Winter break is so much fun, but coming back from break can often feel like an uphill battle. For students and teachers alike, it’s akin to experiencing the Sunday scaries, but x4,578! After weeks of holiday festivities, spending time with family, and staying up a little later, it can be challenging to transition back to school mode. Students may find themselves struggling with shorter attention spans, missing their parents, and feeling completely out of their daily routines. The good news is, we’re here to help! This blog post is your ultimate guide to surviving the post-winter break return to school, and we’ve got a plan to tackle it all. Here are some ways to ease the pain and gently rejoin your classroom community.
Back From Break Tip #1: Give Yourself Plenty of Time
First things first, make sure you ease back into your school routine gradually. To avoid the Monday misery, set your alarms a little earlier than usual in the days leading up to the return. This will help you get back into the rhythm of waking up on time.
Don’t try to plan too much for your first day back. Keep it simple and manageable. The key here is not to overwhelm yourself or your students.
Back From Break Tip #2: Plan Ahead
Sunday scaries are all about anxiety over the week ahead. Instead of letting it consume you, take charge by preparing in advance. The more you plan, the smoother your transition back to school will be. Here are some tips for ways to plan ahead:
- Pack your lunch, snacks, and a drink the night before. This will save you precious time in the morning.
- Select your outfit for the first day of school. There’s nothing like that “first day of school” energy to boost your confidence.
Back From Break Tip #3 – Show Gratitude
Challenge your students to write a thank-you note to their parent or grown-up who made their break fun. Gratitude is a beautiful way to start the year with positivity and a heart full of thanks. You can do this as a writing activity, morning work, free choice, or write a note of gratitude together as a class.
Back From Break Tip #4 – Revisiting Routines and Procedures
To make the return to school as smooth as possible, it’s a great idea to revisit classroom routines and procedures. You can turn this into a fun activity by putting on small group plays to act out “do this” and “don’t do this” scenarios. It’s a practical and engaging way to reinforce classroom expectations.
Back From Break Tip #5 – Talk About Goals
Discuss your goals for the new year with your students. You can link this to another goal-setting post and explore activities like creating vision boards or engaging in a more/less activity. It’s a fantastic way to inspire your students to set intentions for the year ahead.
Back From Break Tip #6 – Take Lots of Breaks
On the first day back, it’s important to take plenty of breaks to keep energy levels high. You can incorporate extra recess, games, and additional reading time. Encourage your students to summon their “first day of school” energy to keep the day positive and enjoyable.
Remember that breaks don’t have to be long or extravagant – simply doing a “turn and talk” in between lessons or transitions can be just the break you all need.
Back From Break Tip #7 – Realize that break wasn’t necessarily positive for everyone
It’s important to realize that not everyone may be unhappy to be back. School is a safe space for many while home is not. Be mindful of discussing things like how many presents were received, and voicing things like “I wish I was back home.”
Back From Break Tip #8 – Plan your entire day from start to finish
For Specific Back From Break Academic Lesson Plans:
Back from Break: Math
In small groups, have your students create “all about me” graphs using chart paper. This activity helps them get to know each other better by exploring themes like their favorite color, pet, and more.
You can ask each student group to generate their own graph idea, or you can brainstorm ideas as a class and assign one to each group.
💡Pro tip: You can create the shell of the anchor charts ahead of time and have students fill them in, or you can have students do it from scratch.
Some possible graph topic ideas:
- Favorite color
- Favorite animal
- Favorite subject
- Favorite food
You can also encourage each group to create their own voting forms (ex: a paper that asks “What is your favorite color?”) or you can organize a whole-class voting time where students vote on each topic with a show of hands and a designated team recorder.
You might also ask students to divide into different roles:
1 – Recorder: student records results on the graph
2 – Designer: students who design the graph
3 – Reporters: students who gather information from their classmates
Back from Break: Whole Class Activity
Play “Knockout” to add a fun twist to your math lesson. This game is not only a fun break from your regularly-scheduled programming, but it will let your students practice and refresh their pre-break skills without even realizing they are doing academic things!
You can download a free Knockout game here:
Back from Break: Small Groups
Engage your students in a game of “Over Break, I ______.” Just like “I’m Going on a Picnic,” have them keep adding to their classmates’ stories. You can also choose to record student answers and create a chart that shows each student’s break activities.
If you want to incorporate writing into this oral activity, ask students to make a book about their group and what they did over break. Each page can read “(Name) did/went/ate/etc (activity) over winter break.”
Back from Break: Stations
Organize “Blast from the Past” stations to add a nostalgic touch to the first day back. Not only will students get joy in seeing games and activities from earlier in the year, it will also be a great opportunity to revisit expectations and routines.
Books to Read:
No school day is complete without a read-aloud! Harness the coziness of winter and read one of the recommended books below.
- “The Snowy Day”
- “Penguin & Pinecone”
- “Bear Snores On”
Check out all of the books here.
Back from Break: ELA
For your ELA lesson, offer free seasonal writing prompts to get those creative juices flowing.
Back from Break: Social Studies
This is a great time to talk about New Year’s and goal-setting. When teaching our younger students about goals, I find it really helpful to talk about goals in terms of things you want to do more and things you want to do less.
You can download a free more/less goal-setting pack here, which includes a printable craftivity and whiteboard writing prompt slides.
The more/less writing activity makes a great hallway display!
Put on this Spotify playlist to keep the spirits high:
⭐️ Extra Bonus:
Display this cozy fireplace on your SmartBoard to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
With these tips and activities, you and your students can conquer the post-winter break return to school with confidence, positivity, and a sprinkle of fun. Remember, it’s all about easing the transition and making the return to school as smooth and enjoyable as possible. So, gear up, and let’s tackle the new year together!
Want to read more about things you can do in January in the classroom? Check out these posts: