December Survival Guide;
Ten Special Management Tips for Your Classroom PLUS
Ten Ways to Rest and Recharge over the Winter Break
10 ways to deal with the classroom management challenges of the holiday season, and 10 tricks for YOUR personal rejuvenation
by Sue Gruber, M.A.
Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers www.bgrubercourses.com
Regular contributor to the Gazette
December 1, 2008
It’s December! Can you feel the excitement? Are your students getting friskier by the day? Every December I reach the point where I realize that I’m bone tired and I can’t possibly teach another second. Luckily, this sensation always hits exactly one minute after school is dismissed for winter break!
Before you take advantage of some much-deserved rest and time away from school, you have to survive some of the toughest weeks of teaching. 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 these ten special classroom management tips. Here are 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!” 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 the completed picture is displayed on a window, the light shines through the holes creating a lighted outline. Your students will 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!
Share information about family traditions and make December extra special!
December is the perfect time for your students to share information 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 create a bulletin board 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. Making something for the bulletin board is a great task to add to your December “I’m done!” list.
A special gift for every student…
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 or whiteboard
Select an 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
Sue Gruber taught the upper grades for years. In a moment of wild abandon, she decided to take the plunge and teach the grade she feared most—kindergarten! Sue just wrapped up her eleventh year in kindergarten and loves it. Who knows, the next grade level change might be to sixth grade!
Sue Gruber and Barbara Gruber, a mother-daughter writing team, have created dozens of products for Frank Schaffer Publications, Scholastic, The Education Center and other publishers. Barbara is a former teacher who was employed by Frank Schaffer Publications from l980 to l996. She developed and presented curriculum seminars nationwide for K-6 teachers.
Sue and Barbara launched Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers in 2002. They personally write each course with today’s students and busy teachers in mind. Teachers can do coursework completely on their own, or, if they wish, interact on line with others. They can earn one, two or three semester units from University of the Pacific. Barbara and Sue provide practical strategies and ideas that can be put into action immediately without creating more work for teachers. Barbara and Sue have created exactly what teachers are looking for—teacher-friendly courses at affordable prices. You can find out about their courses at www.bgrubercourses.com
Sue teaches full time, manages Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers and loves writing for the Teachers.Net Gazette. She lives in Sonoma County with her husband and son. Barbara consults for Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers; however, she has “retired” from the business. Retirement for Barbara means she’s busier than ever in Healdsburg, California on a 25-acre working farm called Healdsburg Country Gardens. She and her husband are grape growers for local wineries, have three guest houses for visitors and host wine country weddings.