You’re sitting in your house, most likely in pajamas when it hits you… your teacher break is coming to an end. Your much needed, well deserved, and probably a tad bit too short of a break is almost over. If you’re anything like me, back to school nightmares of oversleeping on your first day back or flashbacks of the first day when no rules or routines have been established might creep in. Yikes!
Not to mention, it’s back to the overwhelming stress of planning lessons again, waking up early, and wearing real clothes. It’s A LOT to say the least and I completely understand. I would love to lend a helping hand. The first few days back for everyone generally are ROUGH! But there are ways to make it easier on yourself and your kiddos! After reading this, you’ll walk away with a good feeling when thinking about going back to school after winter, fall, or spring breaks! I hope you take some of these great ideas to get back together in a fun way!
Classroom Community Reconnection Activities
I like to keep in mind that not all of our students may have had a great break. Some students may not have eaten enough and couldn’t wait to get back to have consistent meals. Other students may have had the time of their life on a great family vacation. Either way it goes, it’s really important to make space for all students’ feelings and help students feel safe and valued at school again. Generally, I stay away from having students journal about their break. Instead, here are some of my favorite back to school activities to do together!
Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up
I don’t know about you, but in my experience, the students are typically SUPER excited to be together again and just want to TALK! So why not let them? I like to start with Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up. This is a great way to get students moving and talking. If you’ve never done this activity, every student stands up with their hand up in the air. They walk around the room until they find another student to pair up with. We have “rounds” and will typically have 3 or so rounds so that students have an opportunity to reconnect with different classmates. You can provide different topics for students to talk about such as, “What are some reasons why you are excited to be back at school?” or “What is something new you learned while you were gone?” The possibilities are endless and the kids truly enjoy the conversations. I usually let students talk for about 3 or so minutes per round. You can hear when it starts to quiet and they begin wrapping up their conversations.
We do discuss some “rules” during this activity. Some examples are:
- We pair up with the first person we lock eyes with
- We are kind and that means saying things like, “I would love to talk with you.”
- We strive to talk with different people we don’t normally work with
- We make sure to include someone that may not have a partner.
Connection Circles are a sacred time in our classroom. They help us reconnect, foster empathy for others, and they hold space for tough discussions as needed. These connection circles are a safe haven to share our thoughts and feelings and students gladly welcome them after long breaks. It is another great way to get students talking and reflecting on the topic at hand. If you would like to learn more about Connection Circles and how to use them, you can check out this blog post HERE.
Show and Share
A super simple and easy way to have students share things dear to their heart and it’s a nice easy transition activity to get acclimated with being back in the classroom. Students are able to bring and share something that was special from their break, such as a toy or a favorite book. You can schedule in share times throughout the first few days OR you can set up a pretty amazing gallery walk of items. This allows you to plan one activity where all students can put their special object on display (their desk) while we all walk around and take a look. You can even extend this to have students write a note or record a video telling about their item for students to read or play when they get to their piece on the gallery walk!
Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship
Another fun activity to get students up and moving is a rock, paper, scissors championship! Everyone finds a partner and plays rock, paper, scissors. Whoever wins gets to find another opponent. Whoever loses becomes the winner’s cheerleader. I like this activity for many reasons. They get to move, they get to practice being someone’s supporter, and they get to have fun! They continue playing this until there are two opponents left, while the rest of the class are designated cheerleaders for their player. They have SO much fun and it’s the perfect way to work on sportsmanship!
Hot Seat is a great way to help students feel special and for students to learn more about each other. One student takes the “Hot Seat” while the other students get to ask questions. The students have 1 minute to ask as many questions that they can about the student in the hot seat. Some questions I’ve heard are, “What’s your favorite color?”, “Do you like dogs or cats better?”, and “Do you have a favorite toy?” It is totally student led and the students always enjoy being in the hot seat, as well as asking questions about their peers. Students in the hot seat can always pass on a question they don’t want to answer to ensure everyone feels comfortable. This is a great time filler throughout the first few days back when you’re trying to get back in your groove.
Fun Ways to Reestablish Expectations
As educators, we spend a lot of time with our students building a community and teaching expectations. It pays off during times like these because if established, it’s really nice when students can pick back up the routine quickly. However, at times it is hard to get back into a routine and consistency is key for these moments. After coming back from breaks, I like to spend the first few days reestablishing our classroom rules and expectations as a refresher to everyone. Here are some quick and easy ways to get everyone back on track!
I’m one for practicing an expectation in the moment and I believe role playing is a powerful way to teach them to students. We role play what our expectations look like, sound like, almost looks and sounds like, and the most hilarious part- the not at all. I ALWAYS practice the not at all, which of course students love and they think you are so silly but the reason being is that you never want students practicing wrong behaviors. If after a break my students are being lax on an expectation, we might have a quick discussion reviewing what it looks like, then I might do a few silly “what it doesn’t look like”, and then we practice together. It’s super simple, but a great and entertaining way to quickly reestablish our expectations. If you would like to learn more about teaching routines and procedures, check out this must have teacher guide HERE!
There are tons of fun ways to review expectations! Sometimes we need a review even without a break! There are tons of quick activities to re-visit the various expectations that can be completed throughout the first few days back together from a break, or whenever you need them. Below you’ll see some of the resources I like to use for a short yet effective review of things like conflict resolution and making good choices. It’s always a good time to review expectations!
If you make ANYTHING a game, it automatically makes it fun! That’s the rule!! So why not make reviewing expectations a game too? You could easily create a quick quiz of expectations on platforms such Kahoot or Nearpod to turn your content into engaging fun! Students are able to work individually or in groups! If you would like to learn more about these types of digital resources, you can HERE!
This is an idea I learned about a few years ago on Instagram that is a HIT! It’s super simple and EFFECTIVE! Talk about a win win. All you need is an anchor chart and some Post Its and if you’re a teacher, I know you have those on deck! You simply write a class reward- i.e. game day, pajama day, movie day, learn outside day, etc.,- on an anchor chart. Make it something really engaging that your students WANT to work for. After you’ve written your reward, you are going to cover it with sticky notes that have expectations for students to meet written on them. Some of these may include- everyone cleaned up at the end of the day, all the books were returned to the classroom library correctly, a friend earned a compliment in the hallway, etc. These are rewards students will work towards TOGETHER! Students will be excited to work to meet these expectations in order to remove the sticky notes to reveal the hidden reward! They LOVE it! Want it done for you? When you subscribe, you’ll have access to EVERYTHING you need… just print and go! See the exclusive freebie pictured below!
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Have Students Take the Lead
Just like making things into games, having students be the ones in charge instantly engages students and helps them buy into their own learning. So let students be the ones in charge! Divide students into groups and give each one a poster. You could give students an example list of expectations or not and let them brainstorm their own. Students work together to create a poster of their expectation(s) and share with the class! This is a great way to see what they know AND get them working together!
These are just SOME of the many ways to create a smooth transition back from breaks that make your time back together more meaningful and less stressful for YOU. I hope you learned some great tips and feel a bit better about being back together. Do you have a great tip or idea for teachers? Leave a comment below! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including The Classroom Mystery Reward FREEBIE! You will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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