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A Teacher's Guide to Thanksgiving Break

A Teacher's Guide to Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving is for stuffing turkeys, not your schedule.

Thanksgiving break is a nice respite that both students and teachers gladly welcome. But you don't want to lose the momentum you've carefully built, so make sure to keep students engaged before and after the break. You'll also want to make sure both you and your students rest over the long weekend before you ramp up to finish the year strong. Even though it's a short break, keep these tips in mind as the holiday week approaches.

Don't Try to Finish Everything Before You Go

Don't stress finishing projects or units before Thanksgiving. I usually recommend wrapping up all assignments before a vacation, but not Thanksgiving because the break is so short. If I give homework at all, I go with an assignment that will inspire students to think more deeply about the current class curriculum, such as a reflective writing assignment or a reading assignment that digs deeper into our current studies but doesn't introduce anything new. Stay away from busy work! It's better to let your students rest over the break and return to your classroom ready to tackle the next topic.

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Inspire Engagement with a Victory Log

It's easy for students to lose focus during the short week before Thanksgiving break. To keep them engaged, ask students to reflect on their accomplishments with the class curriculum you've covered so far. My father, a motivational speaker, always encouraged me to keep a victory log that lists out my personal "wins." Have your class use the days before break to start a victory log of their own, either in a journal or on a page in a notebook. They can fill in their accomplishments so far, whether they've had a high test score or improved with time management, and add "victories" as the year progresses. You can even tie this activity into Thanksgiving by presenting the log as a way for students to give "thanks" to themselves and appreciate what they've accomplished so far. When you get back in the classroom, have students get back into the groove by reviewing their accomplishments and setting goals for the weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break, and beyond.

Further reading: Survive the Holiday Season

Prepare Your Class for the Crazy Holiday Season

No matter where you teach, the holiday season is a busy time. There are end-of-the-unit tests, projects due, and special performances, which can drain students' energy. Use the days leading up to Thanksgiving break to prepare your class for the intensity of the weeks between Thanksgiving and winter vacation. I like to provide a schedule for older students that lays out what we will cover over the holiday season and which assignments students will be tasked with completing. This will help them know what to expect over this hectic time of the school year.

Take Time Away from Your Classroom Life

The first few months of the school year can be draining, and I'm tired by the time Thanksgiving break rolls around. Implementing routines and systems is exciting but takes a lot of energy. When this short break rolls around I really try to take a break from the classroom and relax, and I avoid school work. Instead, I like to stay late at school either before or after the break to make sure I'm caught up and ready to teach when we return to the classroom.

Further reading: Thanksgiving Fun Facts

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect upon what you have accomplished so far and prepare for the intensity of the holiday season. Use these tips to keep your class engaged before and after the break, get some rest, and try not to eat too much!