How to Keep Your Students Focused During the Holidays

Student sitting at a desk with a computer and notebook open in front of them, image used for Robert Peters educator blog on how to keep students focused during the holidays

The holidays can be a wonderful chance to indulge in festivities, cultural experiences and more, but it can be difficult to keep your students focused on learning with all this excitement and their anticipation of the holidays. Many times, students of all ages and grade-levels are starting to tune-out and look towards the coming holidays and having some time off of school. These feelings are totally natural; you’re probably looking forward to the holidays too.

It’s important to remember that your students are children and budding young-adults, not robots. By recognizing this fact, and accepting that you cannot change it, it becomes much easier to instead tailor your teaching and lessons to this development. Now, let’s talk about some ways you can use the holiday spirit to keep your students engaged, focused, and progressing in their educations.

Maintain classroom structure

Don’t throw your rules and established expectations out the window. You can’t expect your students to not be distracted during the holidays, but students thrive on stability. Everyone, yourself included, performs better when previously established norms are followed.

Continue to assign your regular weekly or bi-weekly assignments, have homework due at the normal dates, etc. Don’t abandon classroom structure you’ve established, use it! Keeping with the same routine can help students stay focused because they know what’s expected of them.

Tailor your lessons to the season

The easiest way to keep your students focused and working hard is to tailor your lessons to the holiday at hand. Don’t ignore the fact that Christmas is right around the corner, embrace it!

Regardless of your subject-matter, you can find a way to tie it into the season’s festivities into at least some lessons. Your students will appreciate the much-needed break from “hard content”, and the creativity these assignments usually employ. Try to incorporate some fun activities that are relevant to the holidays that the students will enjoy while also learning something new.

Keep your pace, don’t overwork

It’s important to continue teaching at your normal pace. Don’t suddenly pile on two-weeks worth of work and expect your students to actually do it over their winter break — it’s called a break for a reason. They’ll only be miserable before and after break and you’ll have to deal with this attitude.

Keep this idea in mind during the rest of the school year. Make sure you get through key chapters and lessons with enough time to spare so you’re not cramming before the holiday!

A final word on holidays

Remember that holidays are a special time in every culture. Embrace this, and use it as a break from the factory-like routine of schooling. Enhance your lesson plans, ask your students what their plans are and share yours, and remember – you deserve a break, too. Use this time to recharge and revitalize, the year isn’t over yet!

Understanding the Different Types of Learning in Your Classroom

Learning in the Classroom

As a teacher, you are bound to come across a variety of students in your classroom with different backgrounds, tastes, abilities, etc. Inevitably, you will also find that your students receive information differently. Being able to recognize these varying learning styles is so important because you don’t want to teach everyone the same way and you must be able to adapt the way you teach to accommodate everyone and give them the best chance at succeeding. Take a look at the different learning types in the classroom and best practices to work with them.

 

Visual Learning

Someone who is a visual learner best receives information when they can see it in front of them. They might ask for a demonstration to see how something is done before they feel comfortable to dive into it themselves. They learn best with the use of maps, charts, and diagrams to better understand what is presented before them. Here are some things to do when working with visual learners:

 

  • Using flowcharts, webs, and charts to organize information

 

  • Use highlighted or color-coded notes to relate material better

 

  • Write checklists for formulas and commonly misspelled words

 

Auditory Learning

These students learn best through listening whether it be from spoken word or various sounds and noises. Some of these students might be very musically talented, so they may sing, or play in the school band. While your lesson may not be based on music, there are still many ways to accommodate these learners so that they can also feel part of the lesson. Best practices when dealing with auditory learners include:

 

  • Strike up a conversation with the student about the particular lesson

 

  • While in class have the students recite the information by asking questions for students to answer out loud

 

  • Get creative and have them put the material to a tune or rhythm for them to go over with you later

 

Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learners are going to want a more hands-on and physical experience with the material. Simply put, they learn best by doing. They enjoy actively going through the motions and feel the material within their body. Unlike visual learners who want to see something before they give it a shot, kinesthetic learners will want to dive right in and pick things up as they go along. Some best practices for working with kinesthetic learners are:

 

  • Having them write down notes on paper while they listen to the lesson

 

  • Maybe dramatize different concepts and have the students move objects around to act it out for themselves

 

  • Use some body movement while explaining something such as finger snapping, foot tapping, or even just mouthing ideas.

 

Honorable Mentions: Social and Solitary Learners

There are also some types of learners that are not as common as the three listed above but are still worth being aware of. Social Learners are the ones who work great in group settings. They are the students who are active in the school participating in clubs and sports and have no problem working with others. Solitary Learners are students who take to themselves more often than not. They typically come off as shy because they aren’t quick to raise their hand to ask/answer a question. They will usually try to figure things out on their own before deciding to come to you for help.

