Hey there, teachers! The first day back from winter break is creeping up on us (I know, right?), but let’s not freak out. I’ve got some awesome STEM challenges and activities for your first day back that are total lifesavers. They’ll slash your planning time and dial down the stress big time.
Alright, quick heads-up on why the first day back from winter break can be a bit of a rollercoaster. Kids are readjusting after two weeks of unstructured time, so they might be a bit scatterbrained or yawn their way through class. Some might even feel antsy or weird hanging out with their classmates again after a long break.
This is prime time for revamping our classroom culture. And let’s not forget, some kids carry their own baggage, just like we do. We may not know what their winter break held, but it’s a privilege to be the person to help them process it.
All our feels contribute to how we act and participate at school.
And hey, it’s not just a student thing. We educators ride that same emotional merry-go-round after a break. And boy, do we have our work cut out, trying to juggle all those different emotions and attention spans in class. It’s a tall order, and it’s okay.
So, how do we flip the script on that first day back? How do we get our students motivated about the school year ahead?
Enter FRIENDS. Nope, not the TV show. This is our secret sauce for nailing that first week back.
F for FAMILIAR ACTIVITIES:
Ease into it! Start with stuff they know – morning tasks, journaling, those cool Simply STEAM math and grammar games. It’s like a warm-up before the big race. Kids don’t have to think too hard about what to do or how an activity works. Some of your students may even breathe a sigh of relief knowing they’re stepping back into their safe place.
R for RULES AND ROUTINES
Many of them have been on sugar highs and holiday mode, so expect some fumbles. Review the rules and routines not by saying “Don’t do this or that..” But by encouraging the class to do what’s right.
Be their cheerleader – celebrate the small stuff, and keep the vibes positive. Say something like, “I love how [STUDENT] remembered to complete their morning work before getting on the computer.”
I for ICEBREAKERS
You never know what each kid’s holiday was like. Some partied hard, others maybe not so much. Icebreakers are fab for warming up those social muscles again.
Alright, here’s a super simple icebreaker game: “Find Someone Who Bingo.” It’s just a bingo board, but instead of numbers, there are fun prompts about classmates. Kids wander around the room, finding friends who fit these prompts, and have them sign their names on the boards.
This usually takes about ten minutes.
A little heads up to be nice and respectful goes a long way. Rather than just going for a line of bingo, I get them to fill the whole board. If they do, they score a classroom coupon or ClassDojo points for being superstars. It’s really all about trying their best, warming up to their peers, and feeling heard.
Alright, let’s jump to the next part.
E for EXPLORE AND MOVE
Keep things moving and fun! This is key to shake off any laziness and get the kids’ attention. It wakes up their curiosity and gets them excited, especially if they’re feeling a bit blah after the break. There’s a bunch of research that shows active learning helps kids understand and remember stuff better.
So, let’s do more than just have them write notes. Let’s get them really involved in the lessons.
I like to use these STEM Activities and Challenges from my First Day Back From Winter Break Activities.
N for NURTURE TEAMWORK
I remember how it felt coming back to school after a break – a bit out of touch and awkward around my friends. That’s because I hadn’t seen them for two weeks.
Team activities are awesome for this. They help everyone feel like they belong and make the class a happier, more welcoming place.
When kids work together, they learn about each other’s strong points and things they’re not so good at. They face challenges together and cheer on each other’s wins.
This really helps build trust and friendship, making our class feel like a tight-knit team.
D for DREAM BIG
Setting goals when we’re back from winter break is super important. It gets our students pumped and helps them stay on track. Plus, when they reach these small goals, they feel more confident and believe in themselves more. It’s like giving them a roadmap to become the kind of person they want to be for the rest of the school year.
My New Year Goals 2024 resource is an excellent choice for setting SMART goals with your second and third-grade students. And hey, if you’re setting goals, make sure you read this blog post about setting goals with your students!
S for SELF-AWARENESS
Getting back into the groove after a break is like prepping the ground for planting seeds. It’s a good time for students to think about the fun stuff and the tough stuff from their break.
I like to bring these journal prompts into the class to spark creativity or as ideas for writing. It’s not just that; they also get to work through their feelings in a safe space. This helps them feel more thankful, build self-awareness, and get motivated.
Plus, it’s a really cool way to help them grow their self-awareness, understand their emotions, and set them up for success later on.
Here, you can grab everything from my First Day Back From Winter Break Activities pack. You’ll find lots of helpful prompts that build self-awareness and improve behavior.
There are five different journaling sheets in this pack. Each has four prompts that cover:
- Building Gratitude
- Personal Reflection
- Importance of Connecting
- Handling Emotions
So, teachers, take a deep breath and relax! Coming back after winter break isn’t something to worry about. Let’s use the FRIENDS plan to make our first day back stress-free for everyone and save time planning so you can enjoy more fun things this winter break (like your family)!
Tell me what you liked best about this post in the comments – the quote, the acronym, or the resources I mentioned. Let’s all use FRIENDS to keep our classroom happy and growing all year long!
Don’t forget to grab your FREE 2024 New Year’s Graphic Organizer right here!