We’ve all been there. Coming back from break ready to start teaching right where you left off with your students who have been in school for almost one hundred days. They should be experts at this point. But guess what, they’ve forgotten all the routines and expectations over break. Don’t worry – it’s not just you! You need to proactively refresh expectations after break. Make sure to leave time in your plans after break for refreshing expectations with your students.
Start right away – don’t wait
Don’t wait for the misbehaviors to start refreshing the expectations. Your students will need the routines and expectations retaught and practiced, so don’t wait! Plan to review expectations and routines first thing on the day after break and before the workshops throughout the day. The day after break is not the time to start new lessons. It is the time to review what they have learned and practiced and subsequently forgot over break.
Review class promises in morning meeting
Right away in morning meeting, we share our class promises as a share and an activity. If you don’t routinely mention the class promises, then students will forget they even exist. The cute poster on the wall that everyone signed will just fade into the background. So I like to regularly use the promises as a part of my morning meeting, especially right after vacations.
For our morning meeting share, I remind students what our class promises are and ask what class promise they are going to work on today. This gives them a chance to reflect on the different promises and gives them a focus for the day.
For a morning meeting activity, I play a game I like to call Freeze It! Basically, I call out a class promise, and the children walk around the room pretending do follow the promise and then I call out, “Freeze it!” and they have to freeze like a statue. Then I walk around and note the different ways students are following our class promises. For example, for the class promise to take care of the classroom, students may be pushing in chairs or picking up trash. For the class promise of being kind, students may be helping a student who fell, or making a card for a friend. The kids really enjoy this game, plus it helps give specific examples for following our class promises.
Mini-lessons before workshops
Don’t just stop at the morning meeting! The whole day should be an opportunity to refresh expectations after break! My mini-lessons for the day after break always involve reminding students about what the workshop (reading, writing, and math) should look like. This is not only a good refresher after the break, but it is also great chance to get students back to the expectations you set at the beginning of the year, because over the course of a few months the children have definitely slipped just a little.
I take a sheet of poster paper and I divide up the paper into two columns. I ask the students what should workshop look like and sound like. The students brainstorm ideas and I write them down. Then after the students have shared ideas, I then call on a few students to model for everyone what the transition to the workshop should look like. I ask the other students what they noticed those students doing and we share a few ideas. Then I give everyone a chance to practice the routines of the workshop. As soon as I see students not following through the routines, whether it be that day or another day that week, I stop everyone and bring them back to the rug. We go over what they said the workshop should look and sound like and then I have a few students practice it again. Students need to learn that they must follow expectations. If they start to slip and you ignore it, they’ll slip more and more until the workshop is nothing like you practiced with them originally.
If you’re looking for more visual supports for students to remember their arrival and pack-up routines or whole body listening, check out these student support cards!
Let the children teach you
Refreshing expectations after break is a little different than teaching the expectations in the beginning of the school year because the students already have learned the expectations. So, let the children teach you the expectations. Instead of telling them what the expectations and routines are, ask them what they are. Instead of giving them reminder after reminder, ask them questions. Like, “What do you need for reader’s workshop?” or “What is the voice volume for writer’s workshop?” or “What do you do when you are done with the math game?”. This gives you the chance to refresh the expectations, but it puts the ownership on the students to remember them. If they don’t remember them, encourage them to “read the room” and look and see what other students are doing. This is an important skill for students to learn.
Don’t wait until the children start showing misbehaviors to refresh the expectations after break. Proactively schedule time throughout the first day back to review expectations and practice the routines of the classroom. Proactively refreshing the expectations after break will help eliminate future misbehaviors, keep your classroom running smoothly, and give you more time in the long run for learning.