How to Keep Students Motivated During Winter

Blog post title image about keeping students motivated during winter.

Winter is a particularly difficult time to keep students motivated. After the holidays, the colder months of January and February set in and there’s no break in sight until sometime in spring. It’s hard to get students to focus at this time of year, especially when trying to prepare them for state tests and finals in their classes. Instead of stressing out over your students’ lack of desire to learn, try these tips to keep them motivated in the upcoming months!

Remain Positive

Even though you may not feel like coming into work every day, it’s important that you remain upbeat for the students who you’ll be teaching. Show them a positive attitude and act excited about what you’re talking about, but you can also acknowledge that you know it’s a tough time of year to focus on learning. Give them positive reinforcement when they do something well and try to make them feel good about their work.

Give Rewards

By occasionally rewarding your students, you’ll motivate them to continue working and doing a good job in their studies. Maybe offer candy or a small prize for reaching certain goals. You can also give them a movie day or a specific amount of time where they can talk and hang out instead of focusing on an actual lesson. Rewarding students gives them a much-needed break.

Watch Films

Students find it much easier to spend time looking at a screen and visually absorbing information instead of having to listen to their teacher lecture. Most children can recount endless amounts of information and quotes from their favorite movies or television shows, so you know those skills are developed. Incorporate educational documentaries into your lessons and students will learn more and feel more at ease. Tailoring your lesson plans to the season will help you combat the lack of motivation in students.

Let Them Decide

When students have the opportunity to be hands-on with their own learning, they’ll be more invested in the subject. You can give students a list of topics that need to be covered during the next few weeks and let them choose in which order they want to learn about them. Provide opportunities for them to be involved in their own learning – they’ll be thankful for it and more motivated.

Change it up!

Some variety is always a good thing because students’ brains will immediately recognize the change and register it. Switch around the desk arrangement or redecorate the classroom. Give students something different and they’ll feel as though it’s an entirely new experience, not the same class they’ve been in for the last few months. Providing students with variation will prevent them from feeling bored and helps them give their attention to your teaching.

Seven Habits of Affective Teachers

teacher-702998_1920As a teacher you wear many hats. In addition to teaching the curriculum, teachers handle the emotional responses of their students. Compartmentalizing your life can lead to your own frustration, and then later down the road, miscommunication, blame and even anxiety. To avoid negative feelings, you should cultivate habits that will help you handle the emotional needs of your students. The changes you wish to see begin with your own initiative. Making minute changes in your behavior is one small step towards becoming an affective educator. Here are some habits to keep in mind:

 

1) Enjoy other’s success.

Becoming a teacher is a selfless pursuit. As you create a plan to reach your personal goals, do not focus solely on yourself. Find joy in the accomplishments of those around you. Whether it’s a student, or a fellow teacher, investing some of yourself in their happiness will only create more positivity for you. As you enjoy the success of those around you, you’ll be constantly reminded of the joy you find in teaching.

 

2) Reframe your perspective.

Oftentimes, your perspective on a situation will determine your attitude, and your actions. It can determine whether you feel empowered and optimistic, or pessimistic and defeated.  Step back and recognize what the issue truly is. Is it part of a bigger problem? How can you reframe the problem to effectively handle it? Reframing your perspective can create hope in situations that at once seemed difficult.

 

3) Stop categorizing people.

It’s easy to categorize the people around us into groups defined by basic attributes. But when you categorize people, you limit your expectations of them. If you view someone as a fully developed thinker, they hold more value, and you are less likely to dismiss their contributions. Avoid simplifying people, so you can really understand their strengths and contributions.

 

4) Discuss the ethics of teaching.

Spark a discussion with your colleagues about your teaching practices. While it may seem daunting to invite others to express their opinions on teaching, the result can be constructive professional development. Discuss your teaching methods, processes and goals. This doesn’t have to be a single discussion, and it can lead to developments throughout the academic year.

 

5) Value humility.

Before you embrace a new idea, you have to recognize that your previous method was less effective. You should not be self conscious of your previous methods. By embracing humility, you will grow more comfortable with being wrong. By revising our own thinking and inviting others to provide constructive development, we are demonstrating our own willingness to change and learn.

 

6) Value intellect.

Teaching the same curriculum year after year can foster complacency. Soon, you will simply going through the motions, rather than providing fulfilling instruction. Cultivate and embrace your own intellect by writing for other publications, exploring your own teaching goals, and reflecting on your own career. Growing your own intellect will strengthen your passion for teaching.

 

7) Keep teaching fun.

If you maintain a playful attitude toward teaching, your students will be engaged and enjoy learning the subject material. Having fun in the classroom will keep students entertained, and show them that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
For more about being an affective teacher, read here.