Wondering how you can maintain better control during the holiday season? Keep reading for three important classroom management tips for secondary teachers.
When you picture comfort and joy of the holiday season, do crazy students come to mind? The kind that can’t focus due to the excess amount of sugar consumption from all those Christmas cookies? The kind that are normally so sweet but now seem to remind you regularly of exactly how many days are left until break? The kind that usually turn homework in on time but lately seem to be doing a lot of grumbling and mumbling? Surely, crazy students do not remind you of peace on Earth.
Teachers can share their students’ excitement about the holidays – including the comfort and joy of the Christmas season – without losing control of the classroom. When the holidays roll around, I’ve learned there are three important keys to keeping students engaged, comfortable, and happy. By the way, these classroom management tips also work for teachers!
1. BEGIN CLASS RIGHT AWAY
Don’t give students time to derail your lesson before you even begin. Be consistent with bell ringers even during the chaotic month of December. Due to the excitement of the holidays, what typically works for you might not be as effective (in topic or structure), so don’t be afraid to try a new approach.
In my classroom, I use bell ringers that require students to find examples of figurative language in popular holiday songs. This activity also provides the opportunity for me to play music as students enter the room. When the song is over, they know they should be finished and ready to discuss.
This type of routine is enjoyable and refreshing. It also allows teachers to build rapport with students. What better way to bring joy than by playing holiday music?
2. INDULGE STUDENTS’ INTERESTS
It’s important that we try to relate to students during the month of December. One easy way is through Christmas movies. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t play them all the time, but certain occasions warrant a good old fashioned film.
Perhaps you’ve just finished collecting an essay and need to grade it before you begin reviewing for final exams. Play a movie like A Christmas Carol, Elf or A Christmas Story, and keep students focused with a comprehension and analysis movie guide.
On days when field trips, music concerts, holiday parties, and other extracurricular activities disrupt the flow of your normal day, be prepared with a shorter movie guide, such as one for A Charlie Brown Christmas or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The time spent viewing these films shouldn’t ever be “filler.” Pause the film and engage students in meaningful discussion and analysis.
For teachers and students alike, knowing you are sharing a cultural tradition is a comforting bonding experience.
3. HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN
There’s nothing worse than finishing a lesson early and realizing you have nothing constructive to fill the leftover time. Whether you have students who consistently finish their work faster than others, have trouble with under-planning lesson content, or simply want to know you have an emergency sub plan ready if the nasty flu virus were to hit, it’s good to have a back-up plan. Having one you enjoy will give you peace of mind.
Throughout the semester, we teach our students how to write effectively. Many of us use terms like ideas, organization, sentence fluency, word choice, voice, and conventions. In December, we don’t want to be grading stacks of papers. Still, we can keep students writing, honing their skills, and thinking critically with fast-finisher exercises. I use Christmas writing activities to keep students interested.
The best part? These writing exercises don’t take all night to grade. Consider assigning completion points or extra credit for writing completed during December. Conference with students, and give them your feedback orally to save time and provide meaningful, immediate feedback.
And those are my favorite tips. Maintaining control of the classroom without losing the comfort and joy of the holiday season is as easy as 1, 2, 3. In the past, I’ve also kept a Christmas candy stash on hand. Candy canes, especially, work well. I’ve asked students to write sensory details as they’ve tasted the sweets, and I’ve written students holiday cards. We’ve also done small classroom secret Santa exchanges and read short stories related to the season. While these activities were fun and improved the classroom culture, they weren’t necessarily game changers for my classroom management. And you? What holiday classroom management tips would you offer fellow secondary teachers?
Interested in more holiday teaching ideas for the secondary classroom? Check out these 12 Days of December Comfort and Joy bog posts from some of my favorite teacher authors. Enter the drawing below for the opportunity to win a gift card to Barnes and Noble, Target, TeachersPayTeachers, or Amazon.