Waking Up From Winter Break: How These Educators Engage Students After the Holidays

From all of us at Flocabulary, Happy 2016! We’re pumped for another year of working with awesome educators to inspire students. But whether you’re in a Brooklyn office or the back of an ELA classroom, getting into the swing of things after the holidays can be tricky!

We chatted with some educators in the Flocabulary community about the best way to re-engage students after winter break, and a clear theme emerged: culture-building. Here are four ways to create a strong, positive culture in your classroom after break, inspired by these educators.

engaging students after the holidays

Aim to inspire
Who doesn’t love a little feel-good inspiration as we aspire to accomplish new goals in the year ahead? Here’s how Andrea Runnels, fifth grade teacher at Kanoheda Elementary in Georgia, planned to pump up students for 2016: “I love using Kid President as a positive role model for my students. I plan to show his ‘Guide to Being Awesome’ video. Then we will make a plan to be awesome! I have picked a single word –‘One Little Word’– to focus on as my theme for this year, and I’m going to have my students do the same. They’ll create a bulletin board for this word instead of the traditional resolutions. This way, I can refer to each child’s word to redirect and guide their learning and character development for the rest of the year. I love Flocabulary’s Goal Setting video and plan to show that, too, and have my students write about a specific academic goal for the rest of the year.”

Reinforce expectations
In this Edutopia article, educator Brian Sztabnik suggests that getting back to routines set at the beginning of the year is an important post-break culture builder, and what we heard from Flocab educators backed that up. Michael Lewis, fifth grade teacher at Blue Ball Elementary School in Pennsylvania, told us, “I used the first day back after break this year to re-go-over my expectations and classroom rules. This way the New Year is a fresh start with fresh reminders.”

Practice praise and positivity
We all want to feel safe sharing our ideas, and creating a positive and open environment for students to express themselves is key to a strong classroom culture. If you aim to create a more positive and open environment after break, lead by example and really listen to students, suggests Liz Maxson, high school English teacher at Fairlawn Local Schools in Ohio. “My best tip is to always remember that we, as teachers, learn as much or more from our students,” she said. “Be open to what students have to offer. Once they become engaged and know that you care, everyone wins! One of the best ways I keep my classroom open and show value to student input is to never miss an opportunity to incorporate, praise, or give a ‘shout-out’ to a student’s ideas or work. Whether I make comments about their writing in their journals, praise well thought-out test responses, get excited during a discussion, or share one student’s question or idea with his/her peers in another class, I want them to feel that their work is valuable and necessary to help us all be successful in class. I love watching students praise each other and respect each other not only for sharing, but for impressing us all.”

Have fun, fun, fun
Easing back into the school routine is a little sweeter with some fun thrown in the mix. Katie Graven, fifth grade teacher at Big Walnut Intermediate School in Ohio, suggests building upon the holiday element of surprise for fun classroom twists. “Hide a key element for your lesson in a box and let students open it up during class, draw slips of a paper out of a bag to make choices in class, wrap books in wrapping paper…think like a kid!” she suggests. And if you’re looking to bring more fun into your classroom, you can always look to Flocab! Kickoff your next lesson with a Flocabulary video, try out one of our recommended mini games, or get students started on a writing academic rhymes project to create their own rap!

Thanks so much to the educators who contributed to this post for contributing their outstanding, culture-building ideas! Do you want to share your ideas for a future blog post? We want to hear from you! Fill out this Flocab Community form to share your story.

 

Molly Cronin

Molly's love of education began when she landed her first job at age 17 as a preschool teacher's aide, where she changed countless diapers and led groups of toddlers in many a nursery rhyme. She studied communications, marketing, and education at Cornell University, where she wrote articles for university publications, co-hosted a radio show and led PR for a children's advocacy organization. After a stint in the crazy world of agency PR, she now blends her background in communications and her passion for education in her sales and partnership work at Flocabulary. When she's off Flocab duty, she can be found scouring food blogs and old cookbooks or traipsing around Alphabet City.

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