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Hey, gang.  It's Kelley Dolling from Teacher Idea Factory.  I am here to share a few ideas on resetting the classroom stage after a break.  

As we jump back into the teaching game after a glorious holiday vacation, I found myself pondering how I wanted our first week back together to play out. As I was lesson planning a handful of best practices popped into my head as I "penciled in" snowy-themed activities, specials, and new concepts.  

If I have learned anything in my nine years as a teacher, routine and review are both essential to a productive and successful classroom. I know you all are nodding right along with me.  If we really stop and think about it, many of our students have a home life that is so different from school life these days . . . do you know what I am getting at with this one?  It always takes some gentle and very straightforward reminders to help kids to get back in the swing of things after an extended period away from the classroom.  

With all this said, here are a few of the practices I always implement after an extended break in routine.

I like to take a moment during those first few days back to review the rules during the morning meeting.  Our babes (especially the primary ones) forget when they aren't with us every day.  Let's face it . . . they are LITTLE.  I will be pulling out our beloved Rules Rap from the beginning of the year to add a little extra sparkle to this review :)  I suggest taking a few minutes each morning this week to reset the stage and frontload all of those behavior expectations. 

Also, remember to really spell out what you want on those activities you roll with this week. I sometimes forget to hit this hard before each project as we were really coasting along before break.  However, our little sweeties do forget. I had to back up today and outline exactly what I wanted on a paper when I noticed they were rushing. We will be up to speed in no time . . . I just have to remember to lay ALL of the cards out on the table.  

Kids are always so chatty right when they come back. Our babes want to share all of their stories and talk to their buds. I don't fault them for this as I talk a mile a minute when I finally get to catch up with an old friend :) However, this can really booger up your classroom productivity and overall flow as you try to get back into the swing of things. 

Over the years, I have learned to embed time to share and talk to one another throughout the first week.  In addition to channeling their lively chatter, scheduling such breaks also rebuilds that classroom community feel that we need to get fired up again. Here are a few of my ideas in regards to TAKING THE TIME TO SHARE . . . 

Mix & Mingle - put on a fun song and invite your kids to cruise around the room. When the tune stops (you pause it after 15 seconds or so), students go find a partner and share something from their week off with each other. Play 3-4 rounds of this before bringing them back to the carpet to settle them.  We did this exact thing today and it was awesome -- I used Chubby's Twist for my song. The paraprofessional was in and so was a mother helper, but I didn't cave to the pressure to get groups going right away.  We just had these lovely ladies participate too :)  
My pictures from this year's Mix and Mingle turned out poor :(
Here's a picture of me utilizing this same idea at my old school.
They are up and movin' . . . dancing to da beat.
When the music stopped they found a partner to re-connect with :)

Author's Chair - write about your break . . . it's a no brainer.  I am sure most of you out there have this penned in for the first day back.  We completed this write on Monday and I made sure to take the time to host a little Author's Chair. It's another way to allow them to "get it out" . . . and sharing writing is always so powerful for kids.  #twobirdsonebigstone

Tub Time - This one will come in oh so handy on Thursday and Friday. My planbook has a little block of "play time" on both days. I am not breaking out the toys and I am not giving them ages to just dink around.  Instead, they will have linker cubes, puzzles, math games, pattern blocks, and other "build it" type items to choose from.  I plan to give them 15-20 minutes each day to fiddle with these items.  Not only does it give their little noggins a much needed break during this first week, but it also allows your students to interact with one another again.  
My kids LOVE Countdown.
This will be a choice during Tub Time in my room this week.

Instead of hitting the ground H-A-R-D, I urge you to ease them back into rigor. Yes, I know your admin is all about keeping pace, but a day or two ain't gonna kill anyone.  I have found that it will help with stamina too.  You know how tired you are going to be at the end this week. Our little guys are going to be struggling too.  In my opinion, if we don't hit them as hard, we will get more out of the things we teach.   

I suggest that you plan REVIEW activities for that first day back. When you introduce new concepts during the rest of the week, I have found that placing them in the morning when they are fresh works best.  Continue to pencil in that review and those specials in the afternoon if at all possible. Art, PE, and Math Centers are great afternoon activities during this first week back. 

A little bit of down time here and there (like 2-3 minuets) is good for the kid soul too.  Case in point . . . 

After we finished our spelling practice during rotations on Monday,
I gave them 2 minutes to draw as a treat.
They were so surprised and excited for the moment to just "be."

We took it slow on Monday and didn't get too much done. However, the items we did tackle were completed and they were completed well :) #happyteacher

This art ditty proved to be just the ticket on our first day back together.
It hit a standard and filled a bulletin board too!

A new year often means new ideas and practices.  If you are introducing new morning work, a writing procedure, or some sort of other routine, remember to teach it explicitly. 

Small group is always better than whole group in my opinion.  I know what you are thinking here.  But, Kelley . . . I can't give up my beloved group time.  My thought here is that by taking a brief moment to teach a routine or procedure directly in a manner that offers little distraction, helps you win in the long run. As my mom always said, pay me now or pay me later.  

The kids and I tackled this particular best practice today.
I am starting Ms. Moffatt's amazing comprehension journals in an independent group.
However, I directly taught these in small groups today.
Expectations were laid out and the process was taught EXPLICITLY :)
#thanksannie (as usual)
Alright, there you have it . . . a few ideas that I have utilized in my own classroom that have supported a successful restart! These might not all be for you, but hopefully you will leave with a trick or two to implement this week.  

On that note, I am off.  Here's to a wonderful first run back in action my friends. I'll see you again on Blog Hoppin' in a few months. Until then, catch my ideas over at Teacher Idea Factory.  

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