The Chalk Blog

10 Ways to Keep Students Focused Before a Holiday Break


Quiet avenue of trees after a snowstorm An aspect of winter more agreeable to many than what they often see on newscasts

This blog was originally published on December 9th, 2015, but it was so well received we wanted to share it again! 

With Thanksgiving behind us, that can only mean one thing, that winter break is not only on your mind, but is also on the minds of your students. Unfortunately, there are still a few more days of school to get through before winter break. So how do you keep your students' minds focused on school and working productively?  Here are our 10 best strategies to help keep students focused and save your sanity before the break.

1. Go outside. Research states even if it's cold outside, kids are re-energized by fresh air, light and movement.  When your students are groggy or antsy, have them bundle up and head out--even if it's only for 15 minutes.  Our bodies are designed to M-O-V-E.

2. Change up the seating!  Add some large exercise balls or cushions for seating. Or get really crazy and allow students to sit on the floor, even under their desks!  Students will love the novelty of this change and some may find they prefer this new seating option.

3. Keep idle hands busy. Give your students a manipulative like Play-Doh to handle when asked to listen and learn. Research shows, having something to do with our hands while listening actually helps us focus. Even better, lead your students in a DIY fidget activity

4. Let your students be the experts.  Encourage students to teach their peers about something they are passionate about like fishing, playing the trombone, origami or baking a cake.  Inspired by the Genius Hour Project, students can create and present to the class using traditional or multimedia platforms.  Any time students have a stake in learning, the more attentive they will be.

5. Do a desk switch.  Allow students to switch desks for a day or two.  Tie it to a writing lesson and you’ve got a win-win!  Students can write a persuasive letter to you detailing their reasons for the change.   This will freshen their perspective, and provide a jolt of energy to your learning community.

6. Add holiday/seasonal cheer to themed lessons & activities.  Students are all hyped up for the holidays, so use that to your advantaged with themed activities and units within your curriculum.  There are a wealth of holiday and seasonal activities to keep your students busy. Here are some examples you can use in your classroom:

  • budget gifts for the holiday using existing ads
  • write a play with the themes of sharing or the new year
  • discuss the history behind holidays or how holidays create a sense of culture within society

7. Incorporate multi-media into your teachings.  Add videos, animations or cartoons to your presentations.  Add Bitmoji, a personal avatar app, to spice up your communication with students.  The images make perfect digital stickers for your online assignments! 

8. Make a countdown calendar.  Similar to an advent calendar, make a countdown of the number of days left until winter break or the new year. Try one from this great list of ideas.

9. Take a break. Let students cuddle up with a book for mini-siesta, bring in board games from home for a fun day of play or make a special treat like these easy no-bake recipes.

10.  Laugh.  Joke.  Be silly.  Wear funny hats, clothing, or dress up as a character from a book or time period you are studying. Encourage students to be silly, too!

While it’s true that our students need to remain focused on their learning, sometimes teachers just need to infuse some good ol’ fun into the school day.  As you approach the break, try one of our 10 best strategies (they’ll keep you sane) and help you start the winter break off right! 

Mid Year Blues? Download this tip sheet to get you back into the teaching groove!

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration

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