How to get your class back on track after a break

Returning to school after winter break is hard- here are 5 ways to get students back into the school routine.

Are you nervous about returning to school after a long break? It does not matter that it is not the first day of school. It is NEVER too late for a fresh start!

I can't help but smile seeing my kiddos walk into the classroom after a long break. They often look nervous - like it's the first day of the school year! Usually they are tired after a week or two of sleeping in, playing with toys, and wearing their jammies all day. You don't want these precious babies even more overwhelmed by jumping into academics too quickly. I like to ease in to the content learning, not jump into the cold water head first!

Here are some of my top tips to reinvigorate yourself and your students in the classroom after a long weekend or break:

1. Take the first week SLOW so that you can go fast
My first week back after a long break generally consists of routine/procedure practice, as well as activities that allow students to not feel overwhelmed. It is easy to feel a bit fuzzy-minded and uneasy when it comes to thinking about teaching, and students feel the same way about learning! Some easy first-week-back activities include:
- drawing a picture and writing three sentences about who they spent time with during break (I prefer this to "draw what you did over break," since sometimes there are kiddos who didn't get to do much over break, while others get to take a Disney vacay)
- a group read aloud
- writing "welcome back" cards to peers
- create hopes & dreams or New Year's resolutions for the new year
- give students a time to share what they have been up to over break
- spiral review in math centers

2. Revisit rules & procedures
I do not teach the first day back at school after either winter break or spring break. Why? My students have been gone from the classroom. As silly as it sounds, the routines and procedures that we worked our booties off practicing and learning tend to be thrown right out the window. Little procedures like no getting up to get a pencil during learning, or how to line up for lunch, are something that students did not practice over break. It is absolutely natural for these to be forgotten in the midst of excitement and anxiety over returning to school. Sit down with your class on the rug. Write out a list of all the routines and procedures that you learned on the first day of school. How do we arrive in the morning? How are chairs stacked? Where do our materials go? Go over all of it. I write anchor charts as well with my students a second time. Take the first couple days of school slow in order to go fast the rest of the year.

Go through each routine, talk about what it both looks like and sounds like. I follow Responsive Classroom at my school, which uses interactive modeling to model behavior expectations. Simple things like how to throw away a piece of trash, when you need to get a drink of water, or using a classroom computer should be practiced as a group. Discuss the expectation, ask a few kids to try it. Ask the class, "what did you notice?" Have additional students practice, then try it together as a group.

3. Start a new routine
Were you annoyed at how loud dismissal was before break started? Not a fan of how slow the process is to stack chairs? Look at your day. This is a great time to introduce one or two new routines! Sit down and map out anywhere in your day that has been bugging you. Students are back, bright-eyed, and ready to learn - including one or two new routines!

For example, if you are not thrilled about your morning routine, read all about bringing a Morning Cart into your classroom day.  Click here to read all about bringing a morning cart into your classroom.

4. Bring community into the classroom
I notice that the second half of the year tends to be when student relationships can go haywire. At least in third-grade, many of my girls start gossiping and being mean behind one another's backs. Students are finally comfortable with one another and used to one another- however this often opens up the door for students to not be their kindest. Make sure to bring community into your classroom and encourage friendships and friendliness to continue.

If you are not currently doing a Morning Meeting or a Closing Circle, I highly recommend it! You can read all about it in my blog post links.

5. Get organized!
My New Year's resolution year after year generally revolves around getting my butt back into organizational mode. I am organized the entire year.... until December. Suddenly, I stop using my planner. I forget to write things down. I never know what day of the week it is. I become the hot mess express. Every year when I return into my classroom after break in January, my desk reflects my hot messiness from December. I'm so excited for the holidays that I tend to leave my desk in a disarray. Luckily, I find the new year very motivating to get organized. Throw away those pens that don't work. MINIMIZE! Yes, I love Flair Pens. But do I really need 6 of the same color? Well... probably not. Give some to your teammates, you don't need duplicates of the same colors that you never use. Toss those Post-It notes that you never use because they are no longer sticky.

One of my favorite ways to stay organized is using Google Forms to create my anecdotal notes. Not only will you kick butt at your next evaluation by showing off your crazy-organized spreadsheet (which takes 0% effort on your part!), but you will also have a fantastic way to truly observe and differentiate for your students.

