Revisiting Classroom Routines: The First Week After Winter Break


Winter Break is a time when young students abandon classroom routines in exchange for endless hours of free play at home. As a result, they often find it challenging to return to the classroom. With some tactful planning and patience, however, teachers can quickly and successfully reacquaint students with their classroom routines.

The first week back after break is the best time to revisit and/or introduce new routines. Here’s a schedule you can follow that will help ease the sometimes rough transition back to the classroom:

Day 1

Target: Whole-Group Routines

1. Plan for an Extended Morning Meeting Time

a. Review and Model Routines and Procedures for How To:
i. Transition into and sit in the Morning Meeting area
ii. How and when to ask and answer questions
iii. Share the role of speaker and listener  

2. Encourage each student to share what they did over the Winter Break that they really enjoyed.

As they share, provide lots of verbal whole-group praise and feedback about when and how they are being active listeners and/or speakers.

3. Plan for engaging in a whole-group writing activity.

Students can be encouraged to first talk with one another about an academic goal that they would like to achieve by the end-of-the-year (For example, “I want to be able to read 100 sight words”). Then, they can be given a piece of colorful construction paper, and crayons and pencils to write and draw their goal. As they plan their goal, assist any students who need help with writing.

a. Review and Model Routines and Procedures for How To:
i. Buddy talk
ii. Locate, use and store classroom materials
iii. Sit properly in one’s seat
iv. Share materials and take turns

Day 2

Target: Small-Group Routines

1. During Morning Meeting Time reinforce the whole-group rules and procedures discussed the day before.

However, spend most of this day’s Morning Meeting Time reteaching your classroom procedures for how and when to transition in and out of small-group time. Model the procedures for each routine.

2. By the end of Day 2, ensure that you have met with every student, at least once in a small group setting.

While meeting in small groups, provide each student with practice at applying your classroom small-group routines The focus of your Day 2 small-group meetings does not need to be academic (e.g., a lesson on phonics or math). Instead, talk with students about what they recall from before the Winter Break about when, how, and why to transition into small-group time.

a. Review and Model Routines and Procedures for how to:
i. Walk from a center and/or whole-group area to the small-group table.
ii. Sit properly
iii. Gather one’s small-group materials
iv. Take turns talking and listening
v. Exit the small group area

Days 3 – 5 (Possibly beyond)

Target: Goal Setting of High-Priority Classroom Management Skills

1. On Day 3, select a few high priority classroom management skills that based on your students’ behavior over the last 2 days suggests could use improvement. Then, create a goal chart and introduce it to the students. The goal chart will have the target behavioral goal(s) you want the students to achieve by the end of the week.

For example, one common high-priority goal is the time it takes for students to line up and walk properly from one area of the school to another (e.g., From the classroom to the cafeteria).

For this goal you could make a large chart on a piece of paper that includes the students’ target goal, such as, “7 minutes”. Then, each day record onto the chart the actual time it took the class towards meeting the goal. Ensure to provide positive feedback as students get nearer and nearer to accomplishing the goal and reteach if students regress. When the goal is met, celebrate. 

Note: If it takes more than 3 days to meet the goal, that’s OK. What’s important is that students are working towards meeting classroom management goals that will ultimately benefit them and you.

Suggestions of Possible High-Priority Classroom Management Goals:

  • Time it takes to clean up and transition back to one’s seat after Workstation Time

  • Time it takes for students to line up at the end of day

  • Percentage of students who handed in their homework, or parent letter, or progress report, etc

  • Percentage of students who start the day with an organized desk

  • Number of tally marks representing how many times the teacher overheard the words “Thank You” and “Your Welcome” used by students throughout the day

Number of tally marks representing how many times the teacher overheard students saying, “May I help you?”, to one another throughout the day

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


About the Author

Lee Wright

Literacy Author/Trainer