Coming back from winter break is like a mini first day of school all over again. Fresh year, fresh start! It’s an opportune time to tighten up or refresh your classroom management strategies. By taking the time to re-establish routines those first couple days back, you’re helping to set the stage for a more successful remainder of the school year. Here are 5 classroom management tips for the return from winter break:
1. REVISIT BEHAVIOR EXPECTATIONS
Chances are, all the fun and excitement of winter break magically erased your students’ memories (or so it may seem)! It’s likely the right time to revisit behavior expectations.
One way to review is with anchor charts or visual supports that help students recall the systems you already have in place. Even the seemingly simple ones.
For example, you might review the expected behavior for walking in line. Here’s a free sign that could be used to help remind them:
After reviewing this chart, you might keep it posted right by your classroom door as a reminder each time you get ready to exit to walk in line.
And if you might want to add a new positive incentive to help encourage students to exhibit those behaviors, Secret Walker is a good motivator!
Simply choose a student at the beginning of the school day, and don’t tell the kids who you chose- hence the term “Secret” Walker. If you have some kind of equity tool that you use (such as popsicle sticks with the kids’ names or numbers on them), these work great for picking a student each day.
Tell the kids that while you are watching everyone’s behavior while walking in line, you are paying special close attention to the Secret Walker. If that student is following expectations while walking in line for the entire day, then they get to choose a prize coupon when the Secret Walker is announced that afternoon.
Oftentimes, a special type of privilege or praise can be just as (or even more) motivating than tangible rewards for positive behavior.
2. REVIEW ROUTINES AND PROCEDURES
While it’s important to focus on behaviors, the first day back from winter break is also an ideal time to revisit procedures. Here are just a few classroom management tips and ideas for reviewing important routines.
ROLE PLAY. Have students act out some of your most common classroom procedures and routines, and snap some photos while they do so. Then use the images to create a simple (yet engaging) slide presentation for whenever your class might need a review. Meeting the needs of both kinesthetic AND visual learners– check!
Q&A SESSION. Have a round of “What do I do when…?” This is a quick Q&A where you ask students to share the classroom procedures and routines. A few examples:
Teacher: What do I do when….I need a pencil?
Student: Put my broken pencil in “Give a pencil” jar and quickly take a new one from the “Take a pencil” jar.
Teacher: What do I do when…I finish my assignment?
Student: I highlight my name and put it in the finished work bin on the counter.
Want this same sign and label (and more “no name” solutions)? Go to this blog post for 3 effective ways to prevent no name papers.
3. INTRODUCE NEW CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
During the first part of the school year, was there anything that just wasn’t working with your class? Or maybe a behavior issue that you just haven’t quite been able to effectively tackle yet?
Coming back from winter break can be a great time to start fresh and introduce brand new strategies for classroom management.
So in case you’d like to shake things up, here are a few tried and true strategies for some of the most common pain points in the student behavior department.
And on the flip side, if you might be looking to freshen things up with new rewards or incentives for positive behavior, I recommend checking out this idea. I continued to use it with my own class for YEARS because it is so highly motivating for students!
4. SET CLASS GOALS
No matter if you are 5 or 55, goals are a great way to keep positive behaviors on track.
Goal-setting is also a great way to encourage change. If there is a particular problem that your students were struggling with before winter break, January is a good time to discuss how change might be accomplished individually and together as a class.
Go here for a few of my favorite student-goal setting activities. They’re sure to help kick things off on the right foot when returning from break!
5. DO CLASSROOM COMMUNITY BUILDING ACTIVITIES
Building class community is important any time of the year, but it helps to be especially intentional about it after winter break. After being apart for a couple weeks, re-nurturing those relationships allows students to reconnect with you and with each other.
And it’s also worth noting- you can follow all the classroom management tips under the sun, but it won’t matter a bit without a positive social emotional environment. Student behavior is directly dependent on the class community you continue to foster.
Read alouds can help set the tone for the return to school in January. Our Class is a Family is one that many teachers like to read during back to school, and re-read during certain points of the year (such as returning from break).
Midway through the school year, students have often become more familiar and comfortable with one another. While that’s a good thing, it can also make it more likely for them to behave like actual siblings at times, if you know what I mean.
If there seems to be more squabbles and/or tattling later in the year, that “class family” mentality can help serve as a reminder to treat one another with care and respect.
You can continue to put a focus on class community all winter long with a Class Family Album. It goes along with the read aloud, and even includes a section for students to share their favorite winter memories as they return from break.
In addition, you might consider revisiting or re-vamping your Morning Meeting routine. You could also carve out a little time for team-building activities those first few days back, such as:
- small group STEM challenges, like building a cup tower
- icebreaker games like Would You Rather or Never Have I Ever
- simple board games or card games, so students can get reacquainted in a low stress environment
Any activity that will help students re-connect with one another in a positive way!
Have a happy “Back to School Part 2!”
Winter break always seems to fly by in a flash. One minute, you’re rushing around for last-minute gifts. The next, you’re putting off taking down all the holiday decorations after New Year’s. And then before you know it, you’ve got a case of the “Sunday Scaries” the day before you return.
But rest assured, taking the time to incorporate any of these classroom management tips will hopefully help ease the transition back to school.
Ultimately, when you set clear expectations and build class community, you reduce the time you spend correcting behaviors. That means fewer interruptions, and a happier class (and a happier you!) at school in the new year.