It’s March, and in many parts of the country, teachers and students are facing the tail end of a long, gray winter, and cabin fever may be setting in. No matter what the weather is like where you are, it can be challenging for both students and teachers to maintain enthusiasm at this point in the school year. The beginning-of-school energy is long gone, summer is not yet in sight, and some classrooms have been working hard without a break since January. Sounds like it’s time for some spring rejuvenation!
First off, how about a little spring cleaning? Refreshing and decluttering the classroom can make a big difference in how teachers and students feel. Take a look around your room, and consider the following ideas:
- Change the work samples and student projects on the walls. Have the same ones been on display for months? Now’s an excellent time to put up some new work that reflects current units of study.
- Put up a new bulletin board display. This is a great way to involve your students! Create a class display based on a Morning Meeting sharing topic or something the class is learning about in one of the content areas.
- Do a little straightening up. Enlist students’ help in disposing of any used-up or broken supplies, recycling old papers, making sure games have all their pieces, and putting work spaces in good order.
Changing up the activities you do is another way to bring new energy to the classroom. You might want to:
- Reenergize your energizers! How about bringing some new academic content into those familiar energizers that the class knows and loves? Now is also a great time to challenge students with new, more complicated activities or those that involve higher-risk components, such as acting. (Check out Energizers! 88 Quick Movement Activities That Refresh and Refocus for ideas.)
- Use a variety of interactive learning structures. If you’ve been using mostly Mix and Mingle and Four Corners to connect students, try adding in a few Museum Walks, Inside-Outside Circles, or other structures. Switch these up to stretch and elevate students’ communication skills and level of interest.
- Up the ante in Morning Meeting with new kinds of sharing. Again, now may be a good time to increase the risk level with more complex or in-depth sharing activities. And keep an eye on patterns during sharing—if the same students are talking a lot and others are frequently quiet, encourage everyone to stretch themselves by listening or speaking more, whichever is relevant to them.
Beyond literal spring cleaning and refreshing the roster of activities, it’s also helpful for teachers to take a fresh look at students’ development and capabilities. These are not the same kids they were back in August! They’ve grown and changed and met new developmental milestones. Are you giving them more independence and choices to reflect what they’re capable of now? You might find it helpful to revisit and reframe your own hopes and dreams or goals from the beginning of the year to focus on where students are headed next. Calling your second graders “soon-to-be third graders” or your fifth graders “middle schoolers in training” can help students—and you—envision their next academic steps and focus on preparing for them between now and the end of the school year.
One of the ways you can support students as their abilities grow is to expand the role of Academic Choice in your classroom. Letting students take more control over what and how they’re learning allows teachers to move into more of a facilitator role. Plus, it gets students more excited about what they’re learning and helps build positive energy in the classroom! To boost Academic Choice with your students:
- Offer more choices within a particular lesson. For instance, if students are comfortable with the options of writing a science report or giving one orally, you might add the choices of creating a PowerPoint presentation, drawing an infographic, or creating a game that shows what they’ve learned.
- Allow students more freedom to take on larger or longer-term projects—a multi-week research project, for example, or an ongoing book club in which they select their own books to read and discuss in small groups.
- Let students’ curiosity be your guide. Maybe your curriculum only requires you to teach about the planets in our solar system, but your students keep asking questions about meteors and comets. Invite them do their own research and present their findings to the class!
Even though this time of year can be challenging, taking steps like the ones above can help teachers keep energy and motivation high—and help you maintain the joy of teaching. And remember, what’s good for students is good for teachers, too! Make sure you’re getting enough rest, eating well, enjoying social activities, and taking breaks to stay energized. Plant the seeds of rejuvenation, and spring will be in full bloom before you know it!