What are some ways that you make a fresh start in the classroom after a long break?

Returning to school after winter break is hard- here are 5 ways to get students back into the school routine.

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Do your kids struggle with equivalent fractions? This FREE equivalent fraction color-by-number will bring festive cheer into your classroom as kids practice this math skill!

FREE math activities for equivalent fractionsThere are so many ways to use these equivalent fractions color-by-numbers. I like to use them as independent work during math, but they make fabulous morning work, quiet time activities, math centers, and sub work

Are you subscribed to the newsletter? If so, check your inbox! Not currently on the mailing list? You can sign up here. You'll receive an immediate download of this color-by-number, AND a fact family resource!

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4 steps to start Closing Circle in the elementary classroom

Answer all your questions about Closing Circle activities and Responsive Classroom ideas for elementary students.
The end of the day used to be chaotic for my students and me. I would be teaching, and suddenly the bell would ring. We would rush to pack up all our belongings. Students would forget to stack their chairs, leave homework on top of their desk, and leave the room in complete chaos. There's no time to tidy up when you have a bus to catch! Does this sound familiar in your classroom? Starting closing circle taught my students and me that we could end the day as a community.

No matter how rough the day has gone, closing circle allows a class to reflect and end on a positive note. It continues to give students a sense of belonging, meaning, and significance. Every morning we hold a morning meeting to set the tone for the day- shouldn't we finish the day on a positive note as well? You can read more about morning meeting in my classroom here.

My closing circle originated from the closing circle that I learned through Responsive Classroom. Responsive Classroom is a teaching approach that focuses on social-emotional learning and academic success. If you are unfamiliar with it, I would highly recommend it. The First Six Weeks of School is a great place to start if you want to learn more about it. Responsive Classroom also offers Closing Circle: 50 Activities for Ending the Day in a Positive Way. Please note that all these links are Amazon Affiliates links. Some key parts of Responsive Classroom are Morning Meeting, Closing Circle, and Quiet Time (click for blog post links!).

Closing circle is something that can appear different for every teacher and grade. Closing circle may look completely different in your kindergarten or fifth-grade classroom - and that is okay! The important part is that closing circle is a community gathering where we celebrate the day and one another.  Please remember that I specifically discuss what I do in my third-grade classroom.

Below, I listed five ways to easily implement closing circle in your classroom.

STEP 1: Find time
Closing circle only takes five to ten minutes. Yes, the time can add up quickly over the course of the year. But I will never regret missing five minutes of class. And let's be honest, how productive is a lesson at the very end of the day anyway? Students are already struggling to stay focused, wondering who is picking them up from school, thinking about a soccer practice that night, or are hearing their grumbling tummy ready for an afternoon snack. Invest in the time for closing circle- you WILL see a result in creating a sense of peace and community at the end of the school day.

STEP 2: Brainstorm rules & expectations
Answer all your questions about Closing Circle activities and Responsive Classroom ideas for elementary students.Before we ever start closing circle, I go over the expectations with my students. As a group we discuss what voice level we will need, and what closing circle looks like. Like any routine or procedure in class, we do interactive modeling. This means that students will be practicing and showing students what closing circle looks like. I NEVER have students demonstrate what it doesn't look like. We focus on the positives only. I am not simply showing students what to do, but instead giving students an active role so that I can assess their understanding.

One of my teammates once described interactive modeling as "pretend that your students are aliens that just arrived from another planet. You need to describe and show how to do an activity with them. Nothing is too specific. THAT is interactive modeling." A big idea in Responsive Classroom is the idea of "go slow to go fast," and I believe this is essential in every aspect of teaching.

I create two anchor charts with students. The first anchor chart describes what closing circle looks like and sounds like. The second anchor chart with the routine of closing circle. This way, students aren't raising their hands asking to share a celebration while we are still reflecting!

STEP 3: Teach closing circles routines
Below I listed the routine in my classroom. I would suggest following a similar structure (bringing kids together, reflecting on the day, a quick share, and a good-bye), but you could swap in whatever you would like! Some teachers like doing a fun game or activity at the end of the day. This has never worked well in my classroom, I find that students often get riled up or can bring hurt feelings over not winning a game into the end of the day. That's not what I want - I want the end of the day to end on peace and inclusion!

