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Uncategorized   |   Dec 11, 2008

December survival tips (part two)

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

December survival tips (part two)

By Angela Watson

Click here for part one of the December Survival Tips.


Could also be called ‘The Teaching Gap’, no? More ideas to get you through:

Integrate high-interest projects and group work into your regular routines.

I like to finish the majority of my direct instruction early in the month so that the week before break, students can spend most of their time applying skills. Next week, my class will be publishing their narrative essays in writing, completing main idea partner activities in reading, creating multiplication fact houses in math, and making land form changes pop-up books in science. These activities are interesting enough to keep the kids focused on their work, and don’t require them to be sitting still and following along with me. We will, however, continue with regular routines for morning work, reading groups, math and writing warm-up assignments, and so on, to send the message that this is a regular school day with regular expectations. The kids won’t notice a change in the way the day is run; only I will be aware of the subtle differences in the way content is presented and activities assigned.

Don’t feel pressure to do all of the elaborate holiday stuff that other teachers do.

So what if the teacher across the hall covers her room in tinsel and lights and creates extensive holiday-themed centers which culminate in a life-size replica of the first North Pole expedition? That teacher either: a) sacrifices her own mental sanity in order to live up to the unrealistic expectations she’s placed on herself, or b) has a higher tolerance for stress and more free time on her hands. Either way, she’s not you. Don’t compare yourself, and don’t wear yourself out trying to keep up. (That goes double for buying presents for the kids. Your teammate may choose to spend $50 on trinkets. But you’re not a bad teacher if you don’t.)

Keep the last day before break low-key.

Three hours before you pack up your whole family and make an eight hour trip to grandma’s house is NOT the time to plan an elaborate fraction-review-gingerbread-house-decorating activity with your students. You’ll be distracted by your own holiday plans, the kids who actually show up won’t be able to follow directions, and you’ll be running around like crazy to clean up so you can leave on time. Instead, give meaningful work assignments that the kids will enjoy completing, and enjoy the last day together. This will also help you…

Get prepared for January before you leave.

Use the day before break to take down any seasonal decorations you have up, change the calendar, finalize your lesson plans, etc. There’s nothing worse than coming back to work after two weeks off to discover silver glitter and unwritten thank you cards all over your desk. It’s a new year. Give yourself a new start.

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. Hi, Angela,

    Teachers are stressed enough as it is. Having some periods of low-key work is not “slacking off” and it is a chance to break a routine a break and and use the time for more interaction. I’ve distributed word searches on Chanukah and have students write stories in groups. So there are some “fun” skills too. Teachers can let their hair down a bit too. Good tips – excellent post.

    Dorit Sasson
    “Helping You Become a Successful and Confident Teacher”
    The New Teacher Resource Center

  2. Hi Angela, I appreciate your thoughtful comments on my blog. I also really connected to this post, especially the part about not worrying about what other teachers are doing for the holidays. At my school, there are teachers that do a lot of stuff for show around the holidays. There bulletin boards look amazing and their classrooms festive, but what are the kids really learning about family traditions and different kinds of celebrations? I try to keep the holidays special, but “light” as you said. For example, on Halloween, I didn’t go all out with the decorations or costumes, or projects. I simply carved a pumpkin with the students that we used as a model and later shared writing for our “How-to” procedural writing unit. For the December holidays, I’m focusing on read aloud with the children and conversations about how different families celebrate different holidays together. Maybe we’ll make paper snowflakes (with a little glitter) on the last afternoon for them to take home to their families. And you know what, it will be more than enough for the kids.

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