Even during normal times, both teachers and students need a kick-start after returning from winter break. The long winter months lie ahead, and there is still a lot of teaching to do. Making a few key changes to your instruction and daily routine will help re-energize both you and your students so you finish the year strong.

Here are a few ideas to increase motivation and create a fresh start after winter break:

1 – Change things up. Making a few adjustments to your normal routine can give students a motivational boost when they come back from winter break. You may consider changing the order of your daily lesson plan, implementing a new on-task reward system (i.e. earning points for a prize or extra free time), or starting the school day with morning meetings (time reserved each day to let students share about what is going on in their lives). If you are teaching students remotely, you can switch up your Zoom background or plan a silly hat day. These simple changes can help increase students’ attention and enthusiasm.

Of course, be mindful how changes may impact students with special needs. For example, students with ADHD, autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome may have problems with changes to their learning environments or routines. In this case, it may be important to communicate with these students ahead of time. You could even provide them with a daily planner that lists out every activity for the day. They could check off the activity once it is finished, which will help provide a sense of control and clarity.

2 – Set new goals. The New Year is a great time to set new goals. Take stock of what students have learned in the first half of the year and assess what still needs to be accomplished. Set new goals based on where students are in their learning, what concepts need additional time, and what material you need to cover for the remainder of the year.

Help students learn how to set goals, too. When students return to class, get them excited about the months ahead by involving them in the planning for the rest of the year. Here is a helpful article that explains how to teach students effective goal-setting skills, and how this increases their social-emotional competence.  

3 – Re-assess classroom rules. Involving students in establishing classroom rules and consequences is an important way to gain ownership and buy-in. When students come back from break, take time to re-evaluate classroom rules. You may find that some rules created at the beginning of the year no longer apply, and there may be new rules that need to be established.

4 – Bring fresh SEL activities into your daily routine. Freshening up your SEL lessons can breathe new life into your instruction. Start the new term with new SEL activities. Need some ideas? Check out our blog, 16 Social and Emotional Learning Activities for ideas on integrating SEL into core instruction.

Kick off the New Year with a bang by switching up your routine, setting new goals, and updating classroom rules. Also bring fresh SEL activities into your instruction to keep students engaged. Students will be more motivated to learn, and you can stave off the winter teaching blues. Refreshing your routine now will give you the boost you need to finish the year strong.