Could December get any crazier? You’ve organized class parties, decorated your room, and planned fun, winter holiday activities. Throw in the end of the grading period, and it can all feel overwhelming! What you really want to do is go home, curl up on the couch in your pajamas, and binge-watch your favorite shows. Tired teachers, I feel you, so I’m sharing a few tips that will make your break more enjoyable and your return to the classroom go more smoothly.
✅ Clear your grading piles as much as possible. No one wants to carry home stacks of assignments or return to mounds of ungraded work. Sometimes this means giving a completion grade, collecting the work for student portfolios without grading, or simply tossing an assignment or two in the trash bin. (I'm not saying throw every assignment out, but I'm sure you have at least one activity that won't be missed.)
Categorize your assignments in three ways: Assignments, Checkpoints, and Practice. Students only know that their daily work will fall into one of these three categories; otherwise, they will quickly figure out how to play the game. Assignments are graded based on standards you've set up. Checkpoints are for Focus Correction Areas (you're only grading for a part of the work). Practice is a completion checkmark. Also, make sure you are assigning purposeful work, and remember that not everything a student does has to be graded.
✅ Plan Ahead. Wait...what? Yes, make plans for at least your first week back in the classroom after the break. The last thing you want to do is think about lessons, but when you spend time planning for the beginning of the new semester, you'll feel more relaxed and ready to go. If you’re following a scope and sequence, take a look at the upcoming units and develop your lessons with that information in mind. If you don’t have a curriculum map, choose your learning standards and begin thinking about your plans for those and ways to best teach them.
I also like to include goal-setting activities to get students back in the groove. They benefit from learning about SMART goals and understanding how small action steps can help them achieve what they want. Another activity my students enjoy is the Countdown to the New Year. You can grab it for free here.
✅ Revisit your classroom expectations. It’s always a good idea to revisit your classroom expectations and norms after an extended break. Maybe you want to try an SEL (social emotional learning) activity to reacquaint kids with their peers and welcome any new students. Maybe you are receiving an entirely new group of students altogether. In that case, you definitely want to begin by working on classroom community. I like to use digital student interest surveys to engage my students. Try out the Would You Rather survey in your classroom for free.
✅ Reflect on Your Teaching. In all my years of teaching, some of the best professional development I completed was done as part of my National Board Certification. I spent many hours reflecting on my teaching practice, which produced some pretty insightful observations like I should probably never video myself teaching again lol! The end of the calendar year is the perfect time to evaluate your successes and failures in the classroom because you want to add more of what worked well and throw out what didn’t. Download a free new year checklist and reflection page.
Wishing you the best of luck wrapping up all the merriment of the season in your classroom, and I hope you enjoy a well-deserved, wonderful break!