Blackhawk Bulletin

December 13, 2015

7 teacher tips for surviving the week before holiday break

We’re heading into the home stretch here in 2014, and it can be one of the hardest times in which to maintain order in the classroom. Fortunately, there are ways to make the last few days count and maintain your sanity:

1. Don’t build anticipation.

Assemblies, presentations, and other holiday events are unavoidable in December, but you can prevent your class from getting over-excited by staying focused on daily routines instead of special activities. I list my schedule changes in a prominent place for the type of children who need to have a plan, but I don’t mention the special events at all unless we need to prepare. If a student asks when the holiday party is, I point to the schedule, then change the subject.

Right before an event, I explain what’s happening in a calm voice: “We’re going down to the cafeteria now for the chorus performance. That will take up part of our math time. When we get back, we will complete our math warm-ups just like we usually do, and then continue with our graphing activity.”

2. Resist the urge to ease up on your behavioral expectations.

Believe me when I say that easing up will backfire completely. When the teacher is lackadaisical, it just adds to the environment of chaos that the students are slowly creating and makes it harder to get the class back on track. If the kids run to line up, shake your head and nonchalantly tell the whole class to sit back down and try again. “I know you’re excited about the chorus performance. But we need to line up in a quiet and orderly way, just like we always do. Let’s see which table is ready to try again. Watch Team Three as they walk at aappropriate pace over towards the door. Notice how they pushed their chairs in. Do you see how they are facing forward and not talking? Excellent. Team Four, your turn to try.”

Yes, it’s December. And yes, you still have to do this.

3. Review your procedures and expectations.

It’s probably been a few weeks or months since you’ve articulated and modeled some of your classroom procedures for the entire class. (Just because you tell the same four kids over and over that NO, they cannot get a drink in the middle of a lesson, does not mean the rest of the class was paying attention when you reiterated your expectations.)

A fun way to reinforce the rules is with my Class Rules Review Games: Fun paper-based & PowerPoint activities. There’s one PPT slide for each category of expectations (Papers, Homework, Moving Around Campus, Working Cooperatively, etc.), and each slide has questions about related classroom routines. The slides don’t include the answers so that the kids can supply them (bonus: you can modify your rules without redoing the PowerPoint).

This can be used as a teaching tool and to spark discussion, or can be played as a competition between teams (who knows our classroom routines the best?). I always liked to do a few slides each week during December and again when we returned in January, and it made a remarkable difference in how smoothly my classroom ran.

4. Integrate high-interest projects and group work into your regular routines.

I like to finish the majority of my content instruction early in the month so that students can spend most of the last week before break just practicing and applying skills. On the last few days of December, they typically published their narrative essays in writing, completed main idea partner activities in reading, created multiplication fact houses in math, and made land form changes pop-up books in science.

These activities are interesting enough to keep the kids focused on their work, and don’t require them to be sitting still and following along with me. We did, however, continue with regular routines for morning work, reading groups, math and writing warm-up assignments, and so on, to send the message that this is a regular school day with regular expectations.

The idea is that the kids don’t notice a change in the way the day is run; only you as the teacher are aware of the subtle differences in the way content is presented and activities assigned.

5. Don’t feel pressure to do all of the elaborate holiday stuff that other teachers do.

So what if the teacher across the hall covers her room in tinsel and lights and creates extensive holiday-themed centers which culminate in a life-size replica of the first North Pole expedition? Don’t compare yourself, and don’t wear yourself out trying to keep up. New teachers, especially, need to resist the urge to take on more than they can handle. Figure out some simple festive things you can do that won’t create a lot of stress, and stick with those. You can always add a little more next year.

This advice goes double for buying students presents. Your teammate may choose to spend $50 on trinkets, and that’s fine. But you’re not a bad teacher if you don’t.

6. Keep the last day before break low-key.

Three hours before you pack up your whole family and make an eight hour trip to grandma’s house is NOT the time to plan an elaborate fraction-review-gingerbread-house-decorating activity. You’ll be distracted by your own holiday plans, the kids who actually show up to school will be too excited to follow directions, and you’ll be running around like crazy to clean up so you can leave on time.

Instead, give meaningful work assignments that the kids will enjoy completing, and enjoy the last day together. This will also help you…

7. Get prepared for January before you leave.

Try to use the day before break to take down any seasonal decorations you have up, change the calendar, finalize your lesson plans and materials for the first day back, etc. There’s nothing worse than coming back to work after a week off to discover silver glitter and unwritten thank you cards all over your desk. A new year is coming. Give yourself a new start!

Here is the plan for the Holiday Lunch on Tuesday, December 15:

Second grade and Third grade will switch specialist times on Tuesday, December 15th. Tammy English will be in the lunchroom helping as needed until specials begin.

Lunch Times:

3rd Grade:

10:25 - 10:55 - Bettilyon - Supervisor: Edwards

10:30 - 11:00 - Szymanski - Supervisor: Edwards

10:35 - 11:05 - Morton - Supervisor: Cole

10:40 - 11:10 - Hamlin - Supervisor: Cole

10:45 - 11:15 - Wilson

10:50 - 11:20 - Hyatt

*Wilson and Hyatt should plan to take their trays back to the classroom.

