The entire month of December can be a challenge to get students to focus. Since Thanksgiving break, it’s very likely that they’ve checked out, thinking about the excitement that winter break brings. After a month of lost focus, it can be hard to get students back into the routine of learning in January. Before you break as well, work these tips into your lesson plans so you can start the new year with students ready to learn.

Say Hello to Friends You Know

And everyone you meet! The first day of school after the holiday break can be a depressing one, so lighten up the morning by happily greeting your students at the door. Spread the post-holiday cheer to other students, teachers and parents too. It only takes one person to improve the outlook of the day, so let that person be you.

Sharing is Caring

It’s only natural for students to be talkative and full of energy when they get back in the classroom — they’ve missed their friends and want to share what they did over the break! Instead of struggling to keep your students quiet to teach a lesson, encourage your students to be engaged with one another by letting them share what they did over the break. Here are a few ideas:

  • Using the round robin or popcorn method, have students share what their favorite gift was.
  • Split students into groups so they can talk among themselves about their favorite holiday activity.
  • Have students write or draw about how they spent their break, then share it with the class.

By encouraging students to share what they’ve done over the break, their curiosity about what their classmates did over break will be satisfied and you will still have control over the classroom.

Rules, Regulations and Respect

After a long two weeks away from the classroom, it can be easy for students to forget classroom expectations. You will have to start the new calendar year similarly to the new school year by reminding them about the boundaries, classroom rules and what you expect from them. Gently, but firmly remind your students about basic behavior and etiquette.


It’s been quite some time since students have learned something new, and they’ve probably forgotten the last lesson you taught. It’s time to review! However, you don’t want to overwhelm your students with too much information — so start small. You can start a fun review of the material you were learning before the break by getting your students actively involved in a game.

Let’s Get Physical

Kick off the review with a physical activity (click here for ideas). Your students will have a lot of energy, so getting active can positively direct that energy into something productive instead of distracting. By the end of the game, kids will be ready to sit in their seats and focus.

After the fun has ended, it’s time to get back into the routine. With some patience and maybe a cup of coffee or two, your students will be focused and ready to learn in the new year.