Back to School – January Edition

image from icanread

January comes at us like a lion it seems bringing students who were just getting used to being on break, miserably cold winter days where no sledding is allowed at school, and more assessments. Every year January always reminds me of the beginning of the year and last year I started to treat it as such.  Goodbye January humdrum, welcome January excitement.  So what will we be doing to battle the January blues?

  • Reassess our classroom rules.  Students get a little tired and a little more restless so it is the perfect opportunity for them to set new rules for the classroom.  They also know each other a lot better, particularly each others’ quirks, and so I find the conversation tends to go much deeper then it did in September.
  • Set up the classroom.  While I think our work space works really well, I am not the one constantly using it. Time to ask the students if things need to be moved around and then do it.  Also time for me to re-evaluate the room.
  • A heart to heart on work habits. While I ask the students to self-assess constantly throughout the year, we need to have some honest reflection on how they have been working independently.  I like to think of it as new year’s resolutions set with an eye on middle school.
  • Take stock of projects.  How have they been doing on projects, are they pushing themselves into new venues or are they sticking to much of the same old same old?  What are new ideas they can’t wait to try and how will they try them?
  • Re-introduce genius hour.  We took a break from genius hour in the last month or so because we have been too busy, but January is the perfect time to refocus on it, this time in science rather than social studies.  Students have been busy at work learning about landforms, now is the time for them to take charge of what they want to learn.
  • Have a classroom reading challenge.  The students have been excited about reading but January is typically the time they start to feel overwhelmed or bogged down.  Last year we did the classroom reading challenge and it really brought in a lot of excitement.  It is quite simple:  Every child sets a secret goal (they only share it with me) for how many books they will read in the month of January, the goal can include picture books, graphic novels, or chapter books.  We then reveal the total number of books we pledge to read on a bulletin board.  They then read as much as they can and report to me whenever they finish a book (paper on my desk), I print out a picture of the cover and add it to our huge bulletin board.  Nobody knows who read what or how many books they have each read but everybody is reading and if we meet our goal, we have a huge read-in party as a celebration with an author Skype call.  I cannot wait!
  • Re-do routines.  We have great routines but now is the time to re-assess, what do we still need to work on, what is no longer needed, what should we streamline?  Again, this discussion is student-led with input from me.
  • Throw some surprise challenges their way.  They have been working hard on our team challenges  throughout the year and now is the time to give them even more.  I am thinking the boat building challenge, as well as marshmallow catapults.  Oh, and I do believe we have to build some vinegar rockets as well.
  • Re-assess my own opinions.  Have I labeled students unknowingly, do I really know the child in front of me?  What are the priorities we need to have for their learning journey and what will I do to help them accomplish their goals?  Now is the time to reflect about each child.

What will you be doing to re-energize the classroom?

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4 thoughts on “Back to School – January Edition

  1. Pernille, thanks so much for the inspiration! I was silently lamenting the passing (too quickly) of winter break and missing (already) the 8 hours of sleep I’ve been enjoying! But, your post reminds me how much I miss my students and I love the idea of using January as a recharge and restart time! Your reading challenge is perfect and I will implement that next week. I think I’ll design some emails to my class to preview the excitement coming next week and hopefully help them also combat the “return to school doldrums” and give them something to look forward to! Thanks again for your inspiration!

  2. […] motivated after the January return to school, and I particularly enjoyed the fifth-grade teacher Pernille Ripp’s favorite strategies for dealing with the “January […]

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