My favorite part about the new year is that it feels like a second chance at a fresh start with your class! Here are some ideas and tips to inspire you to take this opportunity to revitalize your classroom!
1. Sharpen your procedures!
Doesn't it sometimes feel like you come back from winter break and your kids have forgotten every procedure you worked so hard on at the beginning of the year? January is the perfect time to reteach all those important procedures. Taking a bit of time to do it now will benefit you and save time during the rest of the school year. If you used our Guided Discovery set at the beginning of the school year, now would be the perfect time to brush up on what you covered earlier in the year. The last pages of the teacher's guide has ideas for mid-year reminders. Do you feel like you didn't cover the procedures well enough at the beginning of the year? Take the time to stop and do it now. You still have many months of school left, so make the most of them by tightening up those procedures.
Quick tip: if refreshing all your procedures seems too overwhelming, choose the most important procedure that you feel needs work and focus on that only. Chances are that effort will pay off big time in your day to day classroom management.
2. Tweak seating arrangement
How is your current seating arrangement working? Chances are your class could do with a switch up. If the desk arrangement is working well enough, you could just move the students to freshen things up. But if you think it's time for a major change, try a completely new arrangement of your desks!
Quick tip: we highly recommend turning your students' desks around so that they don't store anything inside them! You will save so much time by not having to clean out desks or deal with lost items and distractions hidden in desks. We stored our students' workbooks, notebooks, etc. in stacking plastic drawers. This one small change will make a big difference!
Check out our Classroom Setup Pinterest board we have to help you find some new seating arrangement ideas.
3. Plan ahead for test prep
You've still got a few months, but the end of the year is creeping closer! Take a good look at the core and think about where your kids need to be before those big, hairy tests. What can you do now to make sure they're ready in a few months? Focus on persuasive writing? Really push those math facts? We have a fun set of around-the-room review games. Consider setting it up for your students in the next few weeks so you can pin-point those holes in understanding. Our morning work and homework pages spiral review the most important areas of content. If you aren't using these yet, try using these pages at some point during your day or as homework. We think you'll be surprised how much students can learn from just a little bit of practice and review each day.
Quick tip: Work on building on-task stamina with your students and keep track of their progress on a class graph. This skill will help them to focus during testing time.
4. Mid-year assessments
Deciding how to structure the rest of your year will be easier when you have a good idea of how your students are progressing. So, do those mid-year assessments. If you do Words Their Way, you'll want to do another round of the Primary Spelling Inventory. Take a good look at your students' mid-year fluency. Are they meeting those benchmarks? We've got loads of ideas to help your kids keep progressing with fluency.
Quick tip: If you're doing an assessment like the WTW PSI that is given multiple times a year, try using a different colored pen for each quarter's assessment so that it's easy to see at each assessment's specific data at a glance.
If you live somewhere that receives cold winter weather, you'll definitely want to plan ahead for inside recess.
Some of our favorite activities to have on hand are:
- board games (like Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish, and we LOVE the cooperative games from Peaceable Kingdom)
- educational movies like the fun Scholastic Storybook Treasures
- books and read along cds (the Scholastic book orders are a great place to stock up on these)
- blocks or any type of building material. I bought a giant bag of SOLO plastic cups and the students LOVED spending recess building with them.
- websites like GoNoodle, Adventure to Fitness, and BrainPop
And of course, Brain Breaks are perfect for inside recess. Check out our post for tons of ideas and resources for no prep/no technology Brain Breaks and also take a look at our Brain Breaks Pinterest board!
Quick tip: summer themed brain breaks would be tons of fun to use with your class during the winter, or vice versa!
6. Tackle the idea that seemed too daunting in September
Before school starts you have a million ideas for your classroom, right? And then you start getting ready and you realize that you can't possibly be ready to do all of them at the beginning of the year. When it comes to starting something new in your classroom, it can be especially overwhelming at the start of the year. But January is the perfect time to give those ideas a try.
Here are some ideas of things you could try tackling in the new year:
Quick tip: start with one idea and see what you have energy for!
7. Maximize Your Mornings
If you have a tight routine for your mornings, you'll be amazed at what you can get done in that time. Ideally, a good morning routine builds in time for you to do clerical tasks, time for students to wake up their brain with rigorous and meaningful morning work, and time to connect through morning meetings and morning messages. Take a look at our 2nd Grade Daily Schedule to get an idea of how we structure our mornings. If your mornings aren't what you want them to be, see where you can tighten up that routine!
Quick tip: if you use morning messages, do them in advance! If you are scrambling to come up with a message everyday, it's easy to fall out of the routine. That's why we planned out morning messages for the whole year in advance and reused them every year.
8. Set Goals
It's so important for students to have the opportunity to reflect on their skills and set goals for the future. It would be a great time to show them some work they completed at the beginning of the year and compare it with recent work and see how far they come. Then they can reflect on what they would like to improve on before the end of the year.
Quick tip: sign up for our newsletter and snag these free goal setting pages for grades K-6! The download includes a teacher's guide, specific pages for each grade, and also pages that leave the grade-level portion blank so you can pick and choose what you use and how you use it. You will receive a link to download the freebie in your signup confirmation email.
9. Clear Clutter
Completely overhauling your classroom organization can be daunting mid-year. Save the big declutter for the summer, but pick one thing right now to tidy up. Maybe clean out one cupboard or make a goal about emptying your box in the office every day. For me, the trouble space was always up by my whiteboard. Keeping that one little spot clutter free made a good resolution.
Quick tip: if you're holding on to odds and ends that you think you might maybe need someday (but you haven't yet found a use for) we give you permission to get rid of these things! Chances are you will never miss it and you will definitely appreciate the way a clutter-free environment will energize you and your classroom space!
10. Find Something You’re Excited About
This time of year can be tough as a teacher! One bit of advice I got was to have at least one thing you're excited to teach the next day. It makes such a difference in my attitude and the feeling in my classroom if I'm looking forward to at least one part of the day! Some days I was excited about a fun grammar lesson on contractions. Some days it was getting my class excited about counting coins. Some days it was feeling the kids' enthusiasm for our read aloud. It didn't matter what as long as I had something fun that made it worthwhile to crawl out of my warm bed!
Quick tip: Why not take a peek at your TPT wish list? Treat yourself to something that would make a dark, cold day a little brighter! Tell us in the comments what you bought for YOU!
Don't reinvent the wheel! We've done a lot of hard work on homework, morning work, vocabulary curriculum, fluency, and more so that YOU don't have to. Visit our TpT store and treat yourself! You deserve a break.