We all loved getting to have these last few weeks off of work and school, right? Sleeping in, watching movies, and having time with your family and friends. Now, it's back to the grind for everyone! The same way you got used to days off and eating cookies in your PJs, your students got used to being on break, too. It can be difficult getting back into the swing of things and routines after being on winter break and not having therapy for weeks. Here are some tips and ideas to keep therapy fun and engaging for you and your students as we all get back after winter break.
Give students something to look forward to again.
I know I remember what it was like in school during the Fall. Everything is a countdown to the different holidays and days off of school. Only 10 more days until Halloween, then suddenly it’s two more tests until Thanksgiving break, all leading up to the big winter break. Then, school starts back up again in January, and there are not as many breaks or holidays to look forward to. Plan “events” or activities with your students and give them something to look forward to or count down for again. Maybe you pick a random date in January or February and tell your students that is game day in therapy and have a countdown in your classroom. Look up a list of “national days” (like National Popcorn Day on January 19th) and choose one to celebrate with your students and center your activities around that.
We all know the students will return to school from winter break with more stories than we can count! It can be distracting and take up time during therapy sessions when the students are constantly jumping in with another story about something they did over the break or a funny joke they heard at grandpa’s house. We want our students to know we care and want to hear what they have to say… but we also need to get back to work after having winter break and all those days off, right? So, why not make it part of your schedule? On the first day back, set a timer for a certain amount of time and each student gets to share about what they did over break or tell a story. You can incorporate other goals into this activity, such as having them draw a picture about break if they are working on fine motor skills or tell a story about their favorite “gift” if they are working on their /g/ sound. Either way, start the session by telling your students something you did over break and letting them know you want to hear about their break. Then, after the timer goes off, it’s time to get to work!
Remind students of their progress.
Everyone’s brain has been on break-mode these last few weeks, and we could all probably use a reminder of our goals. Take the first session back to review your students’ goals with them. Remember when reviewing goals to also talk about how far your students have come already. Remind them of that great job they did on their sounds right before break or tell them if you can tell they practiced at home over the break. You can even check out websites like TeachersPayTeachers, where you can find some downloadable visual progress monitoring charts to have your students color in so they can see their progress. It might really help your students to see that they already are well on their way toward their goal at this halfway through the school year mark.
I hope that these ideas are helpful as we all get back to the swing of things in this new year. Remember that it is important- not only for our students, but also for us as educators- that we give students something to look forward to now that break is done, let them share their stories with us so they feel heard, and remind them of how far they’ve come and what goals they are working on as we start the new calendar year.