Keeping Kids Focused Between Thanksgiving and Holiday Break
The time between Thanksgiving and holiday break or winter break is known as an educational wasteland. Students tend to be more concerned with their gift lists and which games will be compatible with their new video game systems rather than their studies. Unfortunately, this time is also right in the middle of the school year, when things need to be moving at full speed in order to meet your objectives. The secondary teachers are even moving toward semester exams. So, how can you ensure that the time between Thanksgiving and winter break isn’t a bust? We’ve got the tips you need to keep students engaged and focused.
Tips for Parents
How can you ensure your child stays engaged in learning between Thanksgiving and winter break? Lots of holiday-season tasks, like working on writing skills with holiday card duty or practicing budgeting and math skills while shopping and cooking, can keep your child’s mind working over break. Here are five ideas to get started:
1. Explore Opportunities to Learn Online
Connect with your child’s teacher to find out what online learning resources are available for use at home during the break. This will help keep open lines of communication with your child’s teacher, and it will give you the opportunity to learn more about tools your child uses every day. As you plan out schedules, set aside daily or weekly times for your child to log in and continue their classroom learning at home.
2. Use the Kitchen as a Learning Tool
The kitchen can offer a great teaching and learning experience. Whether reading recipes, measuring ingredients, or learning about temperatures, giving your child the opportunity to actively participate in creating your family’s delicious holiday treats is an excellent chance to sharpen math and reading skills. Plus, you’ll gain a great new sous chef!
3. Don't Forget Story Time
Time off from school doesn't have to mean time off from reading! Over the holidays, schedule time to read to your child and model good reading strategies. Give your young learners the opportunity to even more actively participate in the joy of reading by having them read their favorite holiday stories to you. Pick out themed books, ask thoughtful comprehension questions, and have fun getting lost in a story together!
4. Get Out and About
Days off from school and work around the holidays can be a great opportunity to get out and do some activities you may not usually have time for. Check your local paper or community blog for educational opportunities for your whole family. Whether it’s a holiday fair where your young child can practice counting tickets, or a trip to the mall where older children can help budget for gifts, there are lots of ways to get the whole family involved and having fun.
5. Create a Holiday Scavenger Hunt
Before the fall semester officially comes to a close, start working on a holiday-themed scavenger hunt for your child. Pick prizes, set goals, and think of festive clues, experiences, and research that your kids can complete over their break. Here’s a good example to get you started—be sure to click the link for the answer!
I’m made of two colors
And I look just like a hook
You’ll give me a lick
But I’m not something you cook
Tips for Teachers
How do we keep everything on track in the classroom in what is known as the most distracting time of the school year? Below are some of our recommendations to keep students on track.
1. No Countdowns
We get it; you’re excited about break, too. So much so that you’ve put a countdown on your board with X amount of school days before the break; you and your students can stare at it together, willing the number to go down.
Of course, if you’re staring at the number, nothing else is getting done. So, try to avoid any reminders of the upcoming freedom. Trust me: the students know how close they’re getting to being free, and you have probably programmed an alert in your phone’s calendar. You don’t need any further reminders.
That said, it probably won't hurt to make sure you and your students spend a moment going through your December agenda and reviewing any important due dates for assignments, projects, or end-of-semester exams once you return from Thanksgiving.
2. Maximize Engagement
This takes a little experience and trial and error, but if you know which of your units is the most engaging for the year, make it a point to schedule it during this month. Of course, you would like to think all your lessons are engaging, and you might be right. But if you’re honest, there is always a favorite in your arsenal.
If it’s truly your favorite unit, you will inherently have more enthusiasm for the content. That enthusiasm will rub off on the students, hopefully keeping the students focused more on the content and less on the holiday around the corner. Check out a few more tips from educators on how to boost engagement this time of year.
3. Assess Students Constantly
Keeping an eye on the pulse of the class is very important in these distracting times. You want to know quickly if the kids have started slipping. More importantly, you want them to know that they are falling behind.
This doesn’t have to mean quizzes every day (although that would definitely keep the kids focused). Employ a mix of informal assessment, online tasks and data, and tracking. Also, make sure the kids understand the data you are gathering and can see for themselves the effects their lack of attention may be having on their progress. You might even want to employ some gamification ideas, like achievements and badges, to keep them striving forward.
Final Thoughts: Focusing Between Thanksgiving and Holiday Break
It’s no secret that the few weeks between Thanksgiving and holiday break are some of the toughest for students and teachers alike. Fortunately, with some strategic thinking and extra attention, you can keep your students engaged with your classroom material so you’re prepared for the new year.
Looking for more ideas on keeping your students focused? Check out these six classroom strategies you can implement today to motivate students.
This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated.