Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers...
by Barbara Gruber, M.A. & Sue Gruber, M.A.
December Survival Guide
Ten Special Management Tips for Your Classroom
Ten Ways to Rest and Recharge over the Winter Break
It's December! You made it! Winter break is just around the corner! Before you take advantage of some much-deserved rest and time away from school you have to survive some of the most challenging weeks of school.
December calls for some special classroom management tips! Chances are you've noticed that the weeks before winter break, spring break and the end of the year are especially challenging. The word "excited" does not even beginning to describe students during the month of December!
Take a look at our ten special tips especially for teachers. We have ideas to help channel students' energy and excitement in positive directions and make the start of school in January easier!
- Structure matters more than ever this month!
December is not the month to loosen up and let your students have lots of unstructured time. All of the "hype" surrounding the holidays really winds kids up during December. Rather than feeding into the frenzy, make your classroom an oasis of calm that helps even the most wound up kids be successful.
- Vary the pace throughout the day---follow a quiet, at-your-desk activity with a move around and talk activity.
- Before recess, have children get out the materials they will need immediately after recess. When they come back into the room, you can jump right into the lesson. This saves lost minutes and shortens transition times which are especially difficult just before winter break.
- Make a list of quiet activities that your students can work on when they say, "I'm done!" For example, teach your students to braid and have them make braided bookmarks from yarn in three different colors. Pin art is a perfect activity for December! For some reason, many children are mesmerized by pin art. It is a very calming, quiet activity. Children draw on black construction paper with pencil. Then they use pushpins to make small holes in the construction paper along the lines of the drawing. When it is displayed on a window, the light shines through the holes creating an outline of the picture. We LOVE pin art!
- Make every minute count with the Count Down!
Before you begin your first lesson on Monday morning, tell the class that you are giving them 30 minutes of free time. The free time may be claimed on Friday afternoon. Write "30 Minutes" on the chalkboard. Tell the class that when you notice time being wasted unnecessarily, you will say, "Count down." Then, you will subtract the number of minutes and seconds that are wasted from the 30 minutes. Discuss different options for using the free time and let students take a vote on Friday to decide how to use the time.
- Capture every student's interest with special projects!
December is a wonderful month to step away from some of the materials you usually use and dive into something special. For example, put away the math books and take off with a hands-on math and writing activity where your students simulate owning a toy company. Show them how to keep the financial books for the company, write advertising copy, etc. Set aside your reading series and pull the entire class together to read a wonderful novel that fits your grade level. Include lots of special activities that tie in with the book. You and your kids will enjoy the change of pace!
- Sharing about family traditions makes December extra special!
Liven up sharing time during the month of December in your classroom! Tell your students that December sharing is a time to tell about special traditions in their families. Set the tone by sharing with your students something that your family enjoys at this time of the year. Bring in some photos showing your family engaged in the special activity.
- Have your students help you do bulletin boards for January!
Cover a huge bulletin board with paper and let your students' creativity soar as they design a winter mural for the bulletin board. Showcase your students' work on other bulletin boards by displaying poetry and stories written by your students. You'll find that your students pay a lot more attention to bulletin boards that they've had a hand in creating!
- A special gift just right for your students…
Looking for a nice surprise for your students that they'll love? Here's an idea that your students will love! Best of all, it doesn't cost you a cent! Make a small coupon book for each student. Ideas for coupons:
- Ten minutes of free time
- Be first in line
- Be the teacher's helper
- One free homework assignment
- Observe the class pet for 5 minutes
- Write on the chalkboard
- Select on item from the prize box (collect free items to stock your prize box---promotional pencils, key chains, stickers, etc.)
- Sit next to a friend during silent reading
- Read a story to a kindergartner
- Clean and organize every desk in the room---even yours!
Have you ever watched your students clean out their desks? Most of them take everything out and then stuff it all right back in! Here's the best way we've found to help students REALLY clean out their desks. Tell students take everything out of their desks. Then, call out items that should be in the desks. When you call out an item, such as one pair of scissors, students put that item back in their desks. When you are finished calling out items, students are left with items to be taken home, discarded or put elsewhere.
Why not take the extra step and have your students clean their desktops too! Spritz a blob of shaving cream on each desktop. Let the kids "finger paint" with the shaving cream. It's a fun way for kids to really get their desktops sparkling clean!
Set aside 15 minutes after school to tackle your desk! Now is the time to tame the mountain of paper work covering your desk. Do you keep a survival kit in a desk drawer? This is a good time to restock items like bandaids, tea bags, and lots of chocolate!
What a treat to walk into your room in January and have every desk clean and organized!
- Tackle the grading that's been haunting you!
