Helping children settle back into school after the holidays is an important task for teachers.
Returning to school can be a daunting experience for many children. It’s a teacher’s/teaching assistants’ responsibility to ensure that all of the pupils are school-ready and prepared to tackle the new academic year with confidence.
Here are some tips for getting your pupils back into the school routine and ready to learn.
Create a welcoming environment in class
Set up the classroom in a way that is inviting and familiar to the children. Make sure the spaces are clean, organised, and visually appealing. Consider displaying their pictures from the last academic year for familiarity or create a ‘Welcome Back’ bulletin board. (https://www.pinterest.co.uk/karinalvarez90/welcome-back-bulletin-boards/ )
Make time for talking to all the children
It’s important to remember that school is not just about the curriculum. Many children will have missed their school friends during the holidays, so it’s crucial to create an environment where they can catch up and reconnect. Create some class icebreaker games https://www.teachit.co.uk/cpd/teaching-and-learning/20-best-icebreakers ), group projects, or class team-building exercises (https://www.weareteachers.com/team-building-games-and-activities/) to help children reconnect with their classmates and peers.
Encourage the children to reflect on their holiday experiences and share any highlights. This can help limit any disruptions during focused learning time and boost confidence while easing anxieties.
Establish a routine in class
After a long break, it’s essential to re-establish a routine as quickly as possible.
Keep in mind that there may have been a discrepancy in the amount of work and listening done at home compared to what is expected at school. Plan your first week of lesson plans with this in mind, so that routine can be re-established naturally, and the children can reacquaint themselves with the daily schedule and the rules of the classroom.
Check in with your pupils
Some of your pupils may have had a difficult home life during the holidays, so it’s important to check in with them on their return to school. Building a rapport with your class, their parents, and key care workers will help make this easier for you to identify. Consider things that can be done in the classroom to help manage any overwhelm.
Remind your class of the basics, such as where the toilets are, that you are there to help, timelines, etc. Showcase areas of your classroom that may be a place of sanctuary for those feeling overwhelmed, such as book corners and quiet spaces.
Focus on the well-being of all the children
Recognise that some students may have mixed emotions about returning to school after a holiday. Adding wellbeing-focused activities to the start of term can help your class feel less overwhelmed and give you an insight into how they are feeling. Provide opportunities for students to express their feelings and offer support if needed.
For example, ask your class to draw an image of how they are feeling or choose a colour that represents their mood and explain why. The Colour Monster story (https://www.teachingideas.co.uk/library/books/the-colour-monster ) is always a great place to start. These activities not only help your class feel supported but also give you valuable information on who you may need to keep a closer eye on as the term starts.
Be mindful of hunger and tiredness
Sleep routines can often be lost during school holidays, and snacks throughout the day can increase. This can mean that when your class returns after the holidays, they may be struck by overwhelm, hunger, and tiredness.
Be sure not to plan too many high-intensity physical activities in the first week back, and perhaps look at your PE plan, keeping in mind that some children may not have been as active or well-rested during the holidays. If your timetable allows, add in a snack time or create a lesson plan that includes food, such as a DT lesson on making fruit cocktails or tasting new foods.
The more informed your classes’ parents are regarding what makes the return to school easier for their children, the better the process will be. Most children deal with some level of stress or anxiety about school, added with a change in routine. Providing resources before the school holidays begin and just before they return is amazingly supportive. You can make these resources independently or link to your school’s website or government-provided resources.
Helping children settle back into school after the holidays can be challenging for both pupils and teachers. Remember, the key is to create a positive and supportive environment that helps children ease back into the school routine while fostering their academic and emotional growth.
By following these simple tips, you can help ease the transition and ensure that your pupils are ready to learn. Remember to prioritise communication and well-being, establish a routine, and provide support for both your pupils and their parents. With these strategies in place, you can help make the new academic year a success for everyone involved.
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