Sunday, January 2, 2022

Classroom Management: 5 Steps for Regrouping After Winter Break

Hello, Teacher Friends! I hope you've had a restful break and didn't spend the entire time grading or planning. 

As we come back together after a break and holidays, it is a great time to work on regrouping and refocusing your class for the second half of the school year. I don't know about you, but my class of firsties became a little dysregulated during the last part of December, between the tedium of middle of the year testing and excitement over holidays. Getting everyone back on track in January is going to take some work, but it can be done! I've got five steps that I've learned to follow over the last ten years in the classroom.

1. Expectations, Expectations, Expectations

Of course, every teacher has heard to spend time after a break revisiting expectations. There's a reason this advice is so often repeated--because it's necessary. Don't feel guilty if you get to very little actual curriculum the first week or so after coming back; the time you spend reestablishing procedures will more than be made up.

2. Rethink and Reflect

This is also an ideal time to rethink expectations for yourself, not just your students. Do a little reflection: what is working well in your classroom, and what would you like to change? Are there new procedures you would like to implement? This is the time to do it! Talk to colleagues about what works well for them, read internet articles, and try something new to address specific challenges in your classroom.

3. Involve Students

Every teacher has also heard the strategy of involving students in coming up with social contracts, class rules, etc. If you have already done this with your class this year, revisiting it in January is an excellent idea. The social contract strategy has had varying levels of success for me, depending on the class. However, I had a conversation with a colleague recently about some specifics to implement with this approach that are game changers. First, make sure every student buys in. When discussing expectations, if even one student thinks they cannot meet that expectation successfully, don't add it to the class contract. Explain to them that you want them to feel successful in the expectations they create. Second, after creating your contract, frequently check in with your students--not just when they are misbehaving. Throughout the day, do a whole-class check in, during lessons or after transitions, having kids show you a thumbs up, sideways thumb, or thumbs down, to self-assess how well they are personally doing with following the expectations. (Have them do this in front of their chest rather than with their hands up high, so that other kids can't see their responses). Talk them through what they need to do to reach a thumbs up. I love the level of accountability this gives students while helping them learn to self-reflect.

4. Be Sensitive

Be a safe landing place for them to return to after break; for many kids, school is their safe place and they dread extended breaks. Not all students had an exciting break filled with lavish gifts and experiences, so be mindful of this when facilitating discussions or giving writing assignments about their favorite Christmas gifts. Returning to normalcy as soon as possible will help these students be more successful.

5. Foster Relationships

A large part of successful classroom management comes down to relationships. Take some time this week to foster relationships with your students and between your students. Talk to them, give them time to talk to one another. When students know you genuinely care about them, and your classroom is a true community or family, they are much more likely to do their best and work well together.

Of course, no classroom management plan is a complete fail-safe, but I hope these tips are helpful to your classroom as we embark on 2022!

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

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