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[Teacher Tips] What to Do with Winter Break Assignments

[Teacher Tips] What to Do with Winter Break Assignments

After indulging in all the holiday baked goods, honey hams, and family time your (extremely exhausted and highly caffeinated) heart can handle, it’s time to return to the classroom. For many educators, this also means students will be handing in some type of winter break assignment intended to keep academic skills sharp between ample amounts of Netflix, sleep, social media, and playing with shiny new gadgets and toys.

Whether you sent your learners home with a workbook of short answer and multiple-choice questions, assigned a written report, or simply had them read a book related to the current curriculum, keeping students engaged over the winter break can be a great strategy to prevent any slides in academic progress. But, how can you ensure that these assignments are meaningful, and not simply tossed into a basket for you to maybe-or-maybe-not get around to grading later? Here are five unique ideas to incorporate winter break assignments once you and your students are back in the classroom (and refreshed) after break!

1. Create a point system for prizes:

Instead of simply grading winter break assignments, create a point system to reward correct answers. The more questions/activities students complete accurately, the more points they receive! Then, offer prizes based on points. You can have pencils, erasers, and small supplies available for a few points each, and larger prizes (like a homework “free pass”) for a higher number of points. Encouraging students to try their best on the entire assignment, instead of flying through just to complete it, will not only benefit them, but will also give you peace of mind that they put forth their best effort.

2. Make the assignment part of your next unit:

Just like some books require a prologue or foreword, some units within the classroom require an introductory portion. What better time to have students do this work than during downtime over their winter break? Try having students read a few articles to set up the unit, complete independent research on the upcoming topic, or work through foundational activities to help familiarize them with the content and further their understanding during the actual unit.

3. Make assignments shareable:

Another incentive to entice your students to complete holiday break work is to assign something that can be displayed or presented once you are back from the time off. Book and movie reviews, science projects, and research presentations are all great options, plus they give students an opportunity to take ownership of their learning by exploring unique topics they have a personal interest in.

4. Use assignments as a starting point for a larger project:

Projects are a fun and engaging way to allow students to collaborate and dive deeper into particular units or topics related to the curriculum. However, many larger-scale projects can feel daunting, and take up a lot of precious time in your day-to-day schedule. Using the holiday break to allow students to get started on the project is a perfect solution to this! Have your students’ complete research, gather materials, and simply start brainstorming to ensure everyone is ready to jump in once you’re back from break.

5. Offer an invite to lunch:

When I was still teaching, one of my students’ favorite incentives was lunch with the teacher. Instead of offering points to my class, some assignments were considered their “ticket” to having lunch in the classroom with me, and often included games and a special sweet treat at the end. It’s simple, but it’s a great way to recognize students for their hard work!

Looking for fresh ideas to get the new calendar year in the classroom off to a strong start? Check out this post to build your own reflection exercise and get ready for the new year! 

This post was originally published January 2018 and has been updated. 

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Brittany Voges

Brittany Voges currently serves as a Content and Social Media Specialist at Edmentum, and has been with the company since 2016. Before her time at Edmentum, Brittany studied Elementary Education, and eventually went on to teach 4th grade in Title 1 schools. Because of her background in education, Brittany is passionate about providing educators across the United States and the world with the tools and best practices to empower their students each day in the classroom.