Coming back from winter break is hard. Even though you’re hopefully feeling rested and rejuvenated, your students have been away from your classroom routines for a few weeks. Getting them back into action can be challenging.
We asked a few of our Extraordinary Educators to share three best practices for starting the new year off right. Here are some of their suggestions for new year classroom activities.
Focus on Routines and Procedures
Spend time up front reviewing your classroom routines and procedures with your students to set clear expectations. Meg Tegerdine, a special education teacher in Missouri, recommends reviewing “those routines, procedures, and expectations, and give the academics a rest for just a second. We always feel like we have to dive back into content, but we need that time to really adjust and reorient ourselves.” Taking the time to explicitly reteach your procedures, providing the “why” for your students about the rationale for your systems, and practicing routines will ultimately allow for more instructional time because your systems will be fresh in your students’ minds.
Empowering your students to own the classroom systems reduces teacher talk when you provide directions. Show them you trust them with knowing what to do next. You can also create challenges and build momentum by celebrating small wins, and keep the vibe positive by telling your students what to do, rather than what not to do.
Reconnect as a Classroom
Meg also shares, “Take time to reconnect as a classroom and community and to align your path and process with your individual and classroom benchmarks. Talk about setting benchmarks versus resolutions or long-term goals and how that can change our perspective/mindset/path in many ways.” Trust and community are the foundation for a productive learning environment, and dedicating time to reconnect with your students after being away will not only be greatly appreciated, but it will also help facilitate a positive learning environment.
Mindy Geer, a third grade teacher in Michigan, explains, “Affirm your students and yourself. Throw kindness and praise like glitter. Engage your class in learning. Make learning exciting, fun, and unforgettable. Think outside the box because outside is so much bigger.” Acknowledge students who meet expectations, praise students for going above and beyond, and encourage those who need a push. If you model kindness, respect, and excitement for learning, your students will mirror your actions and mindset and be excited about learning.
Set GoalsThe start of a new calendar year is a perfect time to set goals with your students. Mindy also shares, “New year, new goals. Set goals with your students. Take time to look at new data with each student and set achievable goals. Data chats are also a great time to just chat and build relationships with your students.” Setting goals in January will ensure these goals remain top of mind for your students. And be sure to visibly track goals, talk to your students often about their progress and learning, and celebrate success along the way.
Georgiana Castellano, a third grade teacher in Florida, suggests, “Having a visual such as a class or individual data chart will help students not only see their continued growth, but also take responsibility for their learning by analyzing where they begin, where they want to end the year at, and the process they need to follow to get there.” Creating an artifact of progress is key for students to actually see their growth and strive toward their goals.
For more ideas on goal setting, check out this podcast.