Schools play an important role in the life of young people! They support students academically, socially, emotionally before they enter society as young adults. Built into the US school system are a few, well needed breaks such as Winter Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. School breaks are wonderful escapes from the school year. As teachers, we love and need breaks too! But sometimes the breaks lead to learning slides and reinforces the idea that learning only happens at school.
Assigning optional work for students to complete over break can be beneficial for the transition back to the classroom. More importantly, it teaches students that learning is not confined to the classroom. Students can and should learn from the world around them, and we as educators can help them do that! Breaks are the perfect opportunity to extend learning and allow students to practice autonomy and self-expression.
Here are some tips for engaging students during school breaks. The goal is to mentally stimulate students without robbing them of break time.
1. Extend learning of standards - make sure to only re-engage students in standards that have already been taught. Introducing new topics when students are at home and without support can cause frustration and lack of participation. Keep these reengagement assignments light and fun. If sent home with students, MANGO Math games can be used to reinforce previous learning. Remember, MANGO math lessons do not have grade levels on the games so students do not know if they are practicing lower or current grade level skills. The games are intended for two to four players so ask students to introduce the games to their families. Picture the assignment as family game night with MANGO math! Getting the parents involved is a great way to display a positive math environment. Here are 12 great card games students can play to reinforce their math skills: 12 Days of Math Card Games↗!
2. Alternative learning - as an alternative to the first tip, assign non-standard specific work such as physical activity, reading, or games. There is so much learning to be done beyond school standards such as tying your shoes, learning to cook, building structures with blocks. Beyond life skills, students can be taught citizenship skills such as helping others. Imagine some of these school break assignments: tie your shoe ten times, help someone older with a chore, send a thank you note, make cookies for a neighbor. Check out this sample Winter Break Bingo Card↗!
3. Keep it brief - remembering the purpose, to engage students without robbing them of needed break time, remember to keep assignments brief. Everyone, including you, needs time to recharge and we need to make sure the opportunity is still available to students. Stressing about completing an assessment always takes away from break time. Communicating the purpose of the assignment and its parameters before leaving for break may help calm student fears of work over break. Several iterations of the MANGO math games can be completed in 15 minutes. These games are brief but allow students the opportunity to practice the intended skill several times.
4. Be meaningful - Any assignment should have a purpose and be beneficial. A way to make an assignment more meaningful to students is to give them a voice or choice in the process. If they are able to complete a task related to an interest, you will have more participation.
5. Keep it optional - it’s a break after all! Some students will be traveling and some will not have the support to complete tasks. Some students do not have access to materials or technology at home. You are providing an opportunity for students to continue their learning and whoever takes advantage of that will benefit!
Remember, breaks are needed but can pause the learning. To keep their brains active over breaks, remember these tips!