PART 1: Get kids seated
I tell students that when they finish packing up and stacking chairs, to find a seat on the ground for closing circle. I start noticing kids that I see on the floor ("I see Jenna is seated and ready for closing circle. I see Lance finishing packing and heading over"). Some years, I have a class that needs a little more incentive to finish what they are doing and start closing circle. Or at the end of the year or before winter break, I also need to add more incentive to pack up quickly. I will put a timer on the SmartBoard and tell kids that when the timer hits 0, they all need to be on the floor. They find this like a game, and usually get to the carpet super quick! However, you will always have one to two "laggers"... those kiddos who for whatever reason take forever. That's okay. You don't all need to wait for those one or two kids. They may need an extra minute or two. Just remind them to join the circle when they are all done.

I do not recommend having kids bring their backpacks/lunchboxes/coats to the rug. They often are playing with something on their keychain, or distracted. Have them leave all their belongings at their desk. Remember, be all packed and cleaned up before closing circle. Closing circle should be the very last thing of the day.

PART 2: Reflection
For Part 2, we reflect upon our day. First, I ask students where we could improve on the day. Students raise their hands to answer, and I toss them the ball. Since the end of the day can often result in students not focusing, I toss a ball to students. For some reason, students get more "into" something when a ball is included! Only the person with the ball can answer. We hear one of two students for improvement. I think that reflecting on the day is essential because verbally hearing "we could improve on our voice level in line" is a good reminder for the next day, and creates classroom goals. Then, I ask students what we rocked today. We hear one or two students for that as well.

I have teacher friends that instead of part 2 and/or part 3 prefer to do an activity or game. I noted before that I don't like doing a game or activity because students can get wild, and I would prefer to create a calm atmosphere. But if it works with your kiddos, go for it!

PART 3: Concerns & celebrations
One of my best teacher friends came up with this idea, and I implemented it in my classroom because it was such a great idea! I have a fishbowl and a box of index cards for students to write a celebration or concern on. This is something that you definitely want to practice with students to make sure that everyone understands the difference between a brag and a celebration. I allow students to write a concern or celebration to the fishbowl before school starts in the morning. This means that they cannot write something and drop it in right before closing circle, they have to wait until the next day if they forget to write their concern or celebration in the morning.

I take out and read each concern or celebration. Students usually write a celebration instead of a cause. If it's a celebration, I read it aloud. Then we applaud for that person. If it's a concern, three students can raise their hands and offer condolences, words of support, or advice. Again, this is something that you want to practice with students to make sure everyone understands what is appropriate to say to someone who is upset. I am always blown away by the responses that students give, and the empathy that is shown.

My class does a great job with remembering to not write a concern or celebration every day. We discuss as a group about how if we all put in a celebration every single day, we wouldn't be able to read them all. If you notice that there are too many concerns or celebrations each day, you could have a discussion with your class about picking the most special moments that have recently happened to them to share.

PART 4: Good-bye
Since we start the day with a greeting, we end the day with a good-bye. For our good-bye, we do a simple chant to close off the day. Our chant goes:

clap clap
snap snap
Bye bye, see you again
Hope to see you soon!
Hands up in air and wiggle fingers

Yes, I made this chant up. And yes, I am aware that it is not clever or funny. But you know what? My students respond well to it and enjoy it. They love the wiggling the fingers at the end. You could do a song at the end of the day, or students could wave to one another. It's entirely up to you and your students needs!

STEP 4: Dismiss students
Remember, you don't want chaos at the end of the day! Suddenly screaming "CLOSING CIRCLE IS OVER, GO HOME!" is probably going to undo all that hard work that you just put into creating peace. Think about how you want students to leave closing circle. Do you want them to stay seated until their bus is called? Can they walk around but won't be allowed to leave the rug? Can they grab a book and sit under their desk and read? Brainstorm ahead of time what is expected of them, and practice this procedure so that everyone knows what is expected of them.

Do you implement closing circle in your classroom? What is your classroom like at the end of the day? I would love for you to share below!