Have students' papers been piling up? The last thing you want to do is spend your time off correcting papers. Get these papers out of your life during school time! It may be worthwhile to spend part of recess or lunch time catching up on correcting so you can walk out empty handed on the last day!
- Plan and prepare materials for first two weeks of school in January.
One of the best ways to put school behind you when your break begins is to be 100% prepared for the first week or two of January! Right now block off two after-school times on your December calendar and devote that time to planning for your first two weeks back in January. It takes a bit of extra effort but you'll be so glad you invested the time!
- Time for a file cabinet round up!
Is there a huge stack of papers and file folders precariously balanced atop your file cabinet? Is your back-to-school file still on top of your file cabinet somewhere? Could you or a small child be buried neck deep in paper if your file cabinet is bumped the wrong way? Don't let yourself leave for the break until you've put everything back where it belongs. It's worth the extra effort! You'll come back to a file cabinet that you can actually use!
We think the best way to stay energized and enthusiastic about teaching is to use the breaks as a time to rejuvenate and re-energize! Is your classroom exactly the way you want it to be? Don't you have huge lists of all kinds of things you could do in your classroom? We bet you could spend every day of your winter break working in your classroom and still have a long list of things to do. Don't do it! Instead, use this gift of time to take care of yourself.
Here are our favorite surefire ways to make your winter break restful and relaxing so you can head back to school in January refreshed and ready to go!
- Make each day special! Do something you truly enjoy every day.
Get back in the groove of doing the things you love to do that you just don't have time for during the school year. Read juicy novels, take long walks, chat on the phone for hours with friends, stay up late, read that stack of magazines you've been saving, don't set your alarm clock and sleep in…
- Count your blessings.
Do your best to avoid getting caught up in the stress of the holidays. Focus on what's really important to you at this time of year. Reflect upon the positive things in your life. Don't waste time agonizing over things that can go wrong! For every one thing that does go wrong, dozens of things go right! Spend some time savoring all that is right in your world.
- Get together with friends you haven't seen since summer.
Now is the time to meet friends for breakfast. Get together with friends and catch the latest movie! Invite friends to your house for a potluck dinner. It doesn't matter what you do; the goal is to reconnect with friends you don't see as much as you'd like during the school year!
- Allow time every day for some peace and quiet.
The life of a teacher is hectic! Use this time to slow down and reflect. Every day find ways to give yourself some quiet down time, even if it's for only five minutes. Take the time to close your eyes and listen to your favorite music, turn off your phone and let the answering machine take your calls, soak in the tub, or take a walk. We bet you'll find yourself looking forward to your daily quiet time!
- Make sure you are at the top of the salary ladder for your years of service and units.
We think teachers should be well compensated. It's a good feeling knowing you are being compensated at the highest possible level. Take a look at your salary schedule and start earning units now to move up the ladder. Take a course to earn units for salary advancement and to gain some new ideas.
This might be the perfect time to take a quick course. If you're looking for courses that offer incredible flexibility while you're gaining new skills and ideas, consider taking them online. Online courses are designed to fit your schedule without losing valuable time commuting to and from universities. Of course, we encourage you to take a look at our 100% practical courses for teachers at www.bgrubercourses.com
- Pamper yourself!
Go for it! Paint your nails a wild color. Light some candles and soak in the tub. Treat yourself to a facial or massage. Sit on the couch and read silly magazines while demolishing a bowl of popcorn! You've worked hard this school year! You deserve to pamper yourself!
- Read, read, read!
Get lost in a really good book. Winter break is the perfect time to snuggle up and dive into a book you've been anxious to read!
Are you one of those teachers who really enjoys spending time during breaks in your classrooms? Here are some thoughts to consider if you just can't stay away.
- Limit the time you spend in your classroom.
Set a reasonable schedule for the amount of time you're willing to work in your room. You might decide that one or two mornings is enough. Don't spend every waking moment in your classroom. Don't miss this chance to take care of yourself and to truly step away from school and unwind.
- Spend some time getting organized.
If you've chosen to spend some of your valuable break time in your classroom, why not spend it getting organized? This could be the perfect time for a file cabinet clean out or the reorganization of your teaching materials. You'll be surprised at the wonderful resources you rediscover!
- Fine-tune classroom procedures and routines.
Take some time to reflect upon your school year so far. Think about all of the things that go well in your classroom. Analyze any areas that you feel need improvement. Jot some quick notes about things you'd like to change when school starts again. January is the perfect time to make some adjustments! It's an opportunity to re-start the class that is almost as good as the first day of school. Don't miss this perfect time to make changes and teach routines that will make things go smoothly and save time.
We feel so fortunate that every winter we have two weeks to rest, relax and recharge our batteries. Make this winter break your best one ever! Go back in January with a smile on your face and the enthusiasm to enjoy the rest of the school year!
Best wishes ~
Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers
Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers
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