As you start to plan to head back after winter break, a big concern might be what to do with your students?! Those first few days after a loooong winter break can be hard, but with these ideas, you can feel planned and prepared for the first week back from winter break!
I have some easy-to-implement tips, ideas, and FREE resources that I've rounded up for you to use right away.
Start the Morning with Something Easy and Fun
The very first day back from winter break can be a challenge for everyone; including teachers! Chances are your students will be waking up to their alarm clocks. (Won't we all!) Going back to school will be hard for them! However, giving them something easy and fun to start the day with will be the perfect way to ease them back into school. The nice thing is since they are just coming back from being away for two weeks (or more) they probably have a lot to share!
- Draw – have students draw and share about their break (click here)
- Play – “Find a Friend Bingo” is an easy way to ease back into school (click here)
- Share Out: students sit in a circle and take turns sharing about their break
The last suggestion can be planned for any time of the day that you have extra time. Having the students share about their break is important to building strong relationships with your students. It values what they got to do with their family. I like to have the students sit in a circle and we go around the circle two or three times. If you don't have a lot of time, you could create simple sentence frames for the sharing and students stick to that frame.
- I saw___.
- We visited___.
- My siblings and I tried ____. (something new they tried)
- My family ate ____.
- I went to ____.
- We got to see my _____.
Review Classroom Expectations
Oh boy! Beware!
Don't assume your students will remember all classroom rules, procedures, and expectations. Even if it doesn't seem like they need it, it's still a good idea! Just the way you take the time to go over expectations at the beginning of the year, you should take the time to do it after the break.
A fun way to review classroom expectations is to have your students act it out! Here's how:
- You say the rule or expectation.
- Students share out what they know/remember. (Make corrections, as needed.)
- You pick a student(s) to act out a non-example or the wrong way.
- You pick a student(s) to act out a correct example.
The first day back is also a good time to go over routines/expectations that kids weren't doing too well before going on break. You know, those little things that were driving you bonkers before the break.
Here are some procedures/routines you might want to review:
- Class rules
- Class callbacks/attention getters
- Partner sharing
- Lining up
- Entering the classroom
- Passing out/ turning in papers
- Pencil sharpening or getting a new pencil
Finally, if you encourage your students to have a growth mindset, now is the perfect time to pick up some Growth Mindset notes to send home to parents for FREE.
Have a Snack Ready
Let's face it; your students are going to be tired!
They probably haven't had a normal bedtime for two weeks. So waking up early will mean, they're going to be tired in class (and a little cranky).
The best way, I've dealt with this is to have a snack ready. Some pre-cut apple slices, graham crackers, or goldfish crackers will do!
Want to make it even more fun, go outside for some fresh air and have the snack. It doesn't have to take too long, maybe 5 minutes or so. But the fresh air and the snack will help get their energy levels back up!
Take It Slow
This isn't a plan but more of a suggestion. Heading back on the first day after the break isn't the best time to introduce anything new or expect the kids to be working at their best. In fact, I suggest, slowing things down today and adding an extra cushion of time to your activities. If you plan 15 minutes for journal writing normally, plan for 20 minutes today. If you normally read a story for 10 minutes, give it 15 or 20 minutes today.
Why extra cushion time? Three reasons. One, the kids are tired, remember. They aren't going to be moving at super speeds and taking things slowly will give them time to work. Second, not feeling rushed will ease students back into the routine of things without the stress. Third, it gives YOU more time. Time to walk around and chat with a student, time to interact more with them, and time to not feel rushed (or frustrated). You're easing yourself back into the first day too!
Use Engaging Activities
January is the perfect time of year to set goals with your students. Find some time in the day to talk about how some people make resolutions in the new year! They reflect on their past year and think about something they would like to try or do differently for the coming year.
Snow Themed Day
January is the perfect time of year to have a Snow Themed Day! Read books about snow, write about a snow day, and create a snowman craft! A snow-themed day just wouldn't be complete without a snowman!
3, 2, 1 Goal Setting
One easy way for students to set goals for 2021 is using the 3, 2, 1 method.
3 New Things I Want to Try
2 Books I want to Read
1 Way to Show Kindness
You can easily think of topics that your students would want to share about in the new year. But if you'd rather have it done for you; grab this freebie! There are three different options for students to choose from! (The 3, 2, 1 goal setting forms are in my resource library and updated every year!)
2021 Goals Banner
Another FREE resource you can have instant access to is a 2021 Resolution Banner. Use the banner as fun way for your students to set goals! The beginning the year is the perfect time to review points on having a growth mindset and to encourage your students to create resolutions with a positive mindset.
Once each student has filled out their single banner, you can hang them all together to make a whole class banner.
If you are looking for a little more goal setting and writing, you can check out the whole resource that these freebies come from! In the full product, you introduce students to the words reflection and resolution, and they use a check-off list to reflect and make some resolutions!
I think the most important part about getting started n the first week after winter break (or any break for that matter) is to give yourself grace. Chances are things aren't going to workout perfectly but if you're open to a little messiness, you'll have a lot of fun with your students.
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