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Getting your Students Refocused After the Holiday

The weeks leading up to the holidays can be an extremely hectic time – especially at school. Students often lose focus on their school work – causing a chaotic classroom, leaving teachers to various tactics to keep their kids on task before the holiday break, as well as refocusing them once they return to school.

Read on to find out how a few teachers are keeping their students mindful during the busiest time of the year:

Justine Gillespie, Special Education Teacher

“Halfway through the school year students can become burnt out on specific apps they’ve been using over the first semester. Most notably, math apps. I try to introduce new apps after winter break to “catch” my students attention again and get them to buy into the learning.

The biggest thing that I base all of my teaching off of is the individual student, I try to tailor all of my teaching to the child’s interests. The kids are more apt to learning when it is something they’re interested in. If we are writing an essay, I give options for the essay topic and the way in which they write their essay (handwritten, on the iPad, on the computer, etc). This is much easier to do as a special education teacher than as a general education teacher. However, I feel many teachers can benefit from switching things up mid-year.

The kids can pick up on teacher’s energy. If the teacher is burnt out, the kids will be too. Teaching is a give and take and the more we can involve our students in the process of teaching the more they’re willing to participate in the learning process.

I also ask my students what I can do to help them. Kids have a powerful insight to their learning styles and it is essential to teach them that they have the power over what they take out of what is taught in school and how they develop as a learner. Again, easier to be done as a special education teacher than as a general education teacher, but crucial to the success of each student.”

Kate McNally, Elementary School Bilingual

“I like to give students opportunities to have movement breaks throughout the day which helps them stay focused and engaged right before and after holiday breaks! This really helps retain their focus when the excitement of break is still on their minds. For example, we might spend 5-7 minutes doing a breathing exercise or a short Zumba session. I also like to change the seating charts or scenery in the classroom. It gives them a new and exciting environment to look forward to once they return to school!”

Katie O’Connor, Middle School English Teacher

“Get students involved in their learning! My students love using Kahoots and Peardecks on their devices, which allow them to be creative and see their results compared to their classmates in minutes!

Set up games in your classroom. Getting students involved in games such as Jeopardy online or a vocabulary challenge, to allow students to have fun while they learn a new topic or review something they learned during the first half of the year. Let them talk! I think that in the second half of the year, students will start showing how much they have grown since the beginning of the year: so listen to them!

Give them the opportunity and chance to share their thoughts and ideas with you and their classmates in any way possible! Debates, conversations, think.pair.share, and presentations.”

Rachel Rohland, Special Education Teacher

“I’ve found success by offering rewards, incentives, and class prizes. Some examples might be a party at the end of the week, 30 minutes of free time, or time to play learning games on our classroom iPad. Even something as simple as using stickers as a reward system has been a great way to keep kids on task and learning-focused.

One trick, unique to January, was our New Year Resolution day. My fellow educators and I went over what a “resolution” was this morning and each student named one that they would work on in school. Throughout the month, we can continue to remind them of their resolutions and keep them on track to success!”

Megan Cagney, 1st Grade Teacher

“Something I’ve started doing more all year with the students but definitely try to make sure I do after coming back from break is to involve them in goal setting, personal and academic. The personal goal would be like a New Years resolution which we usually write those out and post them on a bulletin board either in our classroom or in the hallway. I talk about involving others in your goals so that they can hold you accountable and help you reach your goals. The academic goal, I make kid-friendly sheets to track data, such as their sight words and reading level or certain reading skills we are working on. I show them the end of the year goal, where they are at currently, and then together we decide what they can work on for the next month or two to reach their personal academic goals. It motivates them, it’s visual and tangible, it makes it seem more doable to them if we work on it together to come up with a realistic goal based on each student’s needs and abilities.

It also helps to start out coming back from break with very interactive lessons that are guided by the students’ interests to some extent. We planned it so that our writing unit when we come back will be a nonfiction writing unit. The students will use books, Chromebooks, and iPads to do research on an animal and then an insect that they’re interested in learning more about. The first week or two back is all about research, learning as much as you can about your topic to become an “expert” and then we work on taking organized notes. Then we will transition into writing about our animal/insect. We create big books full of diagrams, labels, pictures, and info. At the end of the unit, we invite a Kindergarten class in to read the students’ nonfiction books they wrote.

In addition, we will be working on our nonfiction reading unit which again encourages students to read a lot about topics to become experts so that they can be “reporters” on their topic. We watch kid-friendly documentaries and then the students actually create their own mini-documentary on their topic. We will record it with iPads and create little videos to send to parents, watch as a class, and send to other classrooms as well.”

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