It’s no secret that 2020 has been a stressful year, especially for teachers. The destruction of daily routines and new restrictions on normal life have affected few people as much as they have educators and students of all ages, and the 2020 holiday season will be the first in this new reality. This traditional period of rest and relaxation feels like it might slip away now that libraries, museums, schools, and other cultural institutions will be closed or limited. It might seem all but impossible for teachers to motivate their students to continue learning during winter break while still finding the much-needed rest they usually get.
That’s why we’ve created this list of suggestions for continuing learning during winter break.
Our first and probably most important suggestion is: do not try to change your students’ expected holiday behavior.
As we well know, winter break is a near-sacred time for students, whether it’s spent on vacation, with family, playing video games, playing outdoors, or sleeping in. In all likelihood, any schoolwork will be forgotten as soon as they leave the classroom, so trying to shoehorn a worksheet or assignment into their time away from school is not going to work.
However, just because there isn’t a worksheet doesn’t mean learning can’t happen. Think about the activities your students will be participating in (maybe even ask them before the break) and then incorporate principles from your curriculum into their time off. Are some students spending time with family? Have them give a report to the class about their family traditions, the country of their origin, and history. Are some expecting to play on a new video game console? Video games offer a rich and deep library of mathematics, tactics, history, and other life skills, so have your students write down some connections they can make between the video games they play and what you taught during the semester.
The fight between homework and holiday fun will always be a losing battle, so try to break the association between learning and homework. Create memories in the home, not conflict. If you can associate learning with fun instead, education often takes care of itself.
Second, if you want to give your students an “assignment,” give them options.
Whether the assignment is to read a book, write a paper, memorize something, or complete a project, give them a list of options they can choose from so they have some measure of control over their learning during winter break. Provide students with a selection of books to read from different genres or several websites that provide free documentaries or educational courses (with the increasing number of free online courses, or even video sites like YouTube, this should be easier than ever).
Letting your students choose between doing something active (building or writing) or something passive (watching or reading) gives them more control over how they spend their time and shows respect for their agency and personal preferences.
Third, help your students continue learning during winter break by asking them to develop a new skill or hobby.
Again, a list is handy here as well. Let them define the limits of success for their skill or hobby, and ask them to come prepared to explain what they did to the class. A day or two spent exploring skills and hobbies in the classroom can inspire your students to find something about which they can be passionate during the break, and hopefully continue to work with long after school resumes.
Fourth, no matter what you plan to do to address learning during winter break, try to include the student’s family or home/support group.
By including the student’s family in whatever activity or assignment you have in mind, you are not only increasing the likelihood of it getting done, but that the experience will be much more effective and memorable for the student. Engaging in outdoor activities, playing board games, watching and discussing documentaries, and completing craft projects are particularly easy for families to do with students without interrupting family routines.
True success for any teacher is igniting the passion for learning within their students. Show them that there is more to learning than worksheets and online lessons, that there are many paths toward education, all of which can include their favorite hobbies and pastimes. Don’t try to swim upstream during the holiday break. By considering these suggestions for continuing learning during winter break, you and your students will be able to find the joy and (more importantly) relaxation you need after a long year.