Everything You Need to Know to Prepare Students for Winter Break
As winter break approaches, students tend to get distracted by the excitement of the holidays and the anticipation of vacation. As a result, they are often more restless, irritable, and exhausted than usual, and it can be difficult to keep them engaged and focused on learning. Returning from winter break poses a similar challenge: students are out of rhythm with school classroom routines (including getting up early!) and have to rebuild some of the academic stamina they lost in their time away from school. Students will need support in overcoming both these obstacles so they can do their best learning. Below are resources to help keep your classroom on track through all the disruptions that accompany this exciting and exhausting time of year.
Before Winter Break
One great way to channel students’ excess energy is by creating opportunities for students to share and learn about each other’s holiday traditions. This can be a powerful learning experience and an opportunity to increase the sense of community in the classroom. (Of course, in order to make all students feel significant, be sure to include every holiday students celebrate.)
- For activities you can use to productively discuss students’ holidays, check out “Inviting All Winter Holidays Into the Classroom,” “Winter Holidays,” and “Holiday Celebrations.”
A regularly scheduled check-in, such as during Morning Meeting or Responsive Advisory Meeting, is also an ideal way to address the challenges and joys of this time of year.
- For elementary school teachers, check out “Handle the Holidays With Morning Meeting” to learn more about how you can use the structure of Morning Meeting to help students stay on track leading up to the break. (Also, try out this winter-themed Morning Meeting message!)
- For middle school teachers, check out “Use Responsive Advisory Meeting to Lend a Helping Hand” for an Advisory lesson plan that will help students engage with the charitable spirit of the season. (More tips for helping middle school students navigate this time of year can be found in “Engaging Middle Schoolers During the Holiday Season.”)
Finally, check out “Keep Learning Going During Holiday & Vacation Times” for advice on how you can maintain consistency in your classroom and meet students where they are in order to help them continue to succeed as learners in the weeks leading up to winter break.
After Winter Break
Students returning from winter break can be unfocused, tired, and fidgety in their first few days back. Because of their time away from school rules and routines, they will need help reacclimating to classroom expectations and reengaging with their schoolwork. Check out the following articles for tips on how you can support your students as they ease back into school routines:
- “Seven Tips for the Transition Back to School From Winter Break” offers immediate steps you can take to ease your students back into the rhythm of the classroom.
- “Reaffirming Community After a Vacation” has advice for helping your students reconnect with each other and the larger learning community after extended time away.
- “Making Up for Lost Time” contains strategies for helping students get back into the swing of learning despite disruptions such as vacation or snow days.
- “Starting Over at Mid-Year” details ways you can capitalize on the fact that January is a great time to start with a clean slate.
The school days leading up to and after winter break can be, among other emotions, overwhelming, exciting, stressful, and it can even feel like everything you have worked so hard to achieve with your students is starting to unravel. But implementing some of the activities, practices, and advice from the articles above can help you weather this time of year so that your learning community can continue to thrive.
Ted Powers is an editor for Responsive Classroom.