Buckling Down Before the Winter Learning Dip

Winter can be hard on all of us—our bodies, our psyches, and our emotions. These feelings can affect children while at school, when winter blues set in and often manifest as fatigue, sickness, and inattentiveness. Advisory Board member, Amber, offers some ideas for how to get your students to buckle down before their learning progress buckles and collapses.

Buckling down during winter slide

The new year is a double-edged sword for teachers—on one level, it’s a rebirth or chance to “start over” for all of us; on the other hand, it means that students face a long road ahead until spring vacation. There is often what’s known as a winter “learning dip” — brought upon by the gloomy weather doldrums and the feeling that warmth and sunshine are a long way’s off. . .  But, here are some strategies teachers can use to keep their students focused in order to go the distance when late spring testing hits:

Classwide or Whole School Competitions


Friendly competitions are a great way to motivate students to complete a certain task with success. Students are able to measure their progress by observing the success of their peers, which can be a motivator for many students to work harder or accomplish a goal. In order for students to visually see the competition progress, it is important to have a visual aid available for students to see—such as a bulletin board with student or class achievements towards a goal. Prizes and rewards are also a great motivator for students. Finding prizes and rewards that are related to students’ interests can definitely make students eager to win.

Classroom Parties

star wars party

Doing things that “spark joy” have become part and parcel of our culture, thanks to Marie Kondo. Classroom parties (whether in-person or virtual) not only increase excitement for students, but are fun for teachers too! Everybody loves to take a break from the daily routine and testing practice to have fun, laugh, and look forward to being on the “other” side of the pandemic and quarantine. Parties or other classwide events, like movies, sharing scary stories, etc. allow students to bond and socialize in a way that they can’t when engaged in the typical teacher-led lesson or teacher-directed format.

Data Notebooks

data notebooks

Data notebooks help keep students and teachers aware of the academic struggles and achievements of each student. Each student receives a one-inch binder to track their academic progress and accountability throughout the year that may include: test results, work samples, writing samples, grades, and more. Then, teachers have the ability to hold individual conferences with students and their parents about their individual academic struggles, achievements, and progress. By the end of the year, students take home the binder as a snapshot of a year’s worth of academic results. 

Test Day Countdowns

countdown poster

In order for students and teachers to stay productive and on track for curriculum goals and testing, everyone needs to know the amount of time that is left for testing review. By having a visual aid of a countdown clock or poster for everyone to see, it allows communication about testing dates to run smoothly. With a countdown posted, teachers are no longer barraged with the question: “When is our test?” Students can take ownership of the countdown by changing the number of days left on the poster each day or week.

Review Games

review games

Make learning and review fun by adding review games to testing practice. There are many outstanding games out there for teachers to use to help engage and excite students in the classroom. Some of these review games include: Kahoot!, Trashketball, and Sink or Swim. By allowing students to learn and review through games, it encourages students to work as a team and help each other find the answers they may not remember or know. It also allows students to take a break from the normal paper and pencil test practice in the classroom.

It is important for teachers to have strategies to keep students engaged all the way through to end-of-year testing. There are many obstacles during winter that keep students from focusing on their progress and goals, including sickness, snow days, or just distraction. By holding competitions, classroom parties, implementing data notebooks, test day countdowns, and review games, it will keep the teacher energized, the students excited, and their parents informed about their students’ progress and successes.


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