This school week has likely felt twelve days long so far and it isn’t over yet! As teachers approach the finish line, there’s so much yet to complete before departing for some well-deserved time off. Earlier in the week Teacher Peach posted 5 tips for you to employ early in the week to ensure a smooth transition to and from Winter Break. In this blog, you’ll find 5 more tips for your last day before break. These tips will help you to efficiently button up your classroom and will also help to set yourself up for a successful relaunch after the new year!
Can you picture yourself on your Winter Break? It’s so close. Use these 5 tips to help you clear your school decks so you can begin to focus on holiday festivities and activities. Even though time is tight on these final few days and some of these details might feel like the last things you have time for right now, if you make time to complete these actions, you’ll more successfully and effectively relaunch after the new year. Knowing you’ve left your professional responsibilities and your classroom poised for 2016 will help you to relax and enjoy your entire winter break!
5 Tips for a Great Last Day Before Winter Break
- Organize and clean up the classroom for Winter Break cleaning.
Clear your classroom and make major school Winter Break cleaning projects easy to accomplish in your classroom. Encourage your students to help by picking up reading pillows, milk crates, and other classroom fixtures that reside on the floor. This quick action will help the custodial team clean and vacuum reading rugs, wax the floor, and give your classroom a fresh and welcoming feeling when you return. Students love to help ready the room, so they can surely go beyond their normal habit of turning chairs over desks. Remind students to take home any out-of-season extra clothes from lockers, too.
- Ready your room for January: take down “heavy holiday” decorations now.
While holiday decorations make for a very festive classroom now, you’ll react quite differently to candy canes and ornaments when you walk back into the room in January. If you’re hosting a class party, once it’s over, take just a few minutes to take down what we call “heavy holiday” decorations before you leave. Keep up the snowmen and penguins, just in case you can’t get to your January MLK makeover on the first day or two when you return. Even if you don’t have time to store the holiday items before you leave, just taking a few minutes to take down the “heavy holiday” items will feel wonderful when you renter your classroom.
- Send home this fun, quick text study activity.
Looking for something to send home with your students? Link winter break family time to some embedded learning with this quick activity that kids and family members will enjoy. Rich with important critical thinking skills, this quotation is bound to spark many family discussions. This thought-provoking quotation and worksheet features Picasso’s famous quote: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” To complete the activity, students explore what the quote means and interview family members for their interpretations. The activity also encourages students to discover their own “gift” as well as the “gifts” of family members—which can spark some excellent bonding conversations over the holidays.
Some teachers offer extra credit, others make the assignment mandatory, and still others simply send it home. Some teachers attach it to an email to families or tuck it in their thank you notes for holiday gifts. Whatever way works best for you, this quotation helps kids to see that the gift that isn’t wrapped is the most important one of all. As your students settle in on the first few days back, discussing this quotation and the their findings is a great way to reignite your class in January. Both the quotation and worksheet are attached here, ready to go!
- Create a quick “Where We Left Off” list.
In the tips for earlier this week, we suggested you create a “When We Return” folder to hold all work in progress, lesson plans, assignments, and any other items you’ll want to have handy when you walk back into your classroom in January. On the last two days before break, take a few minutes throughout both days to make a running list of where you stopped on various lesson plan priorities. You’ll be amazed at how valuable this list will be when you return. You can hit the ground running—and everything you’ll want to have will be in one folder.
One question often comes up about both the “When We Return” folder and the “Where We Left Off” list: “Do you leave it on your desk or do you pop it in your briefcase?” The answer depends upon your personal planning style. Do you prep for your school week from home on Sunday night? If so, then take the folder home and tuck it away until the night before your return. If you tend to arrive at school early on Monday mornings to chart out your week’s lesson plans, then leaving the folder and list on your desk is the better answer for you. Either way, you’ll be able to jump right back—picking up where you and your student’s left off. Most of all, you’ll be rejuvenated, refreshed, and rested, because you were able to step away, enjoy your Winter Break, and be prepared well for your time away and smart re-entry.
- Power down your classroom—AND YOU!
Be sure that all computers, electronics, lights, and other ON items are properly powered down. Check around once again for in-desk surprises from students like leftover snacks, old water bottles, etc. Unless student lockers have locks, it’s a good idea to do a quick check to lockers and scan for in-desk surprises like old snacks or forgotten water bottles or any party remnants. Invite your students to take responsibility in this task. Confirm that all class pets and plants get to their winter break guardians, as well. If you’re leaving plants in class, be sure that they are watered, placed by or away from windows, as needed, and make arrangements with custodial teams to check in on them. Some schools turn heating systems down over long breaks, so be sure you plan for this, as well.
Most importantly, before you leave your classroom for Winter Break, power down yourself wisely, too. Taking one last, quiet sweep across your classroom before turning off the light. This time, you’re not looking for tangible items. Take a moment to acknowledge the intangibles—think for at least a moment about the last time your classroom was this quiet. It was likely in August before school began.
Think about and recognize all that you’ve accomplished since school started! Look how far both you and your kids have come.
- Are your kids are reading at higher levels than when you met them?
- Are your students taking more responsibility for their learning?
- What about that concept that they struggled with and finally mastered?
Bravo on all counts!
Take a moment to recap your professional accomplishments so far in this school year! You deserve this break. You’ve already made strides with your students. Of course, there’s more to do; there always will be. With a sense of the successes, you’ll be ready to relax and enjoy your own Winter Break.
What are you planning to do to acknowledge your incredible accomplishments during the 2015 portion of the 2015–2016 school year? We’d like to know. The team at Teacher Peach would also like to take this opportunity to extend our very best wishes for a terrific Winter Break to all of the really great teachers who work so hard to make a difference to the students and families with whom you work each day. Enjoy!