Finding ways to keep students focused before the holidays is a difficult undertaking for teachers and parents, and for students as well. For many teachers, the difficult days start just before Thanksgiving and don’t let up until the last bell sounds on the final school day before Christmas vacation.
To help corral some of that pent-up energy between now and the break, teachers might:
- Maintain your classroom structure – Don’t let your rules and discipline go out the window. You can’t expect your students to not get distracted by the holiday events but remember, students thrive on stability. As tempting as it can be to break away from the routine, a student learns better when they know what to expect and when it will happen.
- Acknowledge the upcoming holiday – Do keep your classroom atmosphere calm, but festive. Decorate your classroom (within district guidelines) and add holiday decor to lesson, handouts, and activities.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for movement – Give more frequent breaks so students can move around to burn off the extra energy. During the last week, take 10-second “wiggle breaks, introduce a new yoga move every day, or choose random days and times for a “Desk Switch.” These breaks will also help concentration.
- Plan a holiday themed group project – Have students research and present the history and traditions of the various holidays and present them to the class. And if it’s not too much of a burden, foods or games that represent their findings.
- Keep your pacing and don’t overcrowd the schedule – In light of all the seasonal distractions, it’s sometimes difficult to stay on track. Make sure you’re poised to finish presenting everything in your instructional plan before the break begins. This allows you to do a quick refresher of the material and be ready then start a new unit when you return from break after the New Year.
- Don’t be a Scrooge, but do continue to teach – It’s very tempting to back off during the last few days and start celebrating early. But the last thing parents want is the gift of a child who has spent the last few days before vacation watching movies and eating candy. Keep the emphasis on learning, and even if you’re just as weary and excited for the break as they are, don’t let it show. Even if you’re not feeling it, fake it ‘till you make it!
- Give them some down time – By December, most of your students can work independently and/or in small groups. Work on lesson plans and catch up on grading papers while students work independently. Take advantage of this time and do NOT decide to leave your grading to do over break … You’ll regret it!
- Keep yourself well rested and organized – In addition to your job, you have your obligations for the holidays. Now is the time to make a list of what you need to get accomplished and get plenty of rest. Friends won’t enjoy your company and your students won’t benefit from your instruction if you’re too stressed out and overtired.
Use your time off to make goals for yourself, revisit lessons that you have taught during the fall months, make notes in your planner about what worked and what didn’t, and last but certainly not least, make sure to make time for yourself and your family during this busy holiday time.