As we enjoy the last of the busy school days with our students prior to winter break, now is a good time to think about January and helping our students look forward to returning to school! Here are a few things I do each year to prepare:
I introduce a new read-aloud book that we will start in January by reading an exciting paragraph or two that will hook students, then I display the book in the front of the room as a visual reminder that we have something to look forward to! The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo is a wonderful read-aloud (yes, I read picture books to my middle schoolers!). Love that Dog and Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech are great January read-alouds that get students laughing (and thinking . . . and writing). Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a riveting read-aloud for middle schoolers that hooks students on a series — many of them will go on to read the rest of the series — 7 books in all — on their own!
Give students a few minutes during the last day or two to cut out paper snowflakes while you read a book aloud. Provide students with either coffee filters or copy paper (cut into 8×8 squares or 4×4 squares) to make snowflake-cutting more manageable. Use double-sided tape to hang the snowflakes around the room. You may also want to hang a few from the ceiling with fishing wire. Add a few white paper lanterns from the ceiling and return to a Winter Wonderland in January!
Take a few minutes on the last day of school prior to break to have students clean and organize their own desks, tables, cubbies, and work spaces. I also organize my own work spaces and clean the tops of all surfaces (hello, Lysol Dual Action Disinfecting Wipes!). There’s something really energizing about coming back to an extra-clean room! Students seem better able to focus and concentrate when their classroom is clean and organized – it’s a nice re-set button to push!
Bring in a couple of lamps. January’s gray days can be brightened with a little extra light in our classrooms, and a couple of colorful, fun table lamps or floor lamps add an ambience that is much more effective for learning than harsh overhead lights!
Plan a fun activity for the first or second week in January and build it up on the last day of school before break. Activities that work well in January include marshmallow catapults, Snow Ball (a fun day filled with snow-related activities and read-alouds), and snowman-building challenges (students work in teams to build snowmen using balls of newspaper that can later be recycled).
January is the perfect time to either reinforce or re-establish classroom expectations, so I also plan a couple of fun ice-breaker-type activities for our first days back that will provide an opportunity to review classroom rules, routines, and procedures.
Planning ahead for January can help both you and your students look forward to returning to school after a long winter’s
nap break! What do you do to re-energize your class in January?
Plan Now for a Brrr-illiant January was written by Literary Sherri.