Holiday breaks are a common source of distraction, but with proper organization, teachers can use this time to re-focus and motivate students. Learn more about how this post-break period can affect students and pick up some strategies for keeping your students engaged.
The Impact of Holiday Breaks
Holiday breaks represent an enormous distraction for students, no matter what age. Whether it's winter break, summer vacation, or even Thanksgiving, a prolonged disruption to a student's education is bound to hinder progress for first and eighth graders alike. After a break, it's likely that students will return to your classroom feeling sluggish and not prepared to immediately resume learning.
Fortunately, this post-holiday malaise is not incurable. There are plenty of viable strategies to help you reconnect with students and, with meticulous planning and a touch of creativity, you can ensure that extended breaks do not upset your curriculum or students' focus.
Start with a Clean Slate
As always, being prepared is extremely important. You can make the post-holiday transition much smoother by taking preemptive measures before the break. When devising your teaching schedule, try to wrap up any major projects before your students leave for vacation. This way, you and your students will not need to expend effort reviewing topics and ideas that have already been covered days or even weeks earlier. Instead, you can introduce new concepts that don't require students to reach back and recall information that may not be easily accessible.
Encourage Self-Led Learning
Just because your students are not in the classroom, it does not mean that they are without learning opportunities. The longer holiday breaks (especially summer vacation) provide plenty of chances for students to explore their own educational endeavors. The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is but one example of many reading clubs that students can use to keep their reading comprehension skills finely tuned.
Many public libraries also feature initiatives such as book clubs or reading lists, both of which encourage children to read. Research local opportunities, and be sure to make your students aware of them before they leave for the break.
By maintaining and even improving their skills over holiday breaks, students will return to class ready to learn.
Ease into Learning
Holidays offer the opportunity to recharge your batteries and catch your breath, and it's tempting to become overexcited and attempt too much immediately after the break. Though students should return feeling refreshed, it's essential that you ease them into the next phase of learning instead of diving in and tackling complex ideas right off the bat.
Start with some simple post-break activities that help students get back into the rhythm of learning. Have students recap their breaks by hosting a 'show & tell' or creating writing prompts that facilitate sharing. Implement educational games for kids to shake the rust off without them even realizing it.
After completing these tasks and activities, students should be fully engaged and ready to handle more advanced learning.
Change it Up
As you begin a new unit, consider thinking outside of the box. Endless essays and repetitive assignments can hurt motivation and diminish student enthusiasm, but innovative projects keep students on their toes and prevent fatigue and boredom in the face of standardized tests and fixed curricula.
Check out these creative teaching projects for some fun ideas on how to engage your students, and feel free to develop your own ideas! Look to your own hobbies and interests for inspiration, and consider projects with real-world applications that students will easily understand.
Set Short-Term Goals
At the beginning of a school year or on the first day after the winter break, it's easy for students to be discouraged by the lengthy slog before them. A few months can seem like an eternity when they're filled with arduous assignments and difficult tests. In order to keep students focused and prevent them from despairing, concentrate on short-term goals.
Such goals can include completing all homework assignments or improving basic skills like note-taking or reading comprehension. A strategically scheduled field trip can also serve as an enticing incentive for students to remain motivated in the first few days and weeks after a long break.
Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to set long-term goals, but your post-break focus should remain on the short-term until students are ready for more comprehensive projects.
Reflect on Your Strategies
As important as it is to concentrate on students after a break, this period is also useful for self-evaluation. With your time off, take a moment and consider your teaching strategies in general. Which have been successful? Are there any that need improvement?
If you decide that changes are needed, the post-break time is the ideal spot for integration. Making changes on the fly can be difficult but the fresh start after a break is perfect if you're in need of a shake-up.
Though extended breaks can be problematic, they also allow for self-reflection and overall improvement for your classroom. By staying organized and devising an effective strategy, you can navigate this period smoothly and emerge with a focused and motivated group of students.