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How to Refocus Students After the Break

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but for most teachers these next few days signal a return to the classroom and their little angels. Those of us with a bit of experience know that they will be far less than little angels that first day back and many simply write the day off. Others do not have that luxury; midterms and standardized tests are right around the corner.

Here are some tips to make your return to normalcy as productive as possible next week.

Budget some time for sharing

For many of your students, this will be the first time they have spoken since school disbanded two weeks ago. They were probably spoiled rotten by Santa Claus and have a lot of stories to share. Rather than try to sequester this energy, be smart and budget an acceptable amount of time (5-10 minutes) for class wide sharing of their activities during break. It will be a lot more efficient than trying to stamp out little discussions all day.

Make the New Year a time for goal setting

A lot of us choose to use the changing calendar as an opportunity for goal setting. Even though most of those resolutions fall by the wayside by February, your students don’t need to know that. Take the opportunity to harness this New Years optimism and have the kids reset some educational goals for themselves. You might have had them do a similar activity at the beginning of the school year, but the goalposts can shift during the first half of the year, making this week a good time for revising their thoughts.

Reaffirm your firmness

A lot of educators start the year firm, trying to set an example for how they like their class to run. As you got to know the kids and vice versa, that firmness might have relaxed a little. It’s only natural. Even though everyone will return to work more relaxed than they have been all year, you need to reassert that important goals are left to achieve. Maintain a strict schedule for all activities and remain committed to a business-like environment. Coming back from break is a shock to their little systems, but with some consistency they will start humming like a well-oiled machine once again.

Reboot if necessary

Along the same vein as the idea above, some teachers take the New Year as a time to reboot the class and treat the return from break the same as the first day of school. That means they establish or reiterate a seating chart, spend some time going over the syllabus and classroom expectations, and try to get the kids back into that first day mindset. Remember when they were less comfortable in their surroundings and much more willing to listen to guidance from you? You can have that again!