Creating joy before and after the holidays

How to create joy in the classroom as holiday break approaches


For most Colorado schools, the countdown to holiday break is on. With classrooms filled with students who are ready for break, how can teachers make the most of the time and create joy in the classroom?

Shawna Lyons, a Regis University affiliate faculty member who helped write the University’s classroom management course, has tips to help calm students and focus them on classwork — before and after the holidays. 

Before holiday break

In the days before the break, Lyons recommends giving students a voice in how they learn.

“Student choice and voice is a big part of the classroom environment,” she said. “We’re constantly making sure that we surround kids in current learning, but I think them having some choice and voice this time of the year helps with that.” 

It’s also important to remember to stick with the classroom routine, she said.

“When students lose that routine or the rituals they do every day, that’s when we see them get antsy or have some behaviors,” she said. “They really like to know what’s next. My one piece of advice would always be: Don’t forget those daily routines are important,” especially on days when special events are taking place. 

Returning to the classroom

After the holidays, the long stretch of class before spring break might feel daunting. Lyons encourages teachers to think back to the beginning of the school year.

“I always tell teachers that it’s important when you’re welcoming them back, go back to those relationships that you built with students. Sometimes, those get lost over the break, or you get new students,” Lyons said. “That’s when those warm-up games and team-building activities are important once again.” 

Create joy the rest of the school year

Throughout the school year, Lyons recommends that teachers emphasize social and emotional learning.

“Social and emotional learning is a big piece, and I think sometimes it gets pushed aside because we are focused on the standards and the rigor and the testing that goes on at the end of the school year,” she said. “Just make sure to not only put aside a part of the day for that social and emotional aspect, but also embed it in the entire day, the entire curriculum. That could look like students doing mindfulness and mindful activities, doing community team-building, taking some time for reflection.”

Remember to have fun

“I always tell teachers that it’s OK to say, ‘Drop everything and have fun,’” Lyons said. “If ... you feel like you’re in quicksand, it’s OK to say, ‘We’re going to turn on the music and dance for five minutes. We’re doing to play a game for five minutes. We’re going to walk outside and do something silly for five minutes’ … I’m not saying for a long time. It’s OK to take five minutes and drop everything and have fun.”

When holiday break arrives, Lyons had one more important recommendation for teachers: Delete the email app on your phone.

“Take your email off your phone during your break, get outside, even if it’s cold. Even if it’s just a few minutes, get outdoors every day,” Lyons said. “Make sure during this break that you take the down time, and continue to take down time when school starts back.”

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