Managing a classroom full of students who have been out of school for a week or more can be overwhelming. The start of a new semester, whether it’s in the fall or after winter break, takes a bit of planning and commitment to make it go as smoothly as possible.
Tips for Refreshing Classroom Culture After Winter Break
Getting on track to start a new semester starts with preparation and is made successful by following through. Consistency is the key ingredient to the creation of a classroom culture that is efficient, respectful, and positive. Here are some tips for refreshing classroom culture following the winter break.
Analyze Any Changes You Want to Make
Look back over your first semester with this group of students and on the goals you had for yourself at the beginning of the school year. Are there any changes to the daily routine you want to make? Are the norms and culture of your class allowing your classroom to be a respectful and efficient learning space for all students?
Ideas for making positive change in your classroom:
- Find or create a new game to use in the classroom for a refreshed reward to offer for good behavior
- Change up the classroom décor or theme to make the room feel like it’s getting a fresh start
- Post reminders of positive classroom behavior around the room, or get a whiteboard to post a new reminder each week
Include an Appropriate Welcome Back
Students are returning to school after what was most likely more than a week at home. Make sure to be enthusiastic in your welcome back, and make an effort to remind them that your classroom is a place they can look forward to being. It’s important to remember that not all students have the same winter break experiences and that asking students to share what they did may make students who had a less-than-thrilling vacation feel left out.
Questions to ask students instead of “what did you do over winter break?”:
- What are you most excited for this semester?
- How can you make this semester at school the best one yet?
- Did you learn anything new over winter break?
Remind Students of Foundational Expectations
This is the follow-through portion of the start of a new semester. Remind students of the foundational expectations for behavior in your classroom, but avoid going over every detail. Start with the rules that absolutely cannot be ignored, and then follow up by adding more back into the regime gradually over the first week or two. Jumping into a new semester expecting the classroom to operate the way it did before the break will be stressful for you and your students who are just settling back into a regular schedule.
Tips for gradually integrating classroom expectations:
- Call out and praise students who meet expectations, and explain why their action or behavior is part of making their classroom a great place to be
- Wait for moments when you can explain additional expectations in context; it will help students remember them going forward
- Leave written reminders or signs around the room for rules students might forget throughout the day
Classroom Management Tools
Keeping your classroom in order doesn’t have to mean standing in front of students monitoring the noise levels. There are tools available to lend a helping hand in both classroom noise and time management.