How to keep your students focused in the weeks before Thanksgiving | Mentoring in the Middle

How to keep your students focused in the weeks before Thanksgiving

 November.  Kids know the routines.  

For the most part.  

The thrill of the new school year wore off a while back.  Thanksgiving is coming.  And that's great, right?

For the most part.  

Some of your kids love coming to school.  Others push back because they have to work hard.  And you're trying to meet all of your kids where they are. 

Cover of November product that includes reading, writing, and grammar.
Some tips for keeping students focused during times when being focused is hard.

Thanksgiving means different things

I always look forward to Thanksgiving.  It's one of the times when my whole family gathers together; since we're spread from Virginia to Massachusetts, there's always a fair amount of catching up to do.

But not everyone looks forward to this holiday.  Some of our students have parents who work on this day.  For some of our students, family gatherings are fraught with tension.  Some people try too hard to recreate that "Norman Rockwell" feeling that emotions run ragged. Some parents struggle with alcohol or drug addiction and time at home doesn't feel particularly safe for our students.

What can teachers do to help their students?

It always felt like November was filled with interruptions - good ones, but they changed the routine, and for some kids, that's a lot.  We had speakers or a holiday assembly or a play.  All wonderful stuff!  But big crowds and more noise can be anxiety-producing for some.

  • Keep the routines going!  Make sure students know ahead of time that they are going to experience changes to the schedule, and as best as possible, explain how the changes will impact their day.

    "This week, we're going to have an assembly.  That means you'll go to your first class, then come back to homeroom so we can go to the auditorium together.  After that, we'll ...."

For some students, knowing ahead of time is very helpful.  For others?  The day of works best.  You know your students, so do what's best for them.

  • Some teachers get into the spirit of things with their classes - with parties and door decorating and getting louder in the halls.  Again, this is all good, if your students can handle it. 

In the last few years, I had a greater number of students who struggled with anxiety.  Keeping things calm seemed to help them.  Now, that doesn't mean that we ignored holidays.  It just meant that the music and the colors and *all the things* were kept a little quieter.

  • Keep the focus on learning even as you weave Thanksgiving or Fall-themed activities into your classroom.  Take your students outside to smell, see, and listen to the sounds of autumn. Then have them come inside to write about it.  Maybe from the perspective of a leaf.  Or a squirrel.  Or the mailbox on the corner.  You're weaving in point of view while they get to write something fun.
  • Don't Stuff the Turkey is a fun writing activity that I like to do the week leading up to Thanksgiving.  It asks students to step into the shoes (?) the feet (?) of the turkey and ask the cook to do it their way.  Fun, a lot silly, and a great introduction to writing persuasively and thinking about points of view.
  • Thanksgiving Reading Log Alternative is an activity that I assign over Thanksgiving break to keep kids reading, and give them some down time from all the activities.  They color a fruit or vegetable every time they read according to what's labeled, and fill their cornucopia.  It makes a great bulletin board or classroom display, too!
  • Thanksgiving Activities has three components: a parts of speech coloring-by-code activity, Thanksgiving vocabulary, and a Thanksgiving word search. 
Get all three of these activities in the November bundle and save 20%!

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