Tips and Tricks to Get Your Classroom Back Into the Swing of Things After the Holidays
The holidays provide you and your students with an opportunity to take a well-earned break. Both students and teachers get to step away from the curriculum, worksheets, and tests to focus on friends, family, good food, and gifts.
It's funny, though. You can spend months ahead of the holidays working on routines and expectations, but it only takes a week or two away from school for everything you've worked on to fly right out the window. After the break is over, students behave as if they are stepping foot in your classroom for the first time!
Don't let fear of a chaotic return to the classroom dampen your holiday break. You can get your classroom back into the swing of things relatively quickly after the holidays when you follow our tips and tricks.
Stick to Your Regular Schedule Ahead of the Holiday Break
Preparing for your return starts before you even leave. Although the excitement of the looming break may make you feel like you want to schedule a week of special activities, it's better to stick to your regular schedule ahead of the holiday break.
That doesn't mean you can't wind down and schedule holiday-related activities! It just means that you should try to adhere to the rhythm of your day while incorporating those activities.
For example, do reading when you do reading, and do math when you do math. But you might read a holiday-themed book with the whole class instead of doing independent reading when it's so hard for everyone to focus ahead of the holiday break. During math instruction, you might provide special holiday-themed learning centers and walk around the room instead of meeting with small groups to ensure everyone is on task.
By sticking to your regular schedule as much as possible, it will be easier for students to remember what's expected of them when they return to your classroom after the holidays are over.
Give Students a Chance to Talk About Their Holidays
In order to move forward and get everyone back on track after the break, students have to have an opportunity to let the holidays go, so to speak. Letting them talk about their holidays allows them to share the excitement they experienced so that they're ready to focus in school.
Students can take turns standing up in front of the class to share something special about their holidays, but there are so many more ways to ask students to share!
A few of our favorite ideas include the following:
- Let them write about it. Students can read what they wrote in front of the class, or their stories can be hung on the wall.
- Let them draw a picture of their favorite holiday memory. Students can present their pictures to the class, and other students can ask them questions.
- Play a game of charades. Students can act out things like opening presents and then talk about what they received.
Review Rules and Routines
It doesn't matter how efficient your classroom was before the break. There are going to be things that students forget all about. It's a good idea to spend time reviewing the rules and routines in your classroom before you expect students to operate at the same level as before everyone took off for the holidays.
Simple things like not getting up to sharpen a pencil during instruction or standing still during line time are easily forgotten. Taking the time to review small group expectations, the situation when they come back from specials, and other rules and routines will refresh their memory so your entire class can get on track more quickly.
There are a few different ways you can review the rules and routines! Pick at least one, but integrating two or three items from the list into your week after returning from break can solidify your expectations for the remainder of the school year:
- Review posted rules and routines as a large group.
- Ask students to brainstorm a list of classroom rules that you write down and post on the wall.
- Create a quiz for students to take regarding the rules and routines in your classroom.
- Act out how to follow the rules and do a practice run of routines.
Jump Back Into a Looser Version of Your Regular Schedule
Keeping your regular schedule ahead of the holiday break can help students get back into the swing of things upon their return, as long as you try to jump back into your regular schedule as soon as possible.
The trick is to bake plenty of flexibility into your schedule the first week back.
Don't overschedule activities. Instead, plan plenty of downtime with flexible activities that can be rearranged, moved to another day, or skipped altogether. You might plan a fun science activity that can be scrapped if you run out of time at the end of the day, or you might make silent reading a little bit longer, so you have time to observe the classroom while you meet with a small group.
Even if the time frames are different and the activities are different, if you keep to the same order of events as your normal schedule, students will reacclimate quickly.
Avoid Teaching Anything New
If you jump back into regular instruction too quickly, you and your students will just end up getting frustrated. It's best to avoid teaching anything new, at least for the first day or two.
If you aren't teaching anything new, what are you going to do with your students all day?
That's a great question! A few of the previous ideas on this list are a great start. Plan an activity that enables students to write, draw, or talk about their holidays and practice following rules and routines in the classroom.
Other ideas that don't require new lessons include the following:
Don't feel like you have to come up with anything brand new either. Let students tackle an old worksheet or break students into groups to play old learning center games. It's a great way for them to review old topics and get used to being in the classroom again.
Try Something Different
So far, the tips on this list have been about reviewing and remembering the old, but there's room for new things in your classroom too!
Returning from break is a great time to refresh your small groups. Create new groups, make them bigger or smaller, and rearrange when and how you do groups. Start a new routine for stacking chairs or give morning bins a try to reduce chaos in the morning.
Focus on just one or two things if you want to try something different. That way, students aren't overwhelmed trying to relearn old routines while also trying to work on new ones.
Let Students Set Their Own Goals
What do your students want to achieve in your classroom? Returning from break is a great time to encourage students to think about what they want to accomplish in the second half of the year.
Let students brainstorm their own goals. Let them think about academic goals as well as personal goals. If students struggle to come up with their own goals, provide them with prompts to get them started.
You might ask them things like the following:
- What subject is the most challenging for you?
- What do you wish you could do better in math?
- Do you like to read? If not, why?
- What do you like the most about coming to school? What do you like the least?
- When do you feel proudest of yourself?
Answering questions like these can lead students to discover meaningful goals that they are motivated to accomplish.
Once students have a goal or two in mind, make sure you talk about how they can accomplish their goals. Display the steps they will use to accomplish their goals in the classroom to hold them accountable.
Share your goals with your students! They can be goals you have for yourself or goals you have for the classroom. That way, your students can hold you accountable too!
There will be plenty of cobwebs to dust off as your students return to the classroom, but that doesn't mean getting back into your routine has to be frustrating. Incorporate these tips in your classroom after the holidays, and both you and your students will enjoy the process of getting back into the swing of things.