Keeping Kids Focused and Calm During the Holidays: 3 Tips!

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December is in full swing…which means there is no shortage of schedule interruptions and exciting events to distract your students and get them wound up. Not to mention, they know they don’t have long before they have another break from school, which makes it extra difficult to keep them grounded in any kind of instruction. The odds are really just stacked against us teachers during the holiday season, and it’s easy to let yourself drown in the crafts and gifts and programs and behavior infractions for the entire month.

BUT, I am the biggest believer in getting ahead of the system and thinking proactively, rather than just letting the kids be rowdy and reacting to it. That leads to frustration, stress, and exhaustion during a time of year that we really should be enjoying. So, I have three tips for you on how you can combat the crazy during this holiday season in your classroom!

Tip 1: Anticipate the Chaos, and Have Creative Classroom Management in Place

Let’s not be the teachers who are shocked that our kids are wild on December 15th. They will be. Receive this knowledge. Accept it. Plan for it. This is the perfect time of year to introduce a classroom management routine that your students have never seen before.

I talked about my “blackout board” routine on Instagram the other day. As students earn compliments from me or other adults around the building, we write them on the different squares of the board. When they fill them up (aka getting a Blackout), they get to vote on a reward.

Another idea that teachers every seem to love is my Blurt Alert! Product on TPT. This helps creatively manage your chatty kiddos…which we all have…and they all seem to get worse in December!

Tip 2: Plan Themed Lessons that Give your Kids an Outlet for Their Excitement

Now, what I’m not saying here is to go out of your way to put on a dog and pony show for your students. We all have personal lives happening during December, too: shopping, parties, family obligations, volunteering…it’s very hard to carve out the planning time to devote to super-involved lessons. If you can, hey…more power to you! But, I would be cautious about planning things far outside of your students’ norms if you’re not right up against your break. That can actually make things worse for you!

Instead, what simple switches can you make in the instruction that you’re already planning to do? Can you change out the basal-recommended text for a text about winter or holidays? Can you integrate holiday shopping into your economics lesson by bringing in some store circulars? Can you take the word problems in your math lesson and re-write them to include giving and receiving gifts? Small, simple changes go a long way with your students when they are already so looking forward to something-it makes a bigger impact on them, and it gives them a way to laugh and smile and think about their excitement without straying away from the instruction you need them to have!

Tip 3: Leave some Space for Character Education

I always try to work in conversations about giving and kindness this time of year. It’s important to me that my students don’t spend the entire month leading up to their break dreaming of the gifts that they will be getting. I want to expand their thinking outside of themselves a little bit if I can. This year, I’m trying something new. I created a Kindness Challenge activity for my students to do on the 12 days leading up to their break. Each time they complete one of the challenges successfully, they will earn a letter. Over time, the letters will spell out a special reward that will be redeemed the day before Winter Break begins!

My plan is that the extra focus on kindness and thoughtfulness will help my students stay mindful of each other, rather than just focusing on what they want (to be on break playing with new toys). I want them to stay away of the fact that there are 20 little humans in the room with them as well as a teacher, and their desires are not always the most important ones in any given moment. Taking time to give out compliments, or high five each other will be a way to practice mindfulness first thing in the morning for the 12 days leading up to our break, but it won’t take away from our schedule!

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So, there you have it, teacher friends! If you work those three things into your classroom this December, I promise you an easier time with management, and you will send your kiddos off to their break feeling ready to relax yourself, but not completely haggard.

What do you do to get ahead of the Christmas crazy in your classroom??

Stephanie Sutherland