Is it just me or does the thought of coming back into the classroom after winter break scare you just a little bit? Of course it makes sense because for over a week everyone was out of their routine, there might have been exciting holiday festivities, and coming back will probably be tough for you AND your students. I can bet you’re looking for some easy tips for the first week after winter break and I’ve got you covered!
It’s natural to be a little nervous coming back from break knowing you have to refresh a lot of learning. That is why I’m here to share 5 easy tips for that first week back to help ease the transition, reconnect with each other, and let the fun spill over from the holidays with some engaging activities. So let’s get to it!
#1 : Don’t Fight the Chatter
Just as we love to catch up with our friends after it’s been a while, students do too! So instead of fighting the chatty classroom, I say work with it! There are a few things I like to do to help ease the transition and one of them is to let my students talk, move around, and softly get back into the groove of being back in school.
Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up is an amazing way to allow your students to converse in a meaningful way. After all, getting the conversations going is giving your students some good social skill practice. They’ll walk around the room until they find another student to pair up with (some rules include pairing up with the first person you lock eyes with, connecting with kind phrases such as “I would love to talk with you”, and talking to people we don’t normally, etc.) Once everyone has a partner, we have “rounds” for students to have conversations. 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.
Some other ways I allow students to talk their hearts out, while still staying relevant to the classroom is by busting out our Back from Break Scoot. It gets students to reflect on their break, talk about what they missed from school, and things they’re looking forward to in the new year. Back from Break Four Corners is a play on the classic game we all love. It’s another great way to get them up and moving, chatting, and learning. You can find the Four corners game and more in the Back From Break Kit specially designed with YOU in mind.
#2 : Stay Organized
Tip number two is to help you stay on top of things so they run smoothly and the transition back to school is seamless. What better way to do that than by staying organized this new year. Checklists help me make sure I am ticking off all my boxes to keep everything in order, as well as remind me of things still pressing on my to do lists. I’ve created these Back from Break Checklists that you can grab for FREE below by subscribing!
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#3 : Reconnect with Your Community
Now that we know we need to work WITH the need to chat, why not play some games to reconnect your community? Here are some of my FAVORITE games to give students the opportunity to revitalize relationships with their classmates:
Would You Rather – This is always a hit with students! It’s a great way to get students up and moving during those first days back. To answer what they’d rather choose, you can have them sit, stand, or go to a specific side of the room for their choice to help get some energy out. It’s an easy, fun, and safe way to reconnect together. Check out THIS Would You Rather pack that students will have a blast with! Editable slides are included to add your own engaging prompts for students.
Find A Friend Bingo- THIS is a great activity to incorporate movement and help students get to know about each other’s break! You can facilitate this while they walk around the classroom or take them outside if the weather is nice. However you conduct it, it’s a great community building activity that they absolutely love!
Hot Seat- This is a great way to allow kids the opportunity to talk about what THEY would like to share about their break. One student will take the “Hot Seat”, while the other students get to ask questions for one minute. It is totally student led and whoever is in the hot seat can always pass on a question they don’t want to answer. This ensures that everyone feels comfortable. Hot seat is also a great time filler throughout the first few days back when you’re trying to get back in your groove.
If you like these, you can check out ALL of my favorite community building activities HERE!
#4 : Renorm Your Expectations
After coming back from breaks, I like to spend the first few days reestablishing our classroom rules and expectations as a refresher. It’s absolutely crucial in my opinion to get everyone back on track. A few ways I like to do this is by role playing, turning our expectations review into a game, or simply letting my students take the lead!
Role playing is super powerful when it comes to teaching students. We role play what our expectations look like, sound like, almost looks and sounds like, and then ONLY I give my students a hilarious rendition of what our expectations do NOT look or sound like. It’s a super simple, 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!
Games are my next go-to when it comes to renorming expectations. Make ANYTHING a game and it automatically makes it fun. That’s just 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 can work individually or in groups so it’s perfect! If you would like to learn more about these types of digital resources, you can HERE!
Next is letting your students take the lead. There’s something about putting students in charge that automatically lights a fire in them to be great. Divide them into groups, give them a poster board to display their expectation, and allow THEM to teach their peers how to uphold it. Give students an example list of expectations, or don’t and let them brainstorm their own. It’s a great way to see what they know while working together!
Want to know the ULTIMATE way to get students back on track? Two words – MYSTERY REWARD. It’s such a simple, yet EFFECTIVE idea. All you need is an anchor chart and some post it notes. Simply write a class reward- i.e. game day, pajama day, movie day, on an anchor chart and then cover it with sticky notes that have expectations for students to meet written on them. They can include things like ‘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. 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!
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#5 – Engage Them!
Last but not least, you HAVE to have some engaging activities to get them excited to be back at school! Here are some of my faves:
We love having our own New Year’s Celebration with a New Year’s Countdown. Everyday we have something to look forward to so it’s a perfect way to keep them engaged while easing back into our routine. Check it out HERE!
Reflection is the key to growth and we have a lot more growing to do this new year! But before we set our New Year’s resolutions, let’s look back on our past year and give thought to some of our top moments and areas of growth. THIS interactive flip book is perfect for this type of activity!
Setting goals is critical when it comes to making progress and achieving what we set out for ourselves. You can create a class vision board together or set goals with some super fun crafts! You can check out all of these engaging activities totally done for YOU in the New Years Activities Bundle!
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Loved this and are now SUPER excited to get back to your class? Let me help you keep that excitement by doing ALL the work for you! Check out this jam packed Back from Break Kit that contains everything you need when you return from break. We’re talking detailed plans, paired mentor texts, and tons of engaging activities, including the Back from Break 4 Corners. Grab this kit now, thank your future self and even better… leave for winter break with no stress OR work!!
I really hope you enjoyed learning some quick tips to help you and your students not just survive, but THRIVE through the transition back to school after winter break. 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 Back From Break Checklist 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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