Back to School: January Activities That Keep Learning Meaningful

As we all finish up our winter breaks, it’s time to face the harsh reality that not only do we need to head back to class after the new year, but we need January activities for our classroom that will engage our students.  We weren’t the only ones “on vacation”, but we can help our students ease back into the routines of school life.

january teaching ideas, winter teaching ideas

Students need to “relearn” how to focus on academic work

After spending a week or two with little routine and structure and completely different rules than school, we need to help students readjust.  Breaking the day into smaller chunks of time with more frequent breaks and engaging academics can help.  Have a sixty-minute math block?  Try a ten minute warm-up, a 10-minute mini lesson, some cooperative work, and then a second minilesson.  Instead of expecting students to write or read independently for extended periods, consider some short and engaging lessons (Check out THIS POST for one example) and then time for fun practice.

What will I be doing that first week back?  Here are a few!

  • Literacy Task Cards.  Reading some short passages is a great way to get some direct teaching in small portions!  This is a perfect complement to working back into the stamina of our independent reading time. I wrote this blog post about how I use these for interventions, but they make GREAT whole class warm ups as well.
  • An engaging read aloud that I sprinkle throughout the day, not just right after lunch.  I’m still debating…but I think it will be Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur. It’s one of my favorites and students make amazing connections with Fish in a Tree from earlier in the year.  If you want to grab a copy, my affiliate link is at the bottom of this post.
  • Cooperative problem-solving activities (See below for a link to the January problems I plan to use)
  • Reviewing literacy goals and setting new ones with students (Here is a post about what I do with these reading goals!)
  • Some “New Year” fun…including goal setting, some fun math activities, and more.  Some I do with my entire class while other activities become options.  Here is the January activities resource I use!

happy new year activities

And, of course, starting to work back into our content!

Students need to “relearn” how to work together

Even if a student has siblings, the kind of “working together” that happens at school is completely different than the cooperation required in a classroom.  How can we help? Revisiting expectations, referring to anchor charts about working together, and providing practice time would be a good start!  Try math games, cooperative math tasks, buddy reading, STEM activities, or other shared experiences.  A while ago I wrote a post with some tips for this…if you want to revisit this post about working with partners, take a peek! I may even revisit a few of these cooperative challenges that we didn’t get to as we built our classroom community back in the fall.  We can refine and regroup our collaborative power that first week back.cooperative lessons, teamwork activities

Students need to move their bodies

After lounging in their jammies, playing outside, and sprawling around over vacation, expecting students to sit dutifully in their desks for hours seems a bit unreasonable.  Build in time to move–whether it’s throwing a koosh ball, doing GoNoodle activities, playing math games, or switching activities often.  Let students read on the floor.  Put task cards around the room and let the students move to the work instead of passing the work out to them. Try a change of scenery.  Sometimes doing an activity on the cafeteria floor or in the hallway lets students move and learn in new ways.

Students want to hold onto the season

Christmas and other winter holidays are exciting for everyone–but especially children.  Expecting them to “turn off” the fun seems unreasonable. What January activities can you incorporate into your plans? We know we need to dig back into the curriculum, but we can work other meaningful activities into our plans if we are thoughtful and deliberate. Every activity I have listed below is directly related to our state standards.

What “seasonal” ideas will I be using that week back?

winter bulletin board

We ALL need to be patient with each other

That first week back is challenging for all of us.  If we can be proactive in making the transition smoother for our students, I guarantee we will be less stressed as well!  The work will get done; let’s make the work pleasant as we go! I hope you get some inspiration from these January activities! As mentioned earlier, here is a link to the book Eight Keys, an amazing read aloud! I hope everyone has a wonderful transition back to learning!

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january teaching ideas