Returning back to school from a long break can be tough for everyone (teachers included). After going to sleep at the wee hours of the night/morning, waking up later in the day, and being out of our routine, getting back into the swing of things can be tough. That's why starting off the week with a big smile and a gentle lead into the second half of the school year is a nice way to get everyone back on the same page when returning back to school from winter break.
To get us all off to a good start, I always implement these activities our first morning together when we get back from winter break.
Students haven't seen you or each other in over two weeks, so allowing them some time to catch up with friends is a good idea. This will not only help to continue to build community, but help alleviate unwanted conversations later on in the day.
Next, it's time to review classroom and school rules, as well as expectations. If you have classroom rules posted up in your class, have students discuss them and model what they should look like in class. If you have calls and responses, review those as well. Assuming students remember the rules and expectations can make for a long first week back from winter break with unwanted interruptions and behaviors.
After discussing classroom rules and expectations, discuss problem solving strategies that students should use in your classroom. For example, if they need a brain break, what should they do? In order to make sure classwork is completed and turned in on time, what steps should they take? If they are absent from school or leave their homework in class, how should they solve that problem?
Next, students in upper elementary should reflect on their first half of the year. They should ask themselves what worked and what didn't. Which goals set at the start of the year were they able to achieve and which ones haven't they reached yet? What behaviors worked for them and which ones did not?
Once students have reflected, they should set new goals for the second half of the school year. I like to have students set a math goal, a reading goal, and a writing goal. At this point of the year, students and I have met and discussed their strengths and weaknesses, so they should have a clear understanding of where their efforts should lie at this point. If they do not, I meet up with them individually and help them set their new goals.
Now that they have goals set up, I ask them to come up with a plan for reaching their goals. After all, there is a quote that states, "A goal without a plan is just a wish." For example, if they state they want to read 20 more books by the end of the year, we discuss how many minutes per night they should be reading to reach that goal. If their writing goal is to use punctuation marks correctly, we discuss how they can make an editing checklist they use before turning in any work to be graded or published.
Lastly, we discuss the importance of kindness within our classroom, school, and community. I like to read a picture book about kindness and discuss what kind actions may look like. We then set out a goal to complete acts of kindness throughout the month of January.
In order to have students record their responses and keep them in a place they can actually go back to in order to keep track of their progress, I print out a New Year's Reflections and Resolutions Print and Fold booklet for each student. It is a double sided, one page resource which folds and gets glued into the back of their journal. We navigate through it our first morning back from winter break, and then students open them up and reread them every morning for the first week or two back. This helps them refocus on their goals and how they hope to reach them. It really helps them start the second half of the school year right.
I wish you the best this second half of the school year.