Returning to school after the holidays can be a little difficult for everyone involved. Especially for students in lockdown. Just as you’ve fallen into a lovely holiday routine of sleeping in a little, taking bathroom breaks whenever you want and catching up on your reading, your break is over and you’re thrust back into the school routine. It’s an adjustment for you and it’s definitely an adjustment for your students too.
We know as well as you that motivating your students on the first day back from holidays is a challenge. To help you get your class on track we’ve put together our top tips to boost student motivation and refocus their energy on learning.
When your students come back from holidays, there will be a lot of exciting things they want to share with you. Even students in lockdown will have stories to tell, albeit of puzzles and trips to the local park. The anticipation of returning to school coupled with their desire to hear what their friends have been up to creates a lot of energy. And that will make returning to routine difficult.
Schedule some time first thing for students to tell you and their classmates what they got up to. By allocating some dedicated time, you’ll give them the opportunity to let out all of their exciting stories and energy so they can refocus on learning. This doesn’t have to be a traditional ‘show and tell’ style activity either. For younger students, you could get them to make a poster or a digital scrapbook with images that represent all of the fun things they got to do.
The first few days back are going to be busy. It’s a given. One way to try to refocus students and manage their energy throughout class is to break up the day with energisers. You might already have a set that you’ve used in earlier terms, but now is a really good time to get some new ones. Check out the downloads at the bottom of the blog to access some of our favourites.
Rich Lessons can also be a great way to switch on students brains in the early days of term (and all the time!). The tasks are designed to spark curiosity with students and to get them thinking. You can access three Rich tasks that we developed with Dan Finkel here.
For those who are physically in the classroom, now can be a great time to hit refresh on your space, it’s even backed by science. By rearranging and updating your classroom, you’ll capture student attention. Bringing the focus away from all the fun they had at the zoo and back to the learning that will take place this term.
Neuroimaging research shows that changes that are more likely to get student attention are new pictures, objects, posters, videos, unexpected class visitors or speaks, colour changes and things that you do that are different to usual.
Try adding new posters, objects and photos to your classroom and rearranging the tables and seating arrangements. You’ll re-engage your students with their surroundings and get them curiosity about what they’ll be learning this term. We’ve included some of our favourite growth mindset posters below.
Once the novelty of the school holidays wears off, it’s time to re-establish routines and procedures in the classroom. In the first week back, take the time to remind students of your classroom routines. Some new posters with old routines in them are a great way to remind students and capture their attention. It might take a few days for everyone to readjust. After all it isn’t just the classroom students need to get used to — it’s the whole back to school routine. The earlier mornings, the scheduled meal times, the after-school sporting games. They’re readjusting and you are too.
Also remember that routines and procedures exist to reduce distractions and time-wasting. So if any of your old ones didn’t work well last term, change them up. Again, you can use different posters to introduce the new routine and to refer to when things go off track.
For those returning from online learning to the classroom, read more about how to reset routines and habits here.
There’s no doubt the first few days of the new term are going to be full on. But with these simple tips we hope you can wrangle all of that energy and focus it back on learning.