Answer all your questions about Closing Circle activities and Responsive Classroom ideas for elementary students.


Glitter in Third is having a TWO-DAY SALE on TPT! This Monday and Tuesday (the 26th and 27th), every single resource in my store is on sale. This includes the big bundles!

My store is marked down 20%, and TPT is giving you another 5% when you use the code CYBER18.

I have tons of great resources for you, all 25% off! Come on over to my shop and check them out. Save yourself precious prep time and shop now!

Here are some links to my FAVORITE resources! Click the links to check them out and add to your wishlist so they are all ready for the big sale.

Google Drive resources:

Paper resources:

Below are some of my favorite products that I wanted to highlight. I know you will love them!

1. Reading for Google Classroom

This product has been completely revamped and updated for the year - you will love it. It covers reading strategies (such as inferring, main idea, summarizing, etc.) and reading language skills (like homophones, synonyms, antonyms, syllables, etc.). There is so much in this bad boy. Do it whole group, small group, or individually. It includes both activities and graphic organizers that you can use again and again with any text, book, or lesson.

2. Literature Circle for Google Classroom

I love literature circles in my classroom. You know what I don't love? The amount of packets involved. The last-minute runs to the copier when a student is missing theirs. No more copier runs with Literature Circle for Google Classroom! Everything is digital - just add books!

3. Grammar for Google Classroom BUNDLE

This is one of my best-selling products- and for a reason! Grammar can be boring to teach, and even more boring for our students. Not to mention it's so hard to fit into the day. Grammar for Google Classroom makes it easy for students to work on, and actually makes grammar FUN since everything is interactive and digital!

4. Morphology notebook for prefixes, suffixes, & roots

This vocabulary notebook setup/printables will transform your language art block and students' vocabulary. There is a total of 13 weeks of material. Once students get into the routine after the first week, they will be able to do all the material on their own without teacher assistance. It makes an easy and efficient station or center during your language arts block.

5. Word study for Google Classroom

Paper packets? No thank you. Save your sanity and cut down on hours of word study prep time with this product. You still differentiate groups, but each student is working on activities digitally. No more "I left my word study packet at home."

PS I have a contest on Instagram that starts tonight, you could win a $50 gift card to TPT AND a $10 gift card to Starbucks! Woohoo! Click here!

Using Google Classroom during literacy stations

Learn how to incorporate digital technology activities into your literacy stations or reading block with Google Classroom.

Do you use Google Classroom? I try to incorporate Google Classroom into many aspects of my day, because it keeps the kids super engaged, gives kids practice with technology, and decreases teacher prep time. Today, I am going to explain how literacy stations fused with technology work best in my classroom. Will this work best in your classroom? It may, it may not. You may take a few ideas from here and try them out. There are so many ways of implementing technology in reading that it can be trial and error regarding what works best for you! However, this is what was successful for me and my students and I want to share with you. 

Learn how to incorporate digital technology into your literacy stations or reading block with Google Classroom.I personally do not think that every part of the school day should include technology. I believe that students need a balance of hands-on learning and concrete thinking. For example, I teach cursive handwriting. We use math manipulatives. We use math worksheets. We cut and glue interactive notebook foldables. However, I like to think about my day and decide where we could utilize Google Classroom so that my kids get to use it daily, but still get that hands-on learning experience and are not staring at a computer screen all day. How could I get students using an Internet resource a few minutes a day that would be a valuable use of their time, and not just an insignificant add-on? I found that utilizing technology during my literacy stations was a perfect fit.

Do you currently do some type of literacy stations - whether it's rotations, Daily 5, or small groups? If so, using a technology station will work perfectly for you! You do NOT need to be 1:1 to get the benefits of using devices in the classroom. It's super simple to plug a technology station into one of your rotations, and only having 4-5 kids working on a device at one time.

Learn how to incorporate digital technology activities into your literacy stations or reading block with Google Classroom.
Previously during literacy stations, I would always end up with a big stack of papers to sort through, or a stack of composition books that I collected to check for accountability purposes. What do I like most about Google Classroom? It will dramatically cut down your prep time. You simply click "assign to students," and you're done! Students no longer can lose their work, or accidentally take it home. No last minute runs to the copy machine. No piles of papers all over your desk. It also keeps all of your students' work in one spot on a cloud-based account. Google Classroom creates a Google Drive folder for each student AND a specific assignment folder. Google Classroom also tells you which assignments have been completed by each student.

