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10 Tips to Stay Focused Before Holiday Break

Annie Condron

With only a few short weeks before break, it’s tempting to let school run on autopilot until party time. This valuable learning time doesn’t have to go to waste or feel like a punishment.


To make these days count instead of countdown, here are a few tips and tricks to keep the energy and learning alive while having some pre-holiday fun.


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Stick to Your Structure

Don’t let your rules and discipline go out the window. How you close out this year will set the tone for you return for the new year.


If your management for the first half of the year isn’t working, use this time to introduce a new system that’ll go into play when you come back. You can test it for the next few weeks and keep rolling after break. Here are some Classroom Management Dos & Don’ts to get you started.


Plan an Engaging Project

Instead of going into auto-pilot for a few weeks, why not let your students to get their hands dirty with an engaging project? 


If you provide classroom time for independent work, you can oversee student progress and avoid putting excess pressure on parents during the holidays.  The independent work time which will help you make the most of your time in the classroom.


Search Curriki for existing projects to save on prep time.  One of my faves is to make a comic online using BitStrips website – it allows for creativity, application to curriculum themes and doesn’t require artistic ability. The general site is free and there is a school version to set up for the classroom with a 30-day free trial.


Keep Expectations High but Appropriate

(This tip comes from the Responsive Classroom Newsletter)


Appreciate the extra energy your students may have during holidays or other exciting times and anticipate that they'll need to expend some of that energy. Although students will benefit from periods of calm, it's unrealistic to expect them to be quiet for long periods. Working in some talk and movement throughout the day helps children stay calm enough to learn.


Some ideas:

  • *Plan for partner chats or "turn and talk" periods.
  • *Alternate active periods, such as science time, with more quiet periods, such as reading or writing.
  • *Weave in energizers to give children breaks without getting them too revved up. For example, you could play "Mirrors," where students silently mirror or copy your movements, or sing a peaceful song together, gradually removing words so that everyone is quietly humming by the end.   

Read More Responsive Classroom Tips


Don’t Be a Grinch with Classroom Decor

An inviting classroom with fun decorations will create an environment that you and your students will actually want to enjoy for the next few weeks rather than run away.


Get the students involved to brainstorm ideas for a classroom theme, bring in decorations and fill your classroom with PC, school-approved cheer.


Add Holiday/Seasonal Cheer to Themed Lessons & Activities

If you’re students are all hyped up for the holidays, use that to your advantage with themed activities and units within your curriculum.


Holiday/Season Activity Ideas:

  • *budget their gifts for the holiday using existing ads,
  • *write a play with the themes of sharing or the starting of a new holiday
  • *identify physical traits of evergreen trees, holly or snow/wintry weather
  • *discuss the history behind holidays or how holidays create a sense of culture within society
  • *Or any other curriculum-friendly activities

Find more Holiday Learning Activities


Use Movement to Get Kids Focused

(This tip comes from How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class)


Ask all students to stand behind their desks and join in simple choreographed physical movement. Because most kids find it invigorating and it's easy to monitor full participation, it may become one of your favorite ways to get kids focused and kill dead time.


Here's how, for the primary grades: Teach hand-clapping patterns to accompany a chanted verse or a set of math facts. Add foot stomping or hand clapping with a partner to create variety.


Here's how, for the middle grades: Create a rhythm with finger snapping and hand clapping, which you model and they echo back. Vary the rhythm and pattern in intervals of 15-20 seconds to challenge them to pay attention and join in.


Here's how, for any grade, including high school: Offer a seventh-inning stretch, or the cross crawl. To do the cross crawl, stand up and begin marching in place, raising the knees really high. As you raise the left knee, reach across your body with your right hand and touch the left knee.


Then do the same for the left hand on the right knee. Continue this pattern for a minute or more. (You can also vary it by, say, having kids clap their hands over their heads between each set of knee touches.)  


Keep Your Countdown Quiet

You may be counting down the days until break, but that’s not the attitude you want to demonstrate to your students.  If you act like you don’t want to be there, why should they want to be?


Show your students how much you love school and enjoy your learning time with a positive attitude even when you have a vacation on the horizon.  Even if you’re not feeling it, fake it ‘til you make it!


Spice Up Your Instructional Game

If you’ve had that new idea, approach, tech tool and lesson in your back pocket, now’s the time to give it try it out! It’ll keep class fresh for you and your students when you’re all tempted to check out for 2011.


We’ve got video writing prompts, online current events activities or pop culture lesson plans if you’re still lost for where to start.


Dedicate Time to Short, Fun Activities

When kids are all geared up, you need to fight for focus. Think of these activities as quarantining the goofing off and excess energy.  


Schedule a fun, interactive activity at the end of the day/period/week or whatever works best for you. These activities are a reward for focus and engagement in the lessons, so students need to earn it. If you need ideas, I’m sure you’re students will be happy to supply them!


Beat the Holiday Stress through Efficiency

Holidays make life (ya know that thing that supposedly goes on after school) more stressful and make spare time virtually nonexistent.  Now’s the time to work smart, not hard.

  • *Take advantage of independent work time/testing to grade and plan.
  • *Consider presentation-based assignments that you can grade during the presentation instead of using out-of-class time.
  • *Try structured peer review to let students help each other learn. As you know, teaching others can be one of the best ways to learn.

Not only will you be working efficiently, but students benefit from these time-saving strategies. Read more Time-Saving Assessment Strategies 


As a final reminder, don’t load yourself up with lots of grading to do over break… You’ll live to regret it!


How do you keep your class focused before holiday breaks? Share in the comments section!

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