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How to Engage Students Before a Long Break
Episode 2612th December 2023 • The Social Studies Teacher Podcast • Kirsten Hammond, The Southern Teach
00:00:00 00:10:43

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Counting down the days until break? Trust me, I have been there. This podcast episode will give you five really great strategies on how to get students redirected and make it through to the break.

Episode Highlights

  • Class rewards
  • Expectations
  • Structured discussions
  • Timing projects strategically
  • Getting outside

Resources and Links

Grab your FREE Smart and Simple Ways to Engage guide

Check out a favorite activity I reach for when taking student learning outdoors

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Kirsten 1:06

This is the social studies teacher podcast a show for busy elementary teachers looking for fun and engaging ways to easily add social studies into their classroom schedule without feeling overwhelmed or pressed for time. I'm curious to know if you southern teach an educator and mom who is passionate about all things social studies, I love sharing ideas and strategies that are low prep and easy to implement. So let's dive in together.

Ever feel that buzz that happens before a week long break such as spring break or winter break. Teachers are counting down the days Trust me, I have been there, students might feel antsy, and they talk about their plans for the week of no school. And in addition to all of that behavior might get a little extra rowdy, and it might take your super teacher strength to get them to focus. If you've ever felt any of these things. This podcast episode will give you some tips on how you can engage students before a week long or two week break depending on how long that break is. So I'm going to share with you five really great strategies on how you can get students redirected and just make it through to the break whatever break it is, at the time of this recording, I would be thinking that you are ready for winter break. But this could be applicable to really any type of break before spring break before summer break. really applicable to anything before a long break.

Alright, so going to number one is to vote on a class reward. Have the class decide on a goal to focus or improve on and allow students to vote on a class reward when that goal is reached. something for me that has always grinded my gears is a talkative class. I don't know why but just like that, just like well, not just when they're talking while I'm talking. But also like when it's supposed to be independent time and they're talking and all of that kind of stuff. So that was kind of my little shtick. That was my pet peeve. And there was one specific day where students were particularly talkative were students were blurting things out left to right. I sat with my class at the end of the day and I asked them, Okay, class, what can we focus on so that we can help our day be a little bit more productive tomorrow? And they even admitted they agree that they may have been talking a little bit too much So what we did was something that combined a secret student with something that was really popular at the time called among us. So we combined that. And so students worked each day to contain their blurts. And I had a secret student that I would put in a little envelope at the beginning of the day. And so if that secret student didn't blurred out wasn't as talkative and all of that they did a great job, they would be revealed at the end of the day for good behavior, and they could color in the class chart. Once that class chart was filled up, we voted on a class reward. So that was a really fun activity that got them a little bit more motivated not to talk as much.

A second tip I have is to review expectations. I know this is probably the last thing you want to do, you just want to get out of there just finished the week and get on your break. But it's important to make sure to model reinforce and practice classroom routines and expectations. If you stick to this, especially before a break, it will be so much easier to redirect. I like using a wooden chime to get my students attention. This was always great, because we would continue to practice to the point where it was pretty much second nature, there was not a need to raise my voice or even talk, I would just ring the chime and wait, and students would get quiet eventually.

The third tip is to spark discussion. So use quick writes or a question of the day related to the break with some prompts such as, What are you looking forward to about the break? Or you know, what are your plans for the break or something like that getting them to talk about it, like in a structured environment can be helpful. Instead of doing it during your lesson. You know, on the side, this can be really fun and engaging for students. And to make it extra fun for my students. I always said the question and we'd pass around a rainbow ball. And the students would say their answer, and then choose somebody and throw the ball to them. So that was kind of a little fun extra way with the rainbow ball. Most of the time, I did give them a time limit. So they didn't just get like five minutes to talk about what they were going to do and all of that stuff.

The fourth tip I have is to start a project. But don't finish it until after the break. Have students start a fun project related to what they're learning before the break, and then have them finish and present the project after the break. Doing this can help keep their energy on what they need to do at school. It's also an easy way to engage the students when they come back. So something really that they're looking forward to like, oh, I can't wait to finish this project and present on this item or whatever they're learning. One year our class published a book. And we started on the project. And students contributed a couple of pages before the break. And we were able to pick up where they left off after the winter break and finish it. So it was something that they looked forward to, they knew what to expect.

The last tip I have for you is to go outside, conduct a lesson outside depending on the weather, it might be a little too cold where you're at. But if it is a nice day, this would be a great chance to get outside and have some fresh air. One of the things that I fondly remember on you know, one of my first years of teaching upper elementary was doing a stem challenge outside. students loved it. And it was really fun. We got a little spot where there were some benches and we did our little pumpkin stem challenge. And I took some pictures on that. I can link that stem challenge that we did. It's by teaching outside the box by Brooke Brown. She has a lot of great stem challenges. But there are so many other sim challenges out there. But this was the one is specifically that we did. Keeping your students attentions before break can be a little tricky, but definitely doable. It's important though that you're consistent. Keep them on their toes, but still have a little fun, like recognize that break is coming and they're just going to be antsy and excited overall, but these tips can help kind of contain it a little bit more.

If you're looking for more ways to engage your students not only for before winter break, but also during lessons and activities for distance learning test prep time, end of the year, pretty much all year round. I have a really great guide that tons of teachers have loved and it's completely free. It's called Smart and Simple ways to engage. You can go to the southern forward slash free guide to grab those tips on how to engage your students pretty much all year round.

All right. Well, that's the episode for today. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week. I'll see you next time. Thanks for listening to the social studies teacher podcast. If you enjoyed listening to this episode, hit that subscribe button and leave a review. I would love to hear your thoughts. You can also find me and Instagram at the southern teach. I can't wait for you to join me in the next episode for more teacher tips and strategies.