It’s been a rough year (or years, let’s be real). You don’t know if you will make it until the end of the year, let alone think you will survive until winter break.
I know this feeling well. You are not alone! And all hope is not lost! Here are my five best tips for how to survive until winter break – especially when you really don’t feel like you can make it.
How to Survive until Winter Break Tip #1: DO FUN LABS!
Hear me out on this one. I know it may feel like you are completely zapped of all energy, but I have found if I do more fun and hands-on activities and labs with my students, the more engaged they are, and thus the less time seems to drag on in your winter break countdown.
Around this time of year, I am usually teaching genetics in biology, and love to do DNA modeling with candy and this protein synthesis scavenger hunt that gets students up and moving around your classroom. In anatomy, I am usually in my control and coordination unit, so I love to do lab stations where students explore the senses and a web quest through Learn.Genetics where students explore the science of addiction. I tend to be in electricity and magnetism or waves in my physical science class and LOVE to get students out of their seats with stations like this set for electricity and this set for waves.
How to Survive until Winter Break Tip #2: Put students in charge of midterm review.
If there is one thing I REALLY don’t love about teaching it is reviewing – whether it be for midterms, final exams, EOCs, or AP exams. I know it is so essential for students but PHEW – review really makes the days feel like they drag for me. I’ve learned the BEST way to review is to put STUDENTS in charge of it! This not only gives them ownership but it gives YOU a much-needed break!
One of my favorite ways to do this is through my “Teach the Class” project. Students work in groups to divide up the review topics and then they do it ALL! I give them about 3 days to create their reviews, and then each group gets about 25 minutes (half a class period) to cover their content. All in all, it covers about a week of lesson plans, giving me plenty of time to work on everything I need to do on my end for midterms and wrapping up the semester. Best of all, my midterm grades improved so much when I started doing this!
How to Survive until Winter Break Tip #3: Replace midterm exams with something FUN.
I think something that makes this time of year feel like it dragsss is that there are so many fun holiday celebrations happening all around, yet in school you are stuck reviewing, administering, and taking midterm exams. Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit like vocabulary review and grading essay questions, right?? 🤪
If your school provides freedom with what you choose to do as a midterm exam, I recommend replacing your traditional exam with something FUN. I have a free resource in my store where students make a children’s book project on a major topic from the semester. It is a great way to review AND summatively assess students on key content – plus you can grade it quickly with the provided rubric!
If you have to do a traditional midterm exam and are just plain exhausted, I recommend making it all majority multiple-choice and easy-to-grade open responses. This time of year you don’t want to be staying late grading when you could be home with your family or cozied up on your couch watching a Hallmark movie. Speaking of grading…
How to Survive until Winter Break Tip #4: STOP grading all of the things.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back – STOP GRADING ALL OF THE THINGS!!! At this point in the year, you probably have PLENTY of grades anyway! Take the pressure off of yourself and free up your time by majorly decreasing what you grade. This is a great time to do spot-checks for completion anyway as the focus is on preparing them for whatever midterm you have ahead. Let that serve as their one last grade.
Also, this will bless your students too! They don’t want to spend their weekends and holiday breaks doing projects and lab reports any more than you really want to be grading them. Most of all, it REALLY helps students catch up who are behind. If you aren’t piling on extra work, they are free to focus on any make-up work they need to get in before the semester ends. This also frees YOU up to grade said make-up work.
Make like Elsa and LET IT GOOOOOO! You will end the year with your students in a MUCH more positive place. After a solid recharge over winter break, you can hit the ground running again with a fresh and clean gradebook to start grading all the things again (but I recommend making some changes midyear and doing these 4 things to cut your grading time in half!!)
How to Survive until Winter Break Tip #5: Ask your admin for HELP!
Last but not least, please don’t kill yourself trying to be the hero. It is okay to ask for help!!! Being a teacher is already one of the hardest jobs with the most responsibilities and least compensation in our country. Now you are being a teacher in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s a LOT. Do not hesitate to ask for help. The WORST they can say is no!!
A GREAT way admin can help is by providing money for resources, but I know all admin aren’t willing to spend money on curriculum (if yours are, here are some tips for how to convince them to buy you what you really want!). If they aren’t willing to buy curricula to ease the burden of lesson planning, here are 5 ways they can support you that don’t cost any money. With these 5 ideas, there really isn’t ANY excuse why they can’t help you out!
What are other ways you’ve made the countdown to winter break weeks go by faster, less painfully, or just more enjoyably? I’d LOVE to hear! Reach out and let me know here!