Two weeks off of school. Staying up too late watching TV and playing video games. Sleeping in several extra hours. Taking daily naps. These are just some of the ways I need to change now that the new year is upon us. But what about my first and second grade students?
Many have had free range for much of the two weeks, so they will need extra support after the vacation. I won’t spend 6 weeks helping establish the classroom community, but I will spend several days (at least!) helping students transition back into the routines of our school day.
For example, I will facilitate discussions with my students about their own expectations. In the beginning of the school year, the students came up with our classroom expectations (rules) themselves. So this month I will ask them what they expect their classmates to continue to do in the new year. The kids lead these discussions by restating what we all expect in our learning community now that we’ve had some time to get to know each other and some time away to think. The interesting part is that by this time in the school year I start to see new leaders begin to emerge.
One activity I will do often in the coming weeks is a spider web greeting. During morning meeting our class will use a ball of string and roll it around the circle while greeting each other. I provide the students a couple of expectations such as not letting the string touch the ground, pinching it between the pointer finger and thumb only, or greeting someone at least two people away in the circle. Then as the greeting moves around every time they fail to meet the expectations it’s a strike...three and we stop the greeting, I greet the remaining students and we discuss. We focus on meeting expectations and how what one student does affects others.
For example, when the string is pulled out of three students fingers because of another very fidgety kid we relate that to someone who might be doing something distracting at their desks and keeping three other students from getting their work done. The kids love this greeting and it makes an impact on their choices.
I also hold some of my highest interest lessons and projects for the days following a vacation. Just as I did for those "throw away days" before vacation.
After a long vacation, how do you provide additional supports for your students during the transition back?
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.