Want to save even more time? My Reading for Google Drive Bundle contains all the reading strategies and skills that your students will use all year long. There are plenty of activities for students to complete, but also graphic organizers that students can use again and again all year long with different texts!

I love literacy stations because I love teaching small groups. I see the most growth occur in small groups, and I prefer to meet with each group every day. Of course, what are the other students doing while the teacher is meeting with a small group of students? In my classroom, we are doing literacy stations. We always have an independent reading station, a technology station, and a reading comprehension station.

There were a few things that I wanted and I knew were essentials when I created my literacy station format:
  • I wanted activities that were consistent so I would not have to constantly explain directions to students.
  • I wanted students to rotate.
  • I wanted a variety of activities to keep students engaged.
  • I wanted to minimize any prep time.
I settled on having four literacy stations that my students rotated through. Here are the four components of my literacy stations. Each station is approximately 15 minutes each.

  • Teacher time
  • Independent reading time
  • Technology time
  • Word work time OR grammar time OR reading comprehension time
Today, I will be focusing on the technology station and some ideas that you could implement during this time. Keep reading to learn how I use Google Classroom in my literacy stations!


You will need a Google Classroom page. A Google Classroom page is free! Each student will use your unique Classroom Code on their Google Apps account as well in order to get onto your classroom page. Unfamiliar with Google Classroom? Read more about it here.

This step is extremely important, but often forgotten. If Google Classroom is new in your elementary classroom, you most definitely want to go over basic routines, procedures, and expectations. There are some vitals questions that you want students to know the answer to in order for everything to run efficiently:

    Learn how to incorporate digital technology activities into your literacy stations or reading block with Google Classroom.
  • How do I log on?
  • What do I do if I need help?
  • What do I do if I finish my assignment early? (I keep it basic and have them read if they finish early).
  • How do I turn in my assignment?

We go over these questions, and as a class create an anchor chart together. This anchor chart is posted in the room so that it is easily accessible to students.

Go over how to log on and other questions as a group BEFORE starting Google Classroom. Practice using Google Classroom whole group on the SmartBoard. Practice in small groups. The more guided practice that students have, the more likely that they will successfully navigate it on their own. I also do a few activities whole group. This gives kids the understanding of what is expected from a text response, a short answer, and a drag-&-drop question.

Learn how to incorporate digital technology into your literacy stations or reading block with Google Classroom.
What reading strategies do you teach at your grade level? In my third-grade classroom, we work on author's purpose, asking questions, cause & effect, character traits, compare & contrast, dictionary skills, fact & opinion, inferences, main idea, making connections, homophones, roots/prefixes, reference materials, syllables, making predictions, sequencing, story elements, summarizing, and synonyms/antonyms (I attached links to my Google Drive products for each of these skills). We practice these reading and language skills all year to ensure that we master them by the end of third-grade.

Will this be new material you are having students work on during this literacy station, or spiral review? I personally like using spiral review in my literacy stations to practice skills that my students know, but are still in the process of mastering. After all, practice makes perfect! I like to think about what my students already learned in the year, and incorporate that into their literacy stations. This avoids the situation of learning about sequencing in October, and students completely forgetting it in May. You may also notice during your guided reading what areas that students are struggling and choose to assign the activities that focus on that skill. For example, during guided reading I may notice that my students are struggling with cause & effect. Use your technology literacy station to give students practice with this skill!

Learn how to incorporate digital technology into your literacy stations or reading block with Google Classroom.Need to differentiate? In the typical classroom, your students will struggle with different skills. Google Classroom makes it easy to differentiate because you can assign students different work with the click of a button - and they have no idea that their work is different than someone else's work! You can assign your groups a different set of skills. One group could work on inferring, while another group focuses on summarizing.

