Sunday, January 4, 2015

Teacher Tips For a Fresh Start After the Holidays!

Is this how you feel??!! Are you having small panic attacks about going back?
Do you feel like you've forgotten your students' names or have you had bad dreams about your class?
You're not alone! :) Take small breaths and read this post-hopefully you'll get an idea or two to help relieve some stress. :)

Take advantage of this time-it's like a second chance at the first day of school! Tell your students we're starting new with a clean slate. Most students won't admit it, but they'll be excited to come back. They get bored after two weeks and like a routine to their day. The following are some suggestions/ideas I use in my classroom, hopefully you can use them. :)
  • Welcome or greet your students individually. Let them know you're glad they're back and you're excited to start school. Write each student a message on a notecard or leave a sticky note on each desk welcoming them back. You could leave a sharpened pencil on each desk, serves as a gift and assures everyone is ready to work. I sent my students a postcard in the mail. The back of the postcard has a short message and can be brought in for a homework pass or tickets. I know kids love getting mail.
  • I want to get my students thinking about all the things they like about school, so I'm going to start off with the top ten reasons they're glad to be back. I want to start off by getting them to think of the positive side of school. I'll have it on their desk to complete as morning work. This will also serve as an interest survey, letting me know what they enjoy most about our class (these are the things we will keep for the New Year!). 

  • Review classroom procedures, expectations, and class rules. This is your chance to set the tone for the "New Year" and make sure your students are off to a great start. I have a packet of Classroom Procedures {Free} that I use for our classroom. I plan to go over each procedure as we come to it during our day. I will probably review these for several days to make sure everyone is on the same page and expectations are clear.
  • I hate to have one of the first things we do when we get back is to use time to get organized, but I want to start off prepared and everyone ready to go! We cleaned desks before we left for the break, so the first day back I will spend a little time making sure everyone has paper and handing out new folders, restocking any necessary supplies. If I take a little time in the beginning, it will pay off in the end.

  • After reviewing procedures and expectations, ease into your day with something fun and meaningful for your students. My students will be completing individual goals on pennants and creating a class book for goals to make our class even better than it already is. We brainstorm and discuss setting reasonable goals and small things that would make a big difference in our classroom. Once the class book is complete, I send it home to share with parents. These activities can be found here. The beauty of the pennants is you have an instant bulletin board to replace the Christmas one you had up. :)
  • Here's a link to Kid President and his Awesome Year video, perfect to show before goal setting. All the kids like him, he's funny and they can relate to him.

Kid President and Awesome Year Challenge

  • You know your students are all going to have "stories" and want to share what they got for Christmas with their friends, so give them a few minutes to do so. They'll also be hungry since they haven't been on a regular eating schedule. I'm going to bring in a bag a pretzels to snack on.

  • Be flexible with your schedule remembering to review procedures all day. Don't rush this process, you'll be happy you took the time to create community and set expectations.
  • I know teachers have to put the pedal to the metal when we come back from winter break to get ready for state testing, making sure we've covered all standards, but ease into your instruction. I don't want to waste valuable academic time, but I know they need a day to ease into our routine, so I plan to do lots of review.  I want to make my students comfortable by refreshing their memories of previously taught concepts instead of stressing them out if they don't remember.
  • Try creating some review activities or games for that first day, not overwhelming them with too many new concepts right away. I'm pretty sure my students weren't multiplying fractions or finding the main idea of an article over the break, although that would be great! :) Even if it's review, it will be great teaching.
  • Remember, they're going to be tired because they probably haven't been on a regular sleep schedule. They also probably had trouble going to sleep the night before coming back because they're used to staying up late and they may be a little nervous/anxious about coming back.
  • Start a new chapter book or have a mentor text ready to read to your students. They love being read to and this mentor text could be used the next day or later in the week for your "real" lesson. Give them some independent reading time too, so they can start building up their endurance again.
  • One of my first centers will be based on the above. After they finish a book for independent reading, I will have them create their Winter Reading Wreaths. They loved making the fall and Christmas ones. It's a "fun" way to assess their thinking and learning.
  • As a "treat" and to review homework expectations, I plan to give my students a few minutes to get started on their weekly homework. They will be thrilled to get ahead and this will ease them into their nightly routine as well.
  • Starting back from a long break can be challenging for us and for our students. It may take a few days to get back in the swing of things, have realistic expectations.
  • To make sure I feel like I'm on top of my game, I cleaned out my teacher bag and cart to make sure I'm ready. Something about getting things organized and ready beforehand puts me at ease. I also have my outfits picked out for the week. :) I gotta get my feet used to heels again!
I hope some of the ideas helped you or at least got you in "teacher mode". I'd love to hear any other tips/advice you have for a smooth transition back to school. Good luck this week!


  1. Thanks for the great ideas Joanne! Going back tomorrow will be easier using these...especially the kid president video!

    Swinging for Success

  2. What great tips, friend! I love the idea of welcoming each student back with a freshly sharpened pencil and a note. It's amazing how supplies seem to "walk away" over winter break :)

    That Kid President video is SO fun! Something we always do the first week back is set some goals for the year and talk about WHO we want to be in 2015 - so that video will be a perfect lead-in to the discussion. Thanks for sharing! :)

    Have a wonderful day back!
    Joy in the Journey

  3. What an awesome post!!! It sounds like you are really ready to get back into the groove! I'm thinking maybe I'm not so ready! :O/ These are great tips and I think I'm about to go try some of them! Thank you for the freebies, too! Awesome!!! I'm a little jealous you have all of your outfits picked out for the've probably already ironed them too! I need to get busy!!!!

    Collaboration Cuties

  4. Love all these ideas!! Thanks for the video suggestion and the morning work page; it makes me *slightly* more excited to return tomorrow. :)

  5. This is a fabulous list! Thank you for the video link. I just love Kid President, and so to the kids. I will squeeze that into my lesson plans today!

    Fit to be Fourth

  6. Great reminders! Monday we had a PD day, but I loved walking into my room knowing that my time was MINE because I spent the time organizing before I left. Even though I wanted to race out the door, I forced myself to stay a little longer and tidy up my teacher work space. It felt great going back to clean, and organized, and best yet.. no piles!
    I hope you are having a great week!
    :) Michele
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  7. Oh, how I wish I had seen this post on Sunday night. :) I actually had a dream that I forgot all of my students' names. (Sheer panic!!) Unfortunately, it has been so cold here this week that we've only had school on Monday and Tuesday. We're on our second "Cold Day" of the week and tomorrow looks to be much of the same. Maybe I can use some of these activities next week. Take care, friend!

    Mrs. Laffin’s Laughings

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