It’s almost that time of year again. The shine of a new school year has started to fade. The days are getting longer—when did it start getting dark around dinnertime? Teachers feel it; students definitely feel it. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel called winter break, but first, you have to make it there.
How can you keep the learning going strong until the bell rings, releasing your students to a few weeks free of alarm clocks, homework and tests? Try these six ideas for keeping students fully engaged until winter break.
Incorporate Timely Themes into Lessons
Students are understandably excited by what’s going on around them, like changing weather patterns, holiday plans and more. You can harness some of this enthusiasm by incorporating timely themes into your lesson planning. This way, learning won’t have to “compete” with the season.
Try pursuing thematic instruction before a vacation, meaning you choose something relevant like “snow” or “weather” or “tradition” and examine it from different subject angles. You may just be surprised how many ways there are to use a seemingly simple concept to fuel lessons in math, science, literature, social studies, reading and more.
Assign an Engaging, Ongoing Project
Asking your students to sit perfectly still and take lecture notes up until the bell chimes is a tall order. Using the time before the holidays to work on a more freeform project, however, allows students to practice time management and learn at their own pace. Make sure you provide plenty of independent worktime so students aren’t saddled with extra work over winter break. Aligning the project’s culmination with the last day or two before vacation is a good way to keep everyone focused.
Make Lessons More Interactive
At this point in the school year, students may be overwhelmed by consistent one-way flows of information. Boosting interactivity invites them to take on an active role in their education, rather than sitting back and passively taking notes (or worse, perfecting their open-eyed slumber). A tool like a word cloud generator helps break up lectures and presentations with a little interactive surprise. The end result is a collaborative visual aid that you can even use as a jumping-off point for a discussion.
Make Time for “Brain Breaks”
Some sources recommend students get a kinesthetic brain break every half hour or so. Building in a few minutes here and there for these brief, focused activities can get the blood pumping and help students refocus if they’d been starting to zone out. It’s easy to forget how impactful the physical-mental connection can be, especially when it comes to growing students.
Include Brisk Physical Activity
You can even take your physical activity out of the classroom. Of course, holding full lessons outside is typically suited for beautiful spring and fall days (depending on the climate in which you teach). But embarking on a brief outdoor
adventure when it’s safe to do so can help put some pep in your pupils’ steps. After all, “kids are re-energized by fresh air, light and movement.”
Host a Classroom Party as a Reward
Sometimes all students need to stay focused is a little extra motivation. How about a classroom party full of snacks, crafts, music and learning games as a way to celebrate the accomplishment of wrapping up another unit? If you plan it for the last afternoon before break begins, you’ll be able to motivate your students with a countdown to the party—provided they all listen well, turn in their projects and continue learning until they’ve properly earned this fun event.
You can see winter vacation looming in the distance, but don’t worry. These six ideas for keeping students engaged until the break should help you prepare to finish the semester strong.