While I am enjoying a holiday from the classroom, from time to time, occasional reminders creep into my thoughts that we will shortly be back at work with only a few weeks before the end of the first term. To quiet these reminders, I think about a few of the activities which I am looking forward to and which I will be able to comment on in my reports.
One activity all my grade 3 students are excited about is producing a puppet show of Robert Munch’s “The Snowsuit”. Before the holidays, students brought in old socks so that they can create sock puppets to be used in the play. The first week back at school in January, my students will be busy at work creating their puppets and props while learning their lines for the puppet show. The holidays can be a stressful time and after 2 weeks of a disruption in routine, many students (and teachers) have a hard time switching back to school mode. With some management and support, a collaborative activity which is student centred, like a puppet show or a play, gives students independence and structure and can be a nice way to begin the New Year. It is also a good alternative to seatwork right after the holidays.
Something else I put in my plans for the first weeks back at school is to be outside everyday with my class. With a little preplanning, I make sure I take my students outside for math – building and measuring snowmen and monitoring temperature changes; social studies – snowshoeing around the school yard imagining we are visiting Wendat, Anishinaabe and settler communities; science – observing plants in winter; language arts – using the 5 senses to describe a winter day; and phys. ed. – playing in the snow after a fresh snowfall. A letter home to inform parents that we will be going outside on a regular basis helps to have students come to school prepared with proper gear or a change of clothing in case they get wet. To guarantee accessibility, however, the school always has a collection of extra gear students can use if they are missing something warm and dry to wear.
It’s not always easy to look forward to heading back to school after the holidays. Drama and outdoor activities are perfect for January because they help with getting back into the groove and break up the daily routine with a little something different.