Monday, December 28, 2015

Regaining Momentum

Hey, everyone! Mandy from Caffeine and Lesson Plans here to share some thoughts on regaining momentum after the holiday break.

It’s finally here…. Winter break! After a month of building suspense, the holiday has come and gone. As I relax and recharge, I’m already starting to look toward January. It’s business time when we get back. We have curriculum to learn, routines to reinforce, and state tests to prepare for. Crunch time is upon us! So, after a wonderful winter break, how do you regain momentum? I’ve got a few easy to implement ideas for you.

#1- Fresh Supplies
Ok, admittedly this one sounds silly but seriously- it works. After vacation I refresh my supplies. New pencils to replace the chewed up eraserless ones, fresh crayons and colored pencils with sharp tips, and new expo markers that make thick, dark lines. There is something about new supplies that just puts kiddos in the mood to learn. Heck, it even works on me! I work just a bit harder with some new supplies.

#2 – Go back to square one
When my kiddos return from break, I pretend it’s the beginning again. I re-teach the routines, my expectations, and our guidelines. It may not be the most academically productive few days of the year, but it sets us up for success down the road. I make sure that every routine is clear, and every expectation is understood before I move back into the curriculum. This time can’t be wasted, of course, so I teach interventions and enrichment during class time as we practice the routines.

#3- Assess and Set Goals
Coming back from break is the perfect time to do some formative assessment. Anything that has been retained over vacation has definitely been committed to permanent memory. Things that have not been retained as well can be retaught in small groups during intervention time. I am a generalist and teach all subjects so this can easily get overwhelming. So much to grade, and so little time to do it in! I recommend grading in conferences to cut back on out of class grading time. The kiddos get immediate feedback, I spend less time grading at home, and everyone wins! After the assessments are done, the kiddos reflect on their growth and set personal learning goals. I very rarely step in here to adjust their goals. I think that it’s incredibly important to allow kids to be accountable to themselves, and the best way to do that is to let them set the parameters for success. If a student decides that the best way to improve her mathematics performance is to practice her math facts with flash cards, then so be it. If another decides that the best way is to work on her studying skills, then great. The most important thing to me is that the kids are working toward improving themselves.

#4- Reconnect
It’s been a couple weeks since your students have been in front of you. Even before that, it’s been a month or so since they have been on their “A” game. We all know that holiday madness detracts from teaching starting just after Thanksgiving- December is basically a long game of “pin the student to the chair.” When you break it down, it’s been a good 6 weeks since you have really connected with your students. Talk to them! Walk next to them in the halls, chit chat while you wait for the bell to ring, or ask about their new shoes. Remember that relationships make learning happen. They have to know that you care before they care about what you know.

So, there you have it- what I do in my classroom to regain momentum after the holidays. What works for you?

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