5 Tips to Jump-Start the Second Half of the School Year
Happy New Year! Happy 2022! I hope your new year is off to a very healthy and happy start!
Whether you have had a great year so far or it’s been more of a struggle, the good news is that you are halfway through. Let’s make the rest of this school year the very best we possibly can.
Here are some tips I hope will help.
1. Rethink Your Classroom Environment
Because January is a wonderful time to reassess priorities and goals, I love taking this time of the year to think about my class environment and reset what will help things run more smoothly.
How might I change the way my room is set up to make it more functional?
Is it time to change seating positions or placement, now that I know my students better?
I also like to take a couple of hours over the break to go into my classroom and reflect.
What can I do to make something easier or more efficient? What can I do to make my room look warm, welcoming, and ready?
Taking a little bit of time to declutter, organize, and prepare for the students to come back is a huge lifesaver and well worth my sanity.
2. Evaluate Classroom Management
Next, I think through my classroom management. To me, this includes not only the physical class environment, but our class routines, procedures, rules, and feelings of well-being while together.
One way to adjust classroom management is to use the new year as a great opportunity for a fresh start. It’s a natural time for goal setting and looking forward. I think students like the feeling of a fresh start as much as we do.
To help with this process, I do the following:
- Read books to my students about New Year’s resolutions, goal setting, new starts, etc.
- Plan an activity where students think of one personal goal and one educational goal. I like giving my young students the option of recording these through art, writing, or presentation. I would help them write their thoughts if needed.
- Display them and refer to them often throughout the rest of the school year.
This is also a great time to collaborate on some class goals and write them down as well. You could link classroom behavior to your goal and work towards it with excitement. Remind your class of expectations for achieving their goal and reaffirm that you believe in them to accomplish it. Celebrate when they have achieved it!
My students love to earn “heart stones” as a class incentive for when I would catch them all staying on task without reminders, helping one another, observing respectful conversations, or when they are complimented by another teacher for their behavior. We would then vote on a favorite way to celebrate once we reached our goal of filling up our Heart Stone jar. To say they were invested and engaged is an understatement.
3. Reaffirm Expectations
Once new goals are established, this lends itself perfectly to evaluating expectations and consequences and reviewing routines and procedures. Get rid of things that are not working for you, are confusing, or take too long to implement. Reaffirm that you “mean what you say and say what you mean” and be consistent. Every. Single. Time.
Students feel safe and secure in knowing what to expect and that you will be consistent and fair each time. If students know how their classroom is organized and structured, they will know what to do and what to expect.
I love starting January off as if they have forgotten expectations, just in case.
Go through the rules. Review the procedures. Be positive and upbeat as you talk about how routines and procedures help everyone learn more and find joy at school each day. This is especially important after a long break.
4. Introduce Any New Routines or Procedures
Discuss, model, and practice anything new you’d like to implement.
If you haven’t already tried this as part of your routine, I highly recommend greeting your students as they come in at your classroom door every single day. A smile, a fist bump, a high five, or even a little shared disco-dance jig assures them you are happy to see them and glad they came to school. This does wonders for student well-being and helps teachers bond with their students.
5. Plan Fun Engagement Activities
Activities and games that help students feel positive about their teachers, classroom, peers, and learning are all so incredibly important.
Because students will probably all know each other at this time of the year, focus on engagement strategies instead of “getting to know you” activities. I’ve used some great strategies by Dr. Kagan.
Studies Weekly Well-Being publications have amazing ideas, information, and activities I know you will enjoy.
I’d love to hear what fresh, new ideas you plan to implement! Please feel free to share.
I’m wishing you the very best 2022!
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