The time between Thanksgiving and the winter holiday break is known as an educational wasteland. Students tend to be more concerned with their gift lists and which games will be compatible with their new video game systems rather than any of their studies.
Unfortunately, this time is also right in the middle of the school year, when things need to be moving at full speed in order to meet your objectives. The secondary teachers are even moving toward semester exams.
How do we keep everything on track in the classroom in what is known as the most distracting time of the school year?
We get it; you’re excited about break, too. So much so that you’ve put a countdown on your board with X amount of school days before break. Then you and your students can stare at it together, willing the number to go down.
Of course, if you’re staring at the number, nothing else is getting done. So avoid any reminders of the upcoming freedom. Trust me: the students know how close they’re getting to being free and you have probably programmed an alert in your Outlook calendar. You don’t need any further reminders.
This takes a little experience and trial-and-error, but if you know which of your units is the most engaging for the year, make it a point of scheduling it during this month. Of course you would like to think all of your lessons are engaging, and you might be right. But if you’re honest, there is always a favorite in your arsenal.
If it’s truly your favorite unit, you will inherently have more enthusiasm for the content. That enthusiasm will rub off on the students, hopefully keeping the students focused more on the content and less on the figgy pudding.
Keeping an eye on the pulse of the class is very important in these distracting times. You want to know quickly if the kids have started slipping. More importantly, you want them to know that they are falling behind.
This doesn’t have to mean quizzes every day (although that would definitely keep the kids focused). Employ a mix of informal assessment, online tasks and data, and tracking. Also, make sure the kids understand the data you are gathering and can see for themselves the effects their lack of attention may be having on their progress. You might even want to employ some gamification ideas, like achievements and badges, to keep them striving forward.
Share your ideas on what works for you to keep your students focused.