December can be a tough time in the classroom. We asked teachers about their best survival strategies and they came up with some pretty solid ideas. But we want to more than survive; we want to THRIVE! Even though your days are few before the long-awaited winter break begins, you want to make the best of them. Use every minute that you can in meaningful and impactful ways. Here are some things to think about as you’re preparing for the last few weeks of the year:
- Standards/objectives. What’s left to teach? What can be taught in the time available? What do you expect your students to know and/or be able to do? In what ways can your students demonstrate mastery? Or is it a good time for review? Can your students work on a culminating project that has several pieces to it that will be engaging and span multiple days?
- Attention span. No matter the grade level or academic ability, students across the board tend to have shorter attention spans in December in great anticipation of the promised break. This doesn’t mean that you take it easy on your students or expect any less. But if you can use the shortened attention spans and work it into your lessons, you’ll be much better off. Maybe this involves smaller chunks of work, more opportunities to get up and move, or more hands-on activities. What works best to keep your students on track?
- Expectations. For years, the last day or two before the winter break brought promises of movies, snacks, and games. This approach to surviving those last minutes has been met with much opposition in recent times, driven by the idea that every activity must be related to the standards. As you are planning your December, know your building’s administrators’ expectations. We’d never suggest or recommend doing something that is not allowed or looked down upon! We will, however, mention that there are certainly ways to keep your students entertained and quiet with a movie while also sticking to the standards with activities for them to complete while watching it. (We know that’s valuable time for you to get that last-minute grading done.)
- Timing. There are plenty of logistics to consider. Do you have mid-terms, finals, or other major assessments? When are grades due? Are there any workdays? If you want to finish grades before you leave, you definitely don’t want to test on the last day. But then what do you do in the days between testing and break? It’s certainly not a time to start something new, but you don’t want to waste anyone’s time, either. Consider enrichment activities. Or lessons that will help bridge what they already know and what they should expect when they come back. Again, you don’t want to actually start something new, but building anticipation for what’s to come could be fun!
Planning and preparing for this chaotic time now saves you from panic and stress later. Floundering for lessons and activities is stressful and students can usually tell when their teachers are not prepared. Don’t be that teacher. Be the teacher students are looking forward to seeing you again in January!