How to welcome your students back to your classroom and get behaviour on track as quickly as possible

It’s back to school time and it may seem like all of the progress you made with your class last term is a distant memory. They’ve been packed full of sugar and may have had very little structure to their days over the holidays. It’s been a break for all but now it’s time to get back to a routine in the classroom.

Don’t panic that it will take weeks to get things back to normal. Here are four tips on how to get everything shipshape again.

1. Let them tell you about their holidays

Your students will be thrilled to share stories about their presents and what they got up to but instead of having them all verbally share (which can take up a lot of time and be hard to maintain classroom concentration throughout) why not get them to create content of their own about it! This is a great task that means students can play to their strengths while sharing their experiences. The strong writers can write about it, you could use writing prompts or let them write as they please. For those who prefer art, you could let them draw pictures or a series of cartoons on their experiences.

Or for the best of both worlds, you could create a newspaper-style format for them to fill in with short stories, long-form writing, headlines and pictures!

2. Set universals to make everyone feel included

Before you remind everyone why you’re back and what you’re working towards that term why not say something inclusive and universal? There can be an instinct to say “We’ve had a lovely break and now it’s time to get back to work.” Instead, why not think about the different types of breaks your students may have had.

You could say:

“You may have had a fantastic break full of presents or gone on holiday or to visit family. You also might not have had such a good time or a very quiet break or have been missing someone you love. No matter how your break was I’m really happy to see you back in school and working on our next projects.”

By being inclusive you reinforce the fact that the class is bound together, no matter what is happening at home. This helps those who haven’t had a good break feel their experiences are recognised and understood, rather than invisible.

3. Shake things up a bit

Most likely you filled in a number of reports at the end of last term and that means you’re well placed to reassess how your small learning groups are doing. If a student has significantly improved it’s time to move them and consider how a student who is struggling could be better placed. You could also see who works well together and would support each other.

You might also want to consider a new seating plan to ensure that different students interact and change the dynamic of the classroom.

4. Reinforce routine and rules with a quiz

After you’ve burned off some energy talking about the holidays it’s time to go back over what your expectations are for students in your classroom. There can be quite a long list of rules so ensure you start with the most important ones first and work your way down the list over a number of days. You could do this in the form of a quiz - “What do we do when…” and getting their answers. After going through these you can then come back to any that there were issues answering correctly.

For children in particular (and adults too, if we’re honest) it can be hard to get back into a routine after a break. Make sure the routine of their day is clear to see in the classroom and that it’s followed from day one.

This article from the Guardian explains all about the brain science of how to engage students after the holiday and is written by a neurologist and former teacher also has some fantastic suggestions: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/jan/03/how-engage-students-lessons-after-holidays

Good luck back in your classrooms and Happy New Year!