Ease the Transition from Winter Vacation!

Kindergarten Cafe

Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies across all content areas! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-First grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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Don’t stress while you are on winter break! That’s your time to relax! I’ve got you covered with several tips that help me relax while I’m on winter vacation!

No Regression over the Winter Break!

I would always worry about my struggling students over vacation – worry about them losing everything we had worked so hard on. So, I decided to make a fun way for them to practice literacy and math skills over the winter vacation. I send home an optional packet and I don’t ask for them to return it. I still want my students to have fun over the vacation, and I don’t want to stress families out, so I make sure they know this packet is optional. Included is a list of sight words for my families to play sight word bingo, hangman, go fish, and tic-tac-toe. I also give a handwriting sheet, a number handwriting sheet, and a math game to practice 1 more and 1 less.

However, probably the most loved activity is the Winter Bingo I send home. My students love the bingo challenges and they love trying to get a bingo! The bingo game includes activities to practice literacy, math, and social emotional skills!  Students can choose from writing thank you letters and holiday cards, playing a board game, zippering a jacket, and so much more!

These winter vacation activities are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Sharing About Winter Vacation

Something else I worry about is how my students will behave when they get back to school. Some students will be tired, some will be really excited to share about their vacations, and some will be excited to get back to their friends and teachers and the routine of school. I make sure to give my students a chance to share about their vacations with their peers. Also, I want to make sure that all students have something to share – no matter what kind of winter vacation they had.

I love doing a Find a Friend after vacation as a morning meeting activity, because it encourages the students to talk to each other and ask questions. The students all get a sheet and have to walk around the room finding a friend who did one of the activities listed. I made sure there is an option for everyone to say, “Yes, I did that!” Some options are “went in a car,” “played a board game,” “wore mittens”, and “watched a football game”.   

After sharing what they did with their friends, they are all ready to write about what they did over their winter vacation vacation. Our first writing unit of the year is writing true stories, and so I love to circle back to it whenever it makes sense. Writing a narrative about their vacation is the perfect practice. I usually save them for the end of the year memory books.

These activities are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store as a bundle with the review pages, separately, or as a bundle with other vacation pages!

Review, Review, Review

The day after winter vacation, my plan book is pretty blank. How do I fill my day then? Reviewing, reviewing, reviewing. Morning meeting? We review our class promises! Reading? We review what it looks like to read to self and what it looks like to partner read. Math? We review the expectations for stations. Writing? We write about our winter vacation…  not a review, but I already mentioned that one!

We can’t just expect our students to immediately jump back to our routines and do them perfectly. They forget a lot over the winter vacation – I mean, don’t you also struggle with getting back in the full day of work routine? Also, in the last few months, you’ve had a lot of excitement, changes in routine, special activities, and students testing limits. This is the perfect way to refocus everyone and re-establish the expectations. Don’t expect to just do this once on the day back from vacation and then everything will be perfect! You will want to reinforce students for following the expectations all the time! This will help solidify the expectations and the routines. And if something doesn’t go well? Stop the class and practice it again!

Before You Leave For Winter Break…

My final tip for you to ease your transition back from winter break, is to leave your classroom cleaned and prepared. What I mean by that is, even if I have to stay a little longer on the day before vacation, I get my calendar ready for January. I put out my January books. I write my morning message and fix the schedule for the day back from vacation. I make all my copies for at least the day after vacation (This can be done the week before to help cross things off your to-do list!).

I have my students clean the room – we clear out lockers and our unfinished box. We wipe down the tables and chairs and get rid of those winter germs! (Shaving cream is the best cleaner for the tables, and the kids love playing with it. You can have them write sight words in the foam!)

But the best thing I do for myself before I leave? I clean off my desk. There is nothing more stressful than coming back to school with a disorganized, cluttered desk. I literally take everything off of my desk (the only thing I keep on it is my plan book, computer, and a to-do list, so it’s not hard to do). I just love coming in to school after vacation and seeing a clean slate – a fresh start.

Conclusion

Coming back to school from winter vacation doesn’t have to be stressful! You can ease the transition by helping your students practice their academics over the vacation, finding opportunities for them to share about their break when they return, reviewing expectations and routines, and preparing your room before you leave.

Comment below and let me know what you always do before you leave for vacation!

Looking for tips for making the end of school before vacation easier? Check out these fun weeks that I do: Gingerbread Week and Holidays Around the World week!

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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