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Reset Your Classroom to Survive Spring

It's May—and that means the potential for student distraction is higher than ever.

excited kids towards the end of the school year

Every teacher knows that any given school year is riddled with interruptions and disruptions.

By the time spring rolls around, it often feels like you’re never teaching a full typical week! Just when you start to get some momentum in a unit, events like spring breaks, standardized testing days, spring concerts and field trips throw a wrench in your plans.

Now, you’re probably adept at reorganizing your curriculum to accommodate both expected and unexpected schedule changes. However, adapting to the dysregulated student behaviors that pop up in these opportunities can be much more challenging.

I’ve got seven suggestions for how to reset your classroom environment after disruptions to maintain productivity through the final school days of spring.

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1. Desk Change

This is a super simple action that can have a big impact on students’ perception of your room. If you’ve had your desks in groups or a U for a while and behaviors are starting to emerge, then try rows or pairs—just for a week or so. A seating change signals a shift in the mood of the classroom, which sets the stage for the rest of your resets.

2. Firm Expectations

As spring approaches, sometimes our own commitment to consistent and firm behavior management starts to slip. During your reset, invest some time in reviewing your own behavior expectations.

Ask yourself:

  • Are your expectations clear to students?
  • Do students remember your expectations?
  • Could students explain the logical consequences that come from breaking expectations?
  • Are the consequences that follow behaviors logical and consistent?
  • Are you redirecting students or administering consequences in an objective, matter-of-fact tone that prevents escalation?

If necessary, take a few minutes of class to review expectations and consequences.

students staying engaged in the classroom

3. Easy-to-Manage Activities

I typically run a fairly progressive and collaborative classroom with a lot of discussion and student movement. However, when students are dysregulated after a break or disruption, I know that it’s going to be an uphill battle to have a class debate without students struggling to not interrupt each other.

I’ll prepare something that is rigorous, but also straightforward enough for independent completion, for the first day or two back to class. I’ll stick with a clear class structure with a Warm-Up, Mini-Lesson, and Independent Practice. I teach Social Studies, so a Document-Based Question activity with a culminating writing task works well for me.

By having a clear, structured lesson that doesn’t require heavy amounts of student collaboration, I can focus on keeping those expectations for behavior firm and responding to any disruptions with consistency.

4. Explain & Model Everything

Yes, just like at the beginning of the year!

Whenever you introduce an activity or assignment, explain in very specific language exactly what your behavior and academic expectations are. This includes whether or not students can talk, whether or not students can move around the room, whether or not students can work with peers, and so on.

When explaining, look for and take every opportunity to actually model the task as well. In the spring, students are looking for chances to avoid their tasks. Don’t give them any reason to misunderstand your instructions or expectations.

5. Clean It Up!

I don’