*Third grade will go to specials at 12:00.

2nd Grade:

11:00 - 11:30 Crayton - Supervisor: Crain

11:15 - 11:45 Peters - Supervisor: Crain

11:30 - 12:00 Brookshire - Supervisor: Prettyman

11:45 - 12:15 Griffin - Supervisor: Prettyman

12:00 - 12:30 Hamilton - Supervisor: Ernst

12:15 - 12:45 Yopp - Supervisor: Ernst

*Second grade will go to specials at 12:50.

4th Grade:

12:30 - 1:00 Lanning - Supervisor: Huffman

12:40 - 1:10 Webb - Supervisor: Huffman

12:50 - 1:20 Fields - Supervisor: Huffman/Shelton

1:00 - 1:30 Ingle - Supervisor: Shelton

1:10 - 1:40 Shelton - Supervisor: Shelton

*Depending on the number of guest still in the cafeteria when Lanning and Webb enter the cafe, they may need to take their trays back to the classroom.

*Fourth grade will have normal specials.

Please let me know ASAP if you see a problem with this. This plan extends some assistant schedules later in the day. Please make sure your time balances within the week.

Please watch this video regarding Classroom Greeter expectations. Remember that each classroom should now have a classroom greeter. You can refer back to the video as needed to review expectations. A special thanks to everyone involved in making the video! I think it was Fields, Tierney, Aubry and Martin but please excuse me if I left someone out!

Classroom Greeters 2015-2016

Updates from Crisis Team Meeting

  • Don't forget to lock your door! When you leave your classroom (especially at the end of the day) don't forget to lock up! Remember that as much as we try to limit non-essential people in the building, it could happen. Protect your personal belongings as well as school technology by locking your door each day.
  • Make sure you have your entire class when traveling through the building. Some Crisis Team members shared that they had noticed some 'stragglers'. Many things could happen when students linger behind the rest of the class. Try to keep everyone in close proximity.
  • Safety Patrol members will not go outside if the temperature is under 32 degrees. In this situation, other locations may have too many people so staff members may send some Safety Patrol members back to class. The new Safety Patrol vests are for students on outside duty. They must be returned to the main lobby after AM and PM duty.
  • Additional item not discussed at the meeting: Substitutes will not be given door codes. A sub can enter the building from recess with another class or they can walk around the building by the gym and enter through the front door. Outside doors should NEVER be propped open.
Click HERE to vote on our next staff Super HAWK!

Click on the title to vote on our new staff Super HAWK. The deadline is December 17th.

HAWK Habit Leader - Student Recognition

Record the results of your class vote by Thursday, December 17th. All students will be recognized on Friday, December 18th.

Upcoming Events

  • December 14 - Mr. Brown from Horace Mann in the old ESL room if you want to meet with him.
  • December 14 - MTAC Meeting @ 2:45
  • December 14 - Math Team Meeting at 2:45
  • December 15 - PTO Board reviewing grant proposals
  • December 15 - December Holiday Meal - 2nd Grade Parents and Special Guests Invited
  • December 15 - Data Notebook Action Team Meeting at 2:45
  • December 16 - Principals Meeting
  • December 16 - Mr. Mashburn from Valuteachers in the conference room if you want to meet with him.
  • December 16 - SIT Meeting - Please send agenda items to Amanda Brookshire.
  • December 16 - Staff gathering at Margaret Tierney's home from 3:30-6 PM. Please bring your favorite appetizer to share! I hope we have a lot of people take advantage of this opportunity to be together. Some of our staff members commented about how little they knew about one another recently - so here is your chance!
  • December 17 - NBMS Band Tour at 1:30 in the Gym
  • December 17 - Flurries of Friendship at 2:45 at WPS (SHHHHHHH, it is a secret!)
  • December 21 - OTWD - Please go ahead and enter your absence if you are not working!
  • January 4 - Return to School
  • January 5 - WvES Advisory Council Meeting at 9:15
  • January 7 - Visit by LIM Coach, Sarah Ann Taylor. Lighthouse Team Members will have 1/2 day AM subs. Ms. Taylor will attend team meetings in the PM to answer any questions. Staff Meeting afterschool.
  • January 13 - Assistant Workshop on Phonics (more info to come)
  • January 13 - Literacy Team Meeting
  • January 14 - Lighthouse Team Meeting
  • January 18 - Holiday
  • January 19 - OTWD
  • January 20 - Principals Meeting
  • January 20 - SIT Meeting
  • January 25 - Math Team Meeting - Joint meeting with WPS
  • January 27 - NB District 1:1 PLN (Professional Learning Network) Meeting at NBES (4th grade, ESL, AIG, Title 1, EC and Media) @ 3:15
  • January 28 - NB District 1:1 PLN (Professional Learning Network) Meeting at WvES (Art, Music, PE) @ 3:30
  • January 29 - Principals Meeting
  • May 5 - Production of "The Imagination Case" by Drama Club and Chorus (6:30 PM)
  • August 15 - School Leader in Me Training
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