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Bouncing Back After a Break: TEACHER FAVORITE [episode 43]


Click below to hear how to get back to teaching after winter break:

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Overview of episode 43:

We hope you’re loving your break from school, and that it includes lots of relaxing and rejuvenation. However, you know that returning to school is soon approaching, and going back has its challenges. To help you overcome those challenges, we’re sharing this encore episode with tips for teaching after winter break. 

While this episode first aired in the spring returning back from spring break, the same tips, strategies, and message still applies. No matter the time, it always takes some time to get back into teaching after winter break. Our tips range from going back to the beginning to look at goals, to sharpening procedures and routines, to looking to the future of planning for test prep, and looking at how to successfully end the school year. 

You’re about to start the second half of the school year, so we’re here to help provide you with tools to start the new year strong and give your classroom a reset. We encourage you to implement several of our tips to bounce back after winter break successfully!

Highlights from the episode:

[1:21] Today’s morning message: how would you like to spend a break from school, traveling or relaxing?

[2:43] 8 tips on how to make the transition from break easier.

[6:47] How to rebuild your classroom community and use it to your advantage.

[8:10] Ways to help you enjoy teaching after winter break.

[9:52] Today’s teacher approved tip for attention span training your students.


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Read the transcript for episode 43, Teacher Favorite: Bouncing Back After a Break:

Hey there. Thanks for joining us today. Today’s episode is an encore of one of our early podcast episodes. We thought this was a timely one to share as we come to the end of winter break.

This episode is all about how to reset your class after a break. As you’re headed back to your classroom in the next week or two, we wanted to share some tools to help start the new year strong. So let’s get to the episode.

Hey there. Welcome back. We are so excited. You are joining us today. In today’s episode, we’ll be discussing how to bounce back after school break and sharing a teacher approved tip for helping with students attention spans.

We’re going to be starting our episodes with a question of the day just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. This week’s morning message is how would you like to spend a break from school traveling or relaxing?

So Emily, what do you think? Oh, for sure, relaxing. I want to totally just veg and watch movies and read books and be lazy. 100% I totally get that.

But in my early days, my younger years previous life yes. I used to use spring break for like my big trip for the year. And that was awesome because things aren’t as crowded in April. And the weather pretty much everywhere is beautiful in April. But then you come back from Egypt and you’re exhausted for the rest of the school year. There’s no like the bummer straight back into school. Yeah.

So now I think I’m too old to be old and pull that off. It’s true. We did San Francisco. Oh my gosh. One year I did a road trip to Forks, Washington. Did you find Edward? We did not. We found Carlyle’s parking spot though.

So maybe you love to travel over spring break, but if you want to just have a staycation we don’t blame you for that, support that fully. And we’d love to hear your thoughts on this question. So you can find us on Instagram at @2ndstorywindow, and that is with a two.

Any transition really after a break can be difficult. So today, we’re going to talk about some of the things that you can do to make that transition easier. And to make sure that you’re ending the year on a high note.

So the first thing that can make getting back into your routines easier is to sharpen your procedures. Things have likely started to get a little lacks this time of year. You know, once the teachers letting stuff slide, then a lot of more stuff starts to slide, and no one can blame you because we’re all tired this time of year.

But it is worth revisiting your procedures and maybe even making it more of a like a formal revisit so that students know that your expectations have not started to get lacks even if their following of those expectations have. Right and with the importance of procedures, spending some time a couple times throughout the year to really refocus on them will lay the groundwork for all the other issues you might be dealing with in your class. Absolutely.

So what else we got Emily? So the next thing is to clear the clutter. Mid year, you’re likely finding a lot of clutter in your classroom, both physical and non physical clutter. Hopefully sharpening your procedures will help with some of the non physical clutter.

But you also need to work on clearing some of that physical clutter and you will probably feel a lot lighter when you do. So get rid of that faculty meeting agenda from three months ago that still sitting on your desk or look for all the dried out glue sticks and toss those out. Find a pile on your guided reading table and sort through it.

Clearing the clutter will freshen up your space and help you feel more refreshed. Another way to freshen up your space is to tweak your seating arrangement. And you may have a schedule for how often you do that already. But in the spring, you might find that you need to do it more often than you have been doing it because the kids are just so comfortable with each other by mid year.

