By Teachers, For Teachers
The holidays are a fun and festive time of year, but getting through them can be tough. Just when you thought you made it, holiday break is already over, and now it’s time to try and re-engage your students once again. After any prolonged disruption, like being home for a few weeks, students will most likely come back to school not feeling prepared to resume learning. However, there are plenty of teaching strategies that can help you use this time to refocus students and get them motivated once again. Here are a few suggestions.
The first thing that you’ll want to do is set a few goals. Remember, students are just getting back into the swing of things, so you should think of the first day back from winter break like you did for the first day back to school. Plan a review game or something fun that utilizes technology for the first day back. As the week progresses, you can set a few short-term goals that you would like to see from your students; for example: small goals such as improving the turn-in rate of homework or refining students’ vocabulary skills. You can also entice students with a back-to-school field trip or guest speaker to keep them motivated. Your post-break focus should be remain short-term until you see students’ motivation increase. Then you can turn your attention on longer-term goals.
A great way to keep your students motivated after the holiday season is to focus on building your rapport with them. Take time to build a sense of classroom community to help create a bond not only between your students and yourself but between peers. A sense of community creates a safe and secure atmosphere where students feel comfortable and more at home in the classroom. Try a classroom bonding activity, such as playing the game “Never Have I Ever.” For this game, students take turns filling in the blank with an answer, and then classmates hold up a sign to agree or disagree with the statement. Another team-building activity is to play “This or That”, where again students take turns deciding on their preferences. For this community-building game, students would answer a question such as “do you like pizza or hamburgers?” After students answer the question, they talk about their choice with their classmates to help cement the bond for the students who have something in common.
Make the post-holiday transition smooth by having reasonable expectations. While your expectations may have been high pre-holiday season, keep in mind that many students are still feeling the post-holiday blues, so it’s essential to have sensible expectations for at least for the first week or two. This doesn’t mean that you should be lenient when it comes to disruptive behavior or turning in homework on time. However, it does mean that it’s okay to ease up on your regular routines or ease into your workload. Start with simple post-break lessons and activities while students slowly get back into the rhythm. You’ll know when it’s time to push your students and when they’re ready to handle more advanced methods of learning.
While most teachers’ goals are to make learning fun, that’s not always the case. Certain subjects are more difficult to learn in a fun way. However, with today’s technology, it’s easier to turn those not-so-fun subjects into fun topics. For example, math can come alive when you play an interactive game online, or physics can be learned through a video game. Podcasts, online video platforms like YouTube, video-conferencing, PowerPoint presentations, and tablets all can help turn boring topics into fun ones.
There is nothing worse than coming back to school after a long break and not feeling prepared. January is the perfect time to set some goals, create new routines and habits, and make your time in the classroom count. Take a few moments while on holiday break for self-reflection, and prepare yourself for teaching after the holidays. Once you think you have it all together, then you’ll be ready to use these teaching strategies to refocus and motivate students once again.
Janelle holds an MS in Education.