Sadly, many of our winter breaks are over on Monday or Tuesday. We hope you’ve had a restful break or a break full of organization or whatever it is you wanted to accomplish, whether that was naps, Netflix marathons, or winter cleaning.
As students and teachers are easing back into school after a crazy December and a week or two off from work, it may be challenging for teachers and students to get back into the swing of things. To help us do just that, we have five ways to ease into the new year which will in turn help out your students.
1. Choose a Lighter Workload
The first week back to school in January, I try to keep the workload a bit lighter. I don’t give out a spelling list. This is to lighten the homework load and the Friday quiz load on my students. That in turn, lightens my grading pile as I ease back into the month.
For grammar, I like to do a fun writing assignment. In sixth grade, we began the snowman writing unit in December and are planning to continue it during that first week back. Writing during the first week in January is an awesome way to squeeze in those writing standards and give students flexibility, creativity, and freedom as they ease into school.
For reading, I like to stick to some interesting short stories. In 8th grade, I plan on reading the very intense story of The Monkey and the Paw and then end the week with the mini-film of it. If you teach a younger grade, you can read a delightful winter picture book with students such as the one listed below. My mom, Tami Parker, is the author. If you have KINDLE UNLIMITED, it is currently FREE to read. Go ahead and try it out.
Writing out goals and resolutions for 2022 is a great assignment to reset for the next half of the school year. It’s not too strenuous to complete, and it’s a much needed growth mindset activity.
This winter break recap resource has students answer simple questions about their time off from school. It’s a no-prep, print-and-go worksheet that works especially well for the first day back from winter break. Click below for more information.
Whatever lesson plans you decide to go with, keep in mind that you and your students alike will both be a bit tired and will struggle to get into the swing of things. Choose activities and assignments that are kind to yourself and to them.
2. Prepare at Home
Preparing at home does not include prepping lesson plans or printing out materials. It simply means choosing to do things now that your future tired self will thank you for later.
Grocery shop, prep lunches, and make sure your leggings are all washed and ready to go. Find those masks and wash them. Clean your water bottle and find your lunchbox. Clean out your teacher bag and sneak some pieces of chocolate in there. (Trust me! You’ll be glad you did!) Think about some easy dinner meals you can pop into the crockpot or instant pot.
Think ahead of what you’ll need during the week and get that ready now that you have the time and you’re a bit more rested than usual. It will be worth it.
3. Schedule Downtime
For the first week or two of January, try not to over schedule yourself. In fact, schedule time for you NOT to do a thing. Leave work right at contract hours, come home, and try to relax.
Carve out time on the weekends not to do anything. For instance, schedule that from 8 am-11 am on Saturday, you are going to sip your coffee and watch your kids play.
Tell yourself that you will not start doing those Saturday errands until 11 am. Carve out every weekday evening from 7-9 as your time to watch your shows and relax.
If someone asks you to go do something or asks you for an errand, you won’t feel as guilty because you scheduled that time for yourself. You will be “busy” relaxing.
As teachers, we need it. This past winter break, I did not realize how much I had been running on fumes until I stopped. I didn’t realize how badly my body needed rest until I had a couple of days of doing just that. We don’t realize how much we need rest when we’re in the hustle and bustle and survival mode of life.
Plan now for downtime. You will thank yourself later!
Additionally, schedule downtime for your students. Put on a read-aloud on YouTube, give them a coloring page, or give them a simple activity to complete to ease back into the new year.
Click below to grab your FREE Radiator the Snowman Coloring Page. No sign-ups are required.
Extend their silent reading time a bit and project a crackling fireplace on the board. Simply read them a cute picture book. It’s okay to take breaks throughout the school day. I have to remind myself of that as once I start teaching, I don’t want to stop. Schedule downtime for them. At the beginning of every language arts class, for the next week, we will spend ten minutes enjoying a read aloud or coloring or silently reading. Kids deserve a break too.
4. Use Your Time Wisely
Think about what you have to do ahead of time and use your planning time wisely that first week back. No one wants to bring work home on the weekdays or weekend, especially the first week back in January.
I always think about what takes precedence. Lesson planning is something I like to accomplish at school, because there is generally a deadline. (Every Friday morning.) Lesson planning requires my curriculum, novels, and various other books that I do not want to haul home. So, I try to get my lesson planning accomplished during my planning time. Grading papers generally don’t have a deadline, unless I know I just want to get them sent out by a certain date. So, grading can wait. Also, it’s generally easier to grade a stack here or there during homeroom or dismissal time than having to quickly get into that lesson planning mindset. (If you know, you know.)
I know it’s tempting to chat with coworkers during your prep and to see how everyone’s holidays were, but in an attempt to avoid bringing work home, use your planning time super wisely that first week back.
5. Review Rules and Expectations with Students
The week before winter break, things were a bit more relaxed. With parties, crafts, and some movies, the students had a ton of fun. If you’re anything like me, you may have loosened up the classroom management a bit to allow for the kids to have some flexibility, freedom, and relaxation before break. With the added one-to-two-week winter break many students had, kids come back possibly having forgotten some of the rules.
On the first day back, I like to review the non-negotiable rules in my classroom. Mine are listed below:
- Do not speak while I am speaking or interrupt others.
- If you would like to speak, raise your hand.
- Do not do anything that will distract yourself or others from learning.
- Make wise decisions in everything you do.
Reviewing the rules allows kids to remember how they need to behave in the classroom. It reminds them that they’re back in a school environment and not a home environment.
If you would like to read more about rules, click here. Also, we have an editable farmhouse classroom rules signs resource if you are interested:
Students do better when they have clear and specific expectations set forth. Students respond well to structure and boundaries and January is the perfect time to remind them of your important rules that are in place to help them succeed.
By using these five tips of a lighter workload, scheduling downtime, prepping at home, using your planning wisely, and reviewing rules, you and your kiddos can ease into January in a delightful way. We are getting into the home stretch of the year. January to June can be a long span of time, but with these five tips, it can help your classroom get off on the right foot and help you gracefully enter 2022!