And after a break is the perfect time to mix that up so that they’re not getting too comfortable and feeling chatty, chatty or causing other problems. So this is one of the reasons why if you have desks instead of tables, it’s a little bit nice because you can do different variations than you have before.

I kind of tended to stick to the tables, the table arrangements of the desks but there’s so many different ways you can arrange a desk like in a giant L, or a U shape, or I really like the like double E, I guess one would be three. So you had like little group of three, and on the side, it just seemed to spread them out as much as possible. But without having every desk individual that seemed to work really well for this time of year.

Normally, I’d have him in like tables of four or five, but you got to do what you got to do. Right? Absolutely. And so you just need to plan for the rest of the school year, you’re going to keep changing that up maybe weekly instead of how often you normally do.

So what’s next Heidi? If you’re coming back, this is the time you’re going to want to start working in some test prep everyone’s favorite. So start thinking about how you’re going to make this a part of your day.

Are you going to schedule a specific time for review games? Are you going to instead just keep your regular schedule and sprinkle in small review opportunities throughout the day? Or do you want to go big and have great big formal review times? There’s no right or wrong. It’s just what fits what your kids need, what you need, what the expectations are that you’ve maybe to have no control over.

And another advantage of mixing things up maybe to work in some test prep is that it helps adapt your daily schedule for shorter attention spans. So make a plan for how you’re going to adapt for those shorter attention spans. Can you work in more movement? Can you add in more music and art? Do you need to make your lesson shorter? Can you add in more brain breaks?

Mixing it up is really going to give you a lot of bang for the buck in just keeping the kids engaged and on task. Absolutely.

So next, you can try focusing on building your classroom community. Now part of what makes this very challenging is that the kids have been together so long that their behavior starts to get lacks and you know exactly what we’re talking about.

But the flip side of that is that being together so long means that your class has really built a classroom identity and you can lean into that to your advantage. So think about what can you do with your classroom community to freshen up the feel of your classroom at this time of year?

Do you want to start a kindness jar, or maybe do a behavior challenge. Maybe you could buddy up with another class and learn from each other, do some kind of service project together would be really fun. So that’s just one way, well, a few ways that you can help build your classroom community. But anything you do to focus on your community is going to have residual benefits in everything else you’re doing in the spring.

And along those lines of getting ready to finish the year strong, this point in the year if you’re in the spring, when you’re listening to this is a great time to set goals for the end of the year. You’re probably getting close to completing the majority of your curriculum about this time. But you don’t want kids to give up on their learning, right.

So look for an opportunity to celebrate their growth, and then set some final push goals for the end of the year. And that would be a good time to set a class goal, but the students could also have an opportunity to set personal goals that they want to achieve by the end of the year.

And what’s our last one, Heidi? Well, I think maybe this is the most important because it keeps you from burning out yourself. And it’s find something to be excited about. The last couple months of school can feel like a whole year. And they can be such a challenge to get through.

So one way to help brighten up those weeks is to find something to be excited about. And what is exciting for me may not be exciting for you, Emily or any other teachers out there.

So think about what fills your bucket as a teacher and then just lean into that. If it’s planning for a big theme day and a big classroom overhaul, go for it. Or if it’s reorganizing a cupboard, do that. If you want to make sure you have time to read a favorite book to your students schedule it in.

Remember what it is that you love about teaching and then find a way to make sure that that happens during this time of the school year. So that you’re gonna want to come back again at that next year. Absolutely. You want to remember why you became a teacher in the first place in the month when sometimes it might be hard to remember. Absolutely.

So to recap, when you’re coming back from a break some ways to freshen up your classroom are to number one, sharpen your procedures, two clear the clutter, three, tweak your seating arrangements, four building your test prep, five plan for shorter attention spans bless their hearts, six focus on building classroom community, seven set goals for the end of the year and number eight and our favorite is to find something to be excited about.

We hope these ideas will help you recover and thrive after spring break, or really any break.

Now let’s talk about this week’s teacher approved tip. Each week we’re going to leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week’s teacher approved tip is try attention span training with your students.

Heidi, tell us what that means. So this was something I stumbled on one year out of desperation, because I had this class and that were just, you know, like puppy dogs, just puppy dogs in a park full of squirrels just no attention. And so, I don’t even know where I came across this idea.

