Often times, I feel like what’s lost in discussions of ‘self care’ and ‘leaving work at work’ is what do we actually DO when we have taken this appropriate time out? Let’s acknowledge that there will never be enough time to finish all the work we are assigned. Knowing that though, its always been difficult for me to just drop everything and run without actually having SOME idea of what I do in those critical first days back.
Over the last few years, here are three things that I’ve implemented that help me–and the kids–to ease back into the year. Try taking to heart even one of these ideas as you sit to think about your return to the classroom after break.
Create margin for conversations and reteaching
One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last few years is that overplanning on the way back after break is one of the most problematic things I can do. I’ve talked about the concept of creating margin in the past. The margins of a page are the red lines on the side. We teach students to use them as a guide to wrap up their thinking or move to the next line, right? Well, as teachers, the concept of margin looks like leaving room in the schedule.
Not filling every minute of the day with *something*. When I create margin, it offers me the opportunity to give right on time feedback or redirection. To sit in a conversation with the kids if needed and hear them out. If every minute is taken up with something? I find that even the slightest interruption frustrates me and in turn makes things toughter with the kids.
One of my favorite parts of the new year is that it is just that: NEW!
We have the opportunty to start over. We can try new things and work on new ways to build community and have a fresh start. There are tons of different ways to approach this. One way that I’ve used in the past with great success is SOP’s or Standard Operating Procedures.
I created anchor charts with students based on a few basic procedures in the classroom and then had the students create shared rules we could agree on to post. Before engaging in that activity, we’d go over the rules for the first few weeks of school. We are always free to add additional context or remove rules that we don’t feel like we need. You can click on the SOP freebie or HERE to find a list of procedures that I’ve used to create charts with classes.
I also like to create conversations with students around character and expectations. I do that through literacy, songs and even through direct conversations in morning meeting or closing circles.
I have two different units that I use to kick off conversations around behavior. Both of these feature role play, and literacy connections for students to engage with. One of the most popular activites is Bug and Wish. It’s a role playing activity where students work on setting boundaries with peers. It’s in both sets. You can find the one that is most appropriate for K-1 by clicking HERE, and the 2-3 set HERE.
As we make our way to the end of the school year, you’ll need parents more now than ever. Especially with everything that we KNOW is going on with regard to Covid in schools the kids are not all the way ready to engage in most of what we are asking them to.
There are a few ways that you can engage parents in positive conversations right way. I wrote about that in a blog post you can find HERE. A way that I do that pretty quickly is providing pictures of what we’re doing in class when I can. Sending pics of the kids working hard, or smiling while doing a science project or even hanging from the monkey bars will put a smile on your parents’ faces. If you got gifts over before the break? Write thank you notes. Send them home with the children! Find positive things to share in the first two weeks back while the tempo is still slow and the kids are still doing most things with a bit of pep in their step! LOL. This is especially important for the students who before break really had a lot of negative attention for their behaviors.
I hope you’ll take some of these tips to heart upon your return this year!
Happy January to you all!