As the holiday break approaches, you’re probably ready for some well-earned time off. Of course, your students are too, and that means many of them are either completely wired, fully checked out, or both. To help, we’ve put together some tips for keeping your class focused during this chaotic time.
PRACTICE COLLABORATION SKILLS
Why not channel students’ energy into some fun group projects?
To keep students on track while they’re working together, have the class suggest and agree to rules of behavior. You may pre-empt the activity with a speech like:
“Today, we’re going to talk about the idea of collaboration. What does it mean to be a good collaborator? When you work together in a group, what types of behaviors might help you be successful, and what behaviors might make success more difficult?”
Your students probably see where you’re going with this, but it’s an important discussion because they’ll have to collaborate with other people throughout their entire lives. Guide your students as they list out what it means to be a good collaborator and write their suggestions on the board. Your list might include:
- Don’t make one person do all the work
- Listen to everyone’s ideas
- Let one person talk at a time
Once you feel like the bases are covered, ask the class if they agree with everything you’ve written down. If not, discuss their reasons and adjust as needed.
After you’ve gotten de facto buy-in on the rules of engagement, you can end the suspense and tell students they will in fact be working in small groups, and part of the assignment is to practice the skills they’ve just identified. If needed, you can gently remind them of the standards they set and hold them accountable to working collaboratively.
MOVE IT, MOVE IT
During the holiday season, it can be extra difficult for students stay still and quiet for an extended period of time. Help kids out by getting their blood flowing.
One way to keep fidgety kids engaged is to take frequent brain breaks. If you’re working with younger kids, you can try queuing up some fun dance-along videos from The KIDZ BOP Kids or running through some basic stretches and calisthenics.
If you’re working with older kids or are worried that high-energy dancing will only get your young students more energized, try running students through basic yoga practice. Some teachers are having success making a little space between desks and teaching kids a few simple standing yoga poses.
Remember that your students have a lot of natural energy and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A little activity in the classroom can help increase blood and oxygen flow, which has been shown to aid cognitive development.
LEAN ON TECHNOLOGY
Teachers have relied on technology for decades to get through the holiday slump. Work with your curriculum director or explore on your own to find a few online lessons related to your subject matter.
If that’s not an option, put on some music, and set kids to work on a creative career-readiness project, like coming up with three occupations they’re interested in and designing their own business logos.
While kids work, keep an eye on them using your classroom management software, if you have one. Message them encouragement or reach out to offer help if they seem stuck. Tools like LanSchool help guide students, promote collaboration, and save teachers time all year long.
CELEBRATE THE END OF THE SEMESTER
Don’t forget to acknowledge why your students are so energetic in the first place! Take some time to talk about the holiday break, and ask each student to free write about what they’re most excited to do on break.
It’s also a fantastic time to review lessons you’ve already taught. You can put together a year-in-review that covers key concepts, or ask students to think of something they learned that semester and give them 5 minutes to explain it to the class. Require the other students to practice active listening and ask insightful questions when the presenting student has finished.
SET PROPER EXPECTATIONS
In general, remember that there’s nothing wrong with letting students be excited about the coming break. Help students recognize and name what they’re feeling. Talk about why energies are running high and what sorts of boundaries and consequences students think are appropriate. There’s a difference between students being out of control and simply participating more enthusiastically than normal.
Need more advice on how to help your students avoid holiday burnout? Check out the second part of this article here.