The winter holidays are just around the corner, and many kids are dreaming of an extended holiday break and the big guy in the red suit. With so much excitement in the air, it’s no wonder students and teachers both find it tough to stay focused on learning this time of the year.
We’ve got some ideas to keep both you and your students on track until the holidays arrive.
Rather than fight against the joy of the season, use it to engage your students and bring some fun into your lessons.
Developing a classroom competition doesn't need to be complicated. Even something as basic as a “caught being good” competition can keep students focused and help them work toward a common goal. If you are feeling up to the challenge, try something more in-depth, such as a Winter Games STEM Competition.
This is always a great time to teach students about being thankful for the things we have and the importance of helping others. Food pantries, homeless shelters, and animal shelters always have a high need for supplies throughout the winter months.
Reach out to a local organization to determine what they need and set an attainable goal for your class. Offer a prize for reaching the goal to motivate students to participate. A pizza party, a movie day, or even a free homework pass can make a great incentive. Be creative!
You can find a plethora of free materials online to help you include holiday themes into your lessons. The National Education Association offers ideas on designing lessons to help students learn about different holidays around the world.
For year-round holiday inspiration, check out Education World for ideas on celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Earth Day, and many other holidays with your students.
Offer opportunities for movement a few times each day to release some of your students’ stifled energy. Try some quick stretches or teach them a new yoga pose each day. These techniques can help students to refocus.
According to EdWeek, “…studies show that children who are more active exhibit better focus, faster cognitive processing, and more successful memory retention than kids who spend the day sitting still.”
It is easy for kids to get caught up in the excitement of new activities, making it essential to stick with your rules. Having fun is not a free-for-all. The time you spent designing that fun holiday unit won’t matter if the students are too out of control to participate in the lesson.
Let Students Decide
When children have a voice in making decisions that affect them, they are often more motivated to participate in the activity. To include students in holiday-themed decisions, consider the following ideas:
Take a vote on your classroom décor theme.
Offer some project-based assessment choices to give students ownership over their work.
Let students choose the reward for winning competitions or meeting goals.
Try letting the students be the teacher. Break a lesson into smaller parts and allow individual students or groups to choose which portion of the lesson they want to teach.
During the holiday season, downtime is the enemy. However, you can make the season merry without throwing classroom management out in the snow. Keeping your students on task for the majority of the day will reduce behavioral issues. Don’t make the mistake of lightening the load this time of the year. It can result in lost classroom structure and unfocused students.
We’d love to hear your ideas for keeping your classroom focused as the holidays approach. Leave your tips in the comment section below.
Sara Lutz is a Business Teacher Facilitator at Lincoln Learning Solutions and has been working in online learning for 14 years. Sara enjoys spending her free time cheering on her kids at their various sports events, visiting the beach every summer, and watching movies with her family.