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Keeping Students Engaged During the Long Winter Months

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Doodle Pad at House of Doolittle

Teachers have a difficult job. They create imaginative and inspirational classrooms filled with visually appealing learning tools and plan engaging lessons to last an entire year. Teachers are gifted with a supply of energy and enthusiasm capable of infiltrating even the most stubborn of little minds.  

But sometimes their best efforts can hit a roadblock when students lose focus during the long, dark winter months when the air is too chilly to play outside, and sunshine feels like a distant memory.  

There are a few best practices teachers can employ when trying to renew interest in learning when their young students seem caught up in the dreariness of the cold early months of the new year. Everything from encouraging physical activity to allowing students to draw on a doodle pad can help ignite some energy and ensure that learning continues.  

Get Those Little Bodies Moving! 

Sitting all day at a desk or shared table can drain the energy of any student. While classrooms are often too small to do much exercise there is still room to jump up and stretch to the blood flowing. A few deep breaths and a drink of water can also work wonders for a quick energy boost.  

Give Students Some Choice 

Students, especially the youngest ones, are given so few opportunities to make their own decisions. Their “grown-ups” map out their lives from clothes to extracurriculars to bedtime. Teachers that allow students to make choices about how to incorporate some “educational” fun during their school days will find students looking forward to their additional assignments. A few activities can include: 

•Create workstations around the classroom with clues for a treasure hunt so students can visit each and solve a problem to obtain a clue.

•Ask students to supply new spelling words (in addition to the required curriculum) about a favorite subject – maybe a sports team, video game, or famous band.

•Write riddles on the whiteboard and have students guess the answers

•Create a classroom trivia game that awards special prizes like lunchtime with their teacher or a “no homework” day.

•Organize a game of charades so students can physically act out words or phrases related to the week’s lessons.

•Allow students to indicate their opinions on a subject by moving to a different part of the room. For example, students who love carrots stand on the right side of the room while students who dislike carrots stand on the left. Add a few more topics to have students move back and forth several times.

Give Them a Brain Break 

This can mean different things to each student, but every student deserves to have a few minutes of personal time. Let students have a little quiet time to read a few pages of their favorite, stare out the window to daydream, or create some fun drawings on a doodle pad. Each of these very different activities can allow students to reset their focus with something creative and tackle the remainder of the day with a bit more energy.  

Give Students the Unexpected or Unknown 

All school districts have educational requirements to which they must adhere. While necessary to ensure that all students are receiving the education, they need to progress to each subsequent grade level, there is also a seemingly infinite supply of possibilities to ignite their curiosity and wonder regarding something new. Examples can include: 

•Play some short video clips from classic films like a dance number from Singin’ in the Rain or The Wizard of Oz.

•Show them pictures of famous paintings like Van Gogh’s Starry Night or da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and ask students what they think the artist wanted to say.

•Play some pieces and/or show video clips of unusual music from around the world like dulcimers from Appalachia or sitars from India.

•Show photos of rare or endangered animals that students may not know and share strange facts about them. Include protection and conservation in the discussion.

Teachers Need to Re-energize Too! 

As teachers add activities to the school day to help students become more alert and ready to learn, they cannot afford to forget about themselves in this process. Any one of us, teachers, or any other professionals, can become bored and disengaged while enduring the winter months. It is easy to feel cooped up and drained of energy from repeatedly participating in what can become a boring routine.  

Add a little jolt of energy to your days as well by practicing some teacher self-care. No matter what your profession everyone needs adequate physical activity and proper nutrition and hydration to complete each day fulfilled and not depleted. Kids are smart little creatures- remember you are the one imparting all this knowledge and wisdom! They are attuned to their teachers’ moods and energy levels. A teacher who is rested, re-fueled, and de-stressed can work magic with the sea of eager faces and inquisitive minds sitting before them every day.  

It is early in the year and the days are still short. Think about adding a few of these classroom suggestions to keep young students ready to take on each new day of learning. House of Doolittle has a wonderful variety of doodle pads and other classroom tools to energize both students and teachers. And the good news is that spring is just around the corner. 

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