OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: Great Ideas for December and the Holidays in the Classroom

Once Halloween hits, we sometimes start to feel like we lose our class until New Year!   But this time of year shouldn’t be stressful for our students or for classroom teachers. The Center for Responsive Schools has many ideas for making our classroom focused on learning right up to the long break in December. I have compiled some great articles that you can use to maintain the joyfulness and learning in your classroom during December.

Holiday Celebrations
Center for Responsive Schools -December 06, 2010

“Winter holiday celebrations! They’re such a big part of American school life. But as our schools grow more diverse, traditional celebrations can leave some children and families feeling excluded or uncomfortable. Also, even if everyone at your school is fine with the traditional celebrations, there’s the matter of time pressure: We’re constantly trying to squeeze more into the school day, and holiday parties can take time away from learning.

Here are a few ideas for alternatives to traditional winter holiday parties…” READ MORE…

Keep Learning Going During Holiday & Vacation Times
Center for Responsive Schools – November 01, 2010

“Suddenly, it seems like the class is falling apart. Classroom routines that were going smoothly just a few weeks ago now seem rough around the edges. More and more children are forgetting to follow classroom rules. The noise level is higher, and academic productivity seems lower. What’s going on?

In the weeks leading up to winter vacation, what you’re seeing may well be a case of the holiday season jitters. From November through January, children often become more fidgety, giggly, testy, and tired. There are many reasons: they may be distracted by the excitement of home activities, or they may be reacting to increased stress at home. At school, schedules are often disrupted at this time of year by assemblies, plays, and special events, and such changes in routine can throw children’s behavior off. Plus, at many schools, recess is curtailed once winter weather arrives.

What can you do to help your students stay on track and learn at their best during this season? We’ve found that an extra measure of calmness, consistency, and structure can work wonders. Here are some strategies you might want to try…” READ MORE…

Handling the Holidays
Center for Responsive Schools – December 13, 2009

“As the holidays swing into full gear, maintaining a productive and calm atmosphere in the classroom can be challenging. Students can be more fidgety, giggly, testy, and tired at this time of year. In December, children are also often distracted by the excitement of home activities and by the stress that their parents and caregivers may be feeling. Furthermore, your classroom schedule may be disrupted by assemblies, class plays, and holiday lunches…” READ More… 

Morning meetings during the holidays and December can also be planned effectively to meet the needs of your classroom:

Winter Holidays
Center for Responsive Schools – November 01, 2002

Question: The children in my classroom come from many different traditions and cultures. I know the winter holidays could be a great opportunity for children to learn about each other’s cultures but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any suggestions? READ MORE…

In his book, A Healthy Classroom, author Michael Grinder helps teachers understand the “Seasons of the Year” and how your classroom is a “group dynamic” always at work. Teachers need to be proactive as soon as Halloween hits. By this time, the group hopefully is formed and children are beginning to feel comfortable in their positive learning community. The teacher may need to move from the stance of “flight attendant” back to “pilot” during this time of year. It’s important for teachers to realize the natural ebb and flow of the classroom throughout the seasons in their classrooms. Responsive Classroom practice offer teachers the proactive strategies to provide children with all they need to be successful even during this seasonal time of year. For some children this is an exciting time of year, for others it could be quite the opposite. It is important for the teacher to provide a classroom structure that is predictable and inclusive to all cultures. Once you return to your classroom in January, I always encourage teachers to revisit the work they did during the first six weeks of school and set children up for success for the second half of the schools year.

Here’s to a wonderful December with your students and the best to you in 2017!

Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw
OCM BOCES – Staff Development Specialist
Certified Responsive Classroom® Trainer by the Center for Responsive Schools (Developers of the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching and learning)

Playing Games or Building Skills?

Does your school currently have small groups set up for students who are in need of intervention to work on certain behavior skills, such as, social skills or conflict resolution skills? These groups are one step above Tier 1 universal supports and we often call this Tier II intervention “Social Academic Instructional Groups”, otherwise known as SAIG. As a classroom teacher, have you ever wondered what students actually do within those groups? For many, it is often a “big mystery” as to what is being discussed within groups and how it is making a difference in the student’s everyday behavior within the classroom. Continue reading

Getting to know the Northern ENL PLC

Some of the members of the Northern ENL PLC. Paul Gugel, Jean Ann, Katie Knapp, Diane Garafalo (founding member), Laura Stevens (founding member), and Bruce Long Peng.

The mid-state region of New York is unique when it comes to our English Language Learner (ELL) population. We have our city schools, which are heavily populated with ELLs and often have at least 3 teachers of English as a New Language (ENL) in each building. Then we have our rural and suburban districts, whose ELL population usually garners one ENL teacher, maybe two. Our ENL teachers in these districts can often feel isolated with no one to turn to with questions or advice in teaching ELLs. I know from personal experience how hard this can be. I have never taught in a school with another ENL teacher, something that was very hard during my first year of teaching. I felt very alone, stressed, and pressured. I survived though, and got use to the isolated feeling of being the only ENL teacher, that doesn’t mean I didn’t yearn for someone to give me guidance and be my partner in crime in this ENL world though. If you’re reading this and thinking “I feel the same way”, no need to fear, the Northern ENL PLC is here! (and your trusty Mid-State RBERN). Continue reading

Teaching Social Studies = Getting to the Source(s)

In the last couple of weeks, I have had several occasions to work with social studies teachers from around Central New York as well as working with pre-service teachers in my class at SUNY Cortland. I have found an ongoing theme in many of these encounters: Teachers want to teach social studies in ways that engage students and give them opportunities to interact with history in authentic ways by using primary sources. It is what is the basis for the Social Studies Practices in the NYS K-12 Framework and is certainly at the heart of the C3 Framework and the Inquiry Arc. Continue reading

“Paper Plate” Coaching

Much like hosting a meal, coaching requires some planning, organization, and most importantly, flexibility! Although a prepared coach always enters a session with certain outcomes in mind, one never knows which direction the experience might go. Being able to stay focused and think quickly is vital; and if there are paper plates around, even better! Continue reading

Children are Watching

Like so many others in our country, I have been saddened and sickened by this Presidential election cycle and all of its vicious rhetoric. I watched at least part of each debate, even though my instincts were to flee from the room as soon as the moderator announced the candidates. I have tried to be a good, thoughtful citizen by focusing on the issues which face our nation and where each candidate stands on them. But I have found it impossible to ignore what I see as basically uncivil discourse, i.e., bad behavior. And I often have felt fortunate that I no longer have children at home to whom I must try to explain why these people are being so mean. And as an educator and counselor, I worry about the impact all of this negativity might have on all of our children. Continue reading

November Book Review

This year the Math Leadership group will have several titles offered as opportunities for collective learning. One of the titles is Principals to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All by the National Council of Techers of Mathematics published in 2014. This text begins by highlighting celebrations in math teaching and learning. However, it is noted that we must move from “pockets of excellence” to “systemic excellence.”     To achieve this goal, there are some realities that need to be addressed:

  • Too much focus is on learning procedures without any connection to meaning, understanding or the applications that require these procedures.
  • Too many students are limited by the lower expectations and narrower curricula of remedial tracks from which few ever emerge.
  • Too many teachers have limited access to the instructional materials, tools, and technology that they need.
  • Too much weight is placed on results from assessments- particularly large-scale, high-stakes assessments –that emphasize skills and fact recall and fail to give sufficient attention to problem solving and reasoning.
  • Too many teachers of mathematics remain professionally isolated, without the benefits of collaborative structures and coaching, and with inadequate opportunities for professional development related to mathematics teaching and learning. (p. 3)

Continue reading