnic for the class. As we are reading our story, the students are counting down the days.

            If all the above ideas fail and I hope they don't, you can always sip on added caffeine, plan a few extra personal days (although I like to save mine for nicer weather), and pray for snow!