School has barely begun for the year, and already your students may be day-dreaming ahead to the holiday season. After all, Halloween is hard to resist at any age! After that spooky thrill, students then start counting the days until their 4-day Thanksgiving weekend, and right after that, you-know-what is just around the corner (think: presents!).
It’s not too early to start preparing to get your classes over the hump, halfway to the winter holidays. You may feel the energy lull yourself – and if you do, you know your students will. This distracting anticipation is a syndrome very similar to Spring Fever. So let’s revisit our Beat Spring Fever ideas from last year, exploring ways to combat the phenomenon and maintain a productive classroom throughout the fall semester.
We compiled suggestions from educators around the country, and organized them into 7 great tips to help you forge through to the holidays. Underlying goal: maintain student engagement through activity, creativity, and a little fun.
#1 – Get Creative
The more creative and unique the project, the higher the engagement level. This is a chance for both you and your students to get inventive, as you devise unique lesson plans in which students may use elements of first-quarter lessons to:
- Plot a treasure hunt, creating clues from facts they’ve learned
- Make a movie
- Provide coverage of local or fictional news stories
- Build or design a subject-relevant structure or 3D model
- Artistically represent something they learned earlier this semester
- Try a mock court case related to your lesson/subject matter
#2 – Get Into the Spirit
The students are dreaming of the holidays… why not indulge them? Find a way to incorporate autumn and winter holidays into your lesson. History is easy: simply assign a report on the origins of the holiday. Likewise, for English class, students can write a story with the holiday as the central theme.
Ideas for other subjects include:
- Math: Calculate formulas or angles related to a carved pumpkin
- Science: Investigate the unique physiology of turkeys, pumpkins, or evergreen trees
- Social Studies: Explore the ways in which holidays influence culture
- Psychology: Discuss the psychological effects of the holidays on the human psyche
#3 – Keep It Moving
While in the classroom, burn off pent-up energy with activities that get students out of their seats:
- Group projects and live presentations
- Outdoor lessons and field trips
- Exercise physiology lessons (increased respiration, heartbeat, etc.)
- Reenact scenes from books or plays
- A game of “concentration,” with students physically representing both the cards and the contestants
Even an organized Seat Swap can give students the chance to stretch their legs and gain a fresh perspective.
#4 – Present Choices
When students have a say in their own destiny, they’re bound to engage. Capitalize on their personal interests and look for projects with relevance in their lives. Let them customize their end-of-semester project and express their creativity.
#5 – Spark Competition
Let your students show off what they’ve learned this year, in friendly competitions. Pit teams against each other in tests of knowledge and creativity. Give points for multiple aspects of the project, so that each teammate can leverage their individual strengths. For example, one student may know more answers, but another may give a better presentation, or create better visual aids.
Challenge students to also compete against themselves, and top their personal best on quizzes or assignments. Offer small prizes; engagement increases when there’s “skin in the game.”
#6 – Use Technology
Technology fascinates today’s youth, so use it as an engagement tool. Mid-semester is a great time to introduce new technology in your lesson plans or incorporate multimedia and internet searches. Spark student imagination with discussion of intriguing recent innovations (see our blogs on the top STEM discoveries of 2016, virtual reality, and hot trends in engineering). Then ask them to list their Top 5 favorite inventions in history, and describe 5 new inventions they’d like to see.
#7 – Maintain Momentum
Keep students focused on what’s going on now – not daydreaming about holiday breaks. Make sure they know their performance matters as much now as it did earlier in the year.
- Give “throw-back” quizzes, to see if they still remember what they learned in the first week.
- “Flash forward” with a sneak peek of lessons and activities coming in the next semester.
- Conduct a survey on projects they’ve completed. Students appreciate the chance to share their opinions, and their feedback may prove interesting.
Most importantly, let them know it’s not quite holiday time yet, and there’s still a lot of learning to do!