We know, the turkey is barely cold and it’s technically Christmas, but they do say there’s no time like the present (pun intended) to plan ahead. So how can you make the journey back to the classroom go more smoothly?
Re-establish your routines
In essence, the Christmas holidays represent one big combo breaker. You’ve been diligently sticking to your classroom rituals throughout the autumn term, only to have your carefully constructed routines smashed through by a lengthy holiday.
Classroom routines are like riding a bike; you never forget, and you can always jump straight back on if you fall off. Reestablish your classroom routines from the get-go to prevent your students from slipping into bad habits.
Get the chit chat over with
Your class are going to be excited. They won’t have seen many of their friends and classmates over the break, and will want to burn through valuable learning time catching up with them. It can be difficult or nigh-impossible to stop them from chatting – but why should you?
School is a chance for children and young adults to learn vital social skills, and we should support this. Allot five minutes at the start of the lesson for your class to reacquaint themselves with their neighbours; they will be all the more focused over the rest of the day for it. Just be sure not to let the chit chat spill over too much into the rest of the day.
If you have EAL students, bear in mind that they might not have been speaking English at home as much as they would while at school, so this opportunity to flex their linguistic skills with their peers could make all the difference.
If you find that your students still aren’t able to focus on the task at hand, get them to write an account of what they did over the holidays so it’s purged from their mind.
Get them back into the classroom mindset
You’re the architect of your classroom ethos and mindset, but you can’t control what happens at home. There’s a number of things that could happen over the holidays to cause students to pick up habits that aren’t compatible with your style of teaching, and forget the key principles that make your lessons tick.
First and foremost, go back over your classroom and school policies and ask your students to fill in what happens next with classroom procedures. Get them to engage with your teaching process, and remind them why they’re here.
Every cohort includes those children who will forget their school supplies at every possible opportunity. You can help them out by handing out spare pencils that they can use for the rest of the day. It’s an inexpensive gesture, but it could make a big difference to how they approach the rest of the new year.
Not all goals have to be formally assessed. The perennial activity of setting New Year’s resolutions is used again and again in schools because it works. It encourages children to think about what they really care about and results in goals that hold real relevance and meaning to them – which, ultimately, drives internal motivation.
A particularly effective way to set New Year’s resolutions is to think of one thing to stop doing, one thing to start doing, one thing to continue doing in the new year.
This is also a great way to reintroduce organisation skills and planners. Your students can write their goals into their planners and refer back to them throughout the year.