How to get your class back on track after a break

Nervous about the first day back to school after winter break in January? Here are 5 simple classroom management and organization tips to help make the transition smooth for you and your students! Perfect for primary teachers. #GlitterinThird #classroommanagement #backtoschool
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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