Need ideas regarding what kind of activities to create and assign to students? Think about different organizers that you could make. You could create a t-chart for students to make predictions as they read their text. Students could compare and contrast characters in their text with a venn diagram. Think about charts or graphic organizers that you would use on paper, and create these for Google Drive. To save time and have a huge variety of resources to choose from, you can check out my Reading for Google Drive product - click here

I assign a slide or two with the skill that I want them to practice (click here to learn how to assign individual slides!). Choose or create an activity that you want students to do, then click "Assign." Done! Need help with how to assign? Make sure to check out my blog post for easy step-by-step directions and pictures.

This is the fun part! Students log in, then get to work on whatever you assigned them. Google Drive products have so many possibilities - from students brainstorming their answers, interacting with and moving pieces around the screen, or filling out a chart using their book.

Learn how to incorporate digital technology activities into your literacy stations or reading block with Google Classroom.
As usual, there are always going to be moments that a few of your students are confused or don't know what to do. There are two ways that I help with this. I like to have these "Google Classroom shortcuts" on hand in a spot that students can easily peek at. I print, cut, and laminate these. Then, you can take them to the laptop, desk, computer stations, etc. It makes it nice and easy for students to remember those computer basics! We also have three classroom "tech experts" every week that kids can go to if they need help. Usually if a student is stuck, there is a very easy fix that another student can help them with! This way, students know who can give them some assistance, which let's you focus all your attention on your guided reading group!

Your Google Classroom will tell you which students have or have not finished their work. No more shuffling through papers trying to figure out which kiddo didn't turn their work in! do you think? I hope you found this helpful or got an idea or two that you think you could use in your own classroom! Do you use technology in your classroom? Using Google Slides, you can easily create and assign assignments daily to your students.

Want to save time? I have a Reading for Google Drive Bundle product available that you can easily assign to students! If you're unsure about making the leap to buying a product, I also offer a Reading for Google Drive Sampler Pack for you to become familiar with Google Classroom and see if would work in your classroom!

Learn how to incorporate digital technology into your literacy stations or reading block with Google Classroom.

Do you want to try out a Reading for Google Drive FREEBIE?

Incorporate digital technology into your literacy stations or reading block with this Google Classroom FREEBIE

Do you want to try out activities designed for Google Classroom but don't know where to start? My Reading Sampler Pack for Google Drive is PERFECT for you!

This is the first time ever that I have offered a Google Classroom product for free. I know a lot of people may have apprehension about using a Google Classroom activity for the first time, so I wanted people to have the chance to get comfortable and understand some of the great features that are possible with digital learning.

Incorporate digital technology into your literacy stations or reading block with this Google Classroom FREEBIE

Incorporate digital technology into your literacy stations or reading block with this Google Classroom FREEBIE
My favorite part about using digital resources is the ability to drag-&-drop pieces around the screen. My kids go wild for anything that is drag-&-drop since it reminds them of a game that they would find on a computer or iPad!

This resource contains:

- A drag-&-drop cause & effect match-up
- A drag-&-drop character traits sort
- A brainstorm using inferences from fun photographs
- A graphic organizer to be used with a text of your choice for main idea & supporting details

Is this your first time using a Google Classroom activity? I have a few blog posts that may allow you to better understand how to use it, and the benefits!

- Beginning steps
- Benefits
- How to assign individual slides
- How to use if you are not in a 1:1 classroom

Interested? Make sure to download or wish list - it is FREE!

Incorporate digital technology into your literacy stations or reading block with this Google Classroom FREEBIE

Want a FREE Thanksgiving multiplication color-by-number?

Download a free Thanksgiving multiplication color by number worksheet for your elementary classroom.

You know what is fun? Coloring. You know what's not fun? Multiplication facts. However, combine these two things together and suddenly kids are excited to practice their times tables!
Download a free Thanksgiving multiplication color by number worksheet for your elementary classroom.

There are so many ways to use these multiplication color-by-numbers. I like to use them as independent work during math, but they make fabulous morning work, quiet time activities, math centers, and sub work

Are you subscribed to the newsletter? If so, check your inbox! Not currently on the mailing list? You can sign up here. You'll receive an immediate download of this Thanksgiving multiplication color-by-number, AND a fact family resource!

The newsletter is a great way to be notified of all sales, and of course you'll get lots of fun freebies straight to your inbox. Check it out if you're interested- click here! :-)