Making Up for Lost Time

Making Up for Lost Time

Photograph by Jeff Woodward.“Maybe we’ll get to teach in February.” That’s been the joke at my school after snow, ice, and extreme cold, plus holidays and teacher workdays meant that last month we had only nine full days of school!

I love snow days, and I love the excitement my students bring back to the classroom after a few days away, but I can see the toll that this winter’s time off has taken on them. My usually calm class has been more fidgety, more talkative, and more restless—especially in the afternoons. I’m working on rebuilding their stamina for school and for learning. Here are some specific strategies I’m keeping in mind as we get back into the swing of things:

  1. I’ll be working with my students’ energy levels. They spent their days off sledding, watching movies, and playing video games. It’s not realistic to expect them to shift right back to doing focused work for long stretches of time. I’m breaking up lessons into bite-sized chunks and planning plenty of breaks and energizers. I’m also giving them chances to be quiet and work individually—after days of playing alone or with just a few siblings, re-acclimating to the social aspects of school can be challenging, especially for introverts.
  2. We’re definitely revisiting expectations. We never really got back into the routines of school after winter break, and I need to spend some time getting class procedures back in place. Some of this will be done with quick questions and reminders: “Who can remind us what it will sound like in here during reading workshop?” or “We have five minutes left. Think about what you need to do before you will be ready to line up. Make a plan for how you will get those things done in time.” For routines that really aren’t working, I’ll use Interactive Modeling to reteach.
  3. Students need opportunities to reconnect. Each time we came back after days off, I saw students making beelines for their friends and noticed how much they whispered during lessons. They’d missed each other! I’m honoring their need to talk and rebuilding our class community by choosing Morning Meeting greetings where each person greets many classmates and Morning Meeting shares where everyone has a turn to talk. I’m also planning lessons and activities that provide opportunities for students to chat at other times of day.
  4. I’m getting creative with my planning. “We missed so many days! We’re behind!” I’m fighting that instinct to cram in all the curriculum we missed as quickly as possible. I know that teaching things faster and trying to push more into the school day is not the answer. Instead, my teammates and I are looking at units and seeing how we can combine objectives or shift lessons to make them fit new time frames. We’ll double up in some cases, for instance, by having students do reading for our Ancient China unit during reading workshop. I’m also using every opportunity to integrate academics into our Morning Meetings. That way, even if we move through the instructional part of a unit quickly, we’ll still be practicing, reviewing, and reflecting on what we learned for weeks to come.

I’d love to hear about how other teachers handle this. What strategies do you use to make up for lost time after snow days and other unexpected days off from school?

Suzy Ghosh is a second grade teacher at Bush Hill Elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia, and is also a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher.

Tags: Building Classroom Community, Revisiting Rules, School Breaks