But the idea is to help build their attention spans by giving them a focal point. So I would start by drawing like a large circle on the board, and tell them that, you know, they had to focus on that, and I’d stepped to the side, so I could kind of see where their heads were looking. And then I’d start a timer, and then the second anyone looked away, we would just write that time down for the day.

So you know, maybe at first it was like three or four seconds, because it was, and then we would slowly build up and, and they could see the increase in time. And so they were motivated to try harder.

And then I would, you know, try and make it more of a game. So I would shrink the size down from, you know, a basketball size circle that they’re focused on to maybe like a quarter size circle. And then maybe I’d be off to the side and be like, Oh, your mom’s here, you know, like silly distractions, and they thought that was hilarious.

Or you could pick a different focal point that wasn’t always straight on the board, it could be okay, we’re all gonna focus on this corner tile in the ceiling, or the doorknob or just mix it up a little bit. But they’ve got very invested in improving their time. And I really do think it helped get through those last few months of the school year when they’re just everyone’s so squirrely, that it gave them some tools to like exercise that focus muscle a little bit.

Right. And we need them to be able to focus to get through the end of the year and not lose out on learning because they can’t focus. But also, let’s be honest, the end of your testing that you were probably required to do requires a strong degree of attention as well.

So we’re helping them be strong, their attention spans be strong enough to handle the challenge of testing that will be coming up as well, giving them some tools to cope instead of just throwing them in the deep end.

To wrap up the show we’re going to share what we’re giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, what are you giving extra credit to. So I just read the book Mad and Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency by Bea Koch. And it was just such an entertaining read.

I don’t always read a ton of nonfiction. But this was just so lively and engaging, that I couldn’t put it down. If you are at all interested in the regency era. And I feel like we’re in a regency moment, we’ve got fantasy coming back and Bridgerton starting up again. So it just felt like a good moment to dive in.

And it gave me such a perspective on women living at the turn of the 19th century. And a view into their lives in their own words that maybe we don’t get from, you know, Regency romance.

So one woman that I want to spotlight was Jane Morissette. And she was always really curious and learning about her world. And she went to a lecture on chemistry, and realized that it was something that young people should have access to that knowledge. And so she went home. And she wrote a book that broke down the basics of chemistry in a way that children could understand.

But she formulated it in a way that it was discussion between a governess and her two young charges. And like one of the charges kind of mischievous and curious and the way that they’re learning about it. And it was in such a unique way for the time. And it affected so many people later. And we know this because they would reference it in their writings and things going forward.

And Michael Faraday was impacted. He talks about how that has such an impact on who he became in his discoveries. So it’s kind of the way we might think of like Bill Nye the Science Guy Jane Morissette was the Bill Nye of the 1800s. And it was so fascinating to read about I had no idea. So go teacher, Jane Morissette. That’s exciting. I’m going to add that to my to read list. Yes, you should. It’s quick and very entertaining.

And what about you, Emily? What’s your extra credit? So I’m giving extra credit to my son Neil’s teacher, Mrs. Smith. So a few weeks ago, we got hit with the stomach bug and my kids missed several days of school. And during those days, my son’s class changed seats. I don’t know if they do it every Friday. I think they do it every two weeks. And it fell on that Friday that he missed.

And so the following week when we had conferences, his teacher brought it up to him and said, Hey, I noticed that when you arrived back to school after you’d been sick that when you walked in and you saw your new seat, your face looked a little bit disappointed. So how are you feeling about your seating spot?

And I so appreciated knowing that his teacher is paying attention to how my son is feeling at school and he was upset. There was a reason he was upset with the seat where he ended up with and she was so kind to him about it. She validated what he was feeling And she gave him the option to have a new seat or asked if he was willing to wait out until the next seat change in that spot, which I encouraged him to do.

He really was ready to be like, no, no, give me a new seat. But I talked him through it and he was like, okay, I can do it. I can I can take that challenge. It was only like another week at that point. But I just so appreciate a teacher who’s paying attention to all the needs of her students, and we know how hard that can be even outside of just academic needs. So extra credit to Mrs. Smith. We love her.

That’s it for today’s episode. Try out some of our tips to help you bounce back after screen break or any other school break, and try today’s teacher approved tip to build your students attention spans.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever