What to Do on the First Day Back Following Winter Break

With the end of winter break quickly approaching, you will want to make resuming the school routine simple and easy. Choose from these ideas to start the new year off right with your students. Each is seamlessly adjustable to fit any age or course. Plus, each one requires minimal preparation and few materials.

Many teachers stress out the night before class resumes from winter break, and just as many students have the same anxieties too. Vacations always have the tendency to disrupt our schedules. The time changes for when we eat and sleep. Often, we are around different people. Some of us get used to more time to ourselves while others interact with crowds nonstop. No matter how the winter vacation was spent, the first day back at school after winter vacation won’t be a normal day. Be prepared by anticipating this and by having activities ready to go when your students arrive.

Share Memories Orally and in Writing

Naturally, kids will want to talk with one another after being away for such a long time. They are excited to tell about what they did. Offering students a little time to chat without any direction before beginning a lesson is often a first choice for teachers; however, it can be tough to regain students’ attention afterwards. Another popular activity is to have each student share one thing about their vacation. While this is a good choice, you will want to guide students in focusing their thoughts constructively. Give them the opportunity to share their stories or their reflections on the holiday season. You can channel your students’ energy and attention so that the focus is objective driven. This is a key opportunity to practice written and oral communication skills. First, create a short list of prompts that are age and course appropriate. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Describe a gift you gave or received this Christmas.
  • Chronologically list the major events that occurred over your break.
  • Describe the instructions you had to follow to use something new.
  • How did a major local, national, or global event affect you?
  • What was a real-life act of charity that occurred this holiday season?

You may also want to consider adding a prompt about a theme that will introduce your next lesson.

After selecting one item from the list, students should shape their thinking with a bit of brainstorming. Model how to use a graphic organizer to generate ideas. Have students write, draw pictures, or speak to the group about their winter break experiences. Kids can even go so far as making individual or class holiday memory books. Be prepared to be surprised. Great things will have happened to your students over break, but sadly, tragedies may have occurred too. You never know when you will be teaching lessons in compassion.

Create and Adjust Goals for the New Year

The beginning of a new year is a great time to review course goals with your students. Reflect on past benchmarks as well as students’ successes and shortcomings. Share with students an overview of what to expect in the next part of your class. What skills will students gain? What knowledge will they acquire?

Help students develop a plan for achieving success on the road ahead. Should they be preparing for class differently in the weeks to come? Will their study habits need to change? It may be beneficial for students to hear their peers explain their methods for class preparation. Engage your students in a discussion about how they will work towards proficiency. Then, students can create their own New Year’s resolutions to help them reach these course goals. Remember to reflect on them throughout the remainder of the school year.

Review Class Material and Procedures

Your students’ minds may seem a bit rusty when you first meet with them after a vacation. Play review games with vocabulary, have board races to demonstrate concepts that were previously mastered, or act out a narrative the class last read.

Reviewing classroom procedures is just as important as reviewing course content. Students need to know the plan for how to act and what to do during learning activities and emergency procedures. In many ways, you will want to treat this day as if it is the first day of school, and for some students, it literally will be their first day since it is not unusual for new students enroll when the new year begins.