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Winter Teaching Strategies to Engage Students

Janelle Cox

Finding effective teaching strategies to engage students during the winter months can be quite a daunting task for teachers, especially for those that live in areas where it can get very cold and dreary. In fact, many teachers report that there is an increase in moodiness and impatience in children right after Christmas break. The winter blues are a real thing. Research even has a name for it -- Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). This is when the seasons change, so does your mood. SAD can have a tremendous effect on how your students behave in your classroom. It also means that engaging students can become quite a challenge. Luckily, there are a few teaching strategies that you can use to offset these effects. Here are a few of these teaching strategies to try out with your students.

Teaching Strategies that Incorporate a Brain Break

Brain breaks are known for helping to break up the monotony of the day. If you are a traditional classroom teacher who has students seated in rows and teaches from the beginning of the day until the end, then your students can highly benefit from a brain break. A brain break allows the child’s brain to rest. It also gives them the opportunity to get up from their seats and move around a little bit. Research shows that the more a child moves, the better the blood flows to their brain. So if you’re looking for a quick way to recharge your students during the winter months, then a few quick brain breaks can do the trick. Here are a few ideas you can try with your students.

  • Wiggle it Out - YouTube has some great videos to help students get their energy out. Try, Just Dance Kids - Get The Sillies Out.
  • Frozen Faces – Students must stand as if their bodies were frozen in ice. When the teacher names a body part, then the students must move that part without moving any other part of their body.
  • Winter Yoga Poses - Yoga is a great way for students to get up and moving in a quiet and relaxed kind of way. Have students stand to the side of their desks to create a few winter-themed yoga poses.

Utilize Technology

Why not utilize what students like best, electronics? Technology is the perfect way to keep students engaged when the weather is bitter cold and you are stuck in the classroom all day long. Studies are now showing that if you want to get your students to remain focused on the task at hand, then you must allow them to indulge in the impulse to use technology. Let’s face it, video games, texting, and apps are always what’s on the minds of children these days. So, try to embrace technology and incorporate it into as many lessons and activities that you can.

Get Students Up and Moving

Educators know that the more their students move, the longer they will stay engaged in their lesson.

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Exercise is a wonderful ways to combat those winter blues. Research has learned that physically activity stimulates the brain, therefore by implementing some type of movement into your lessons, your students will not only be happier, but more engaged in the lesson as well.

There are many ways that you can include movement into your lesson plans, the first being to use rotating learning stations. This way students are always engaged because they are constantly on the move every few minutes. Some learning stations even call for students to use standup desks, or other flexible seating options that keep them in constant motion. Another way to get students moving is to create a lesson where students move around the classroom. A great example of this is to use the “Walk and talk” strategy. This is where students pair up to “Walk and talk” with their partners. All you have to do to get started is to write a few questions on the front board, then have students discuss the answers to the questions with their partners as they walk. Where they walk and talk is up to you.

Make Learning Fun

This may sound easy enough to do, and some of you may think you are already make learning fun, but the goal is to really get students excited about learning. If you never allow students to partake in experiments, now is the time to give it a try. If your students always handwrite every essay, maybe now is the time to let them type it up, create a fun iMovie, or try a PowerPoint presentation. Change up the way you normally do things in your classroom, and you will see that learning will be fun again.

In short, you must remind yourself, as well as your students, that as the winter months progress, you gain more lighted hours. This means that soon enough, you will be changing your clocks yet again and the sun will shine.

Do you have any tips or teaching strategies to help students stay engaged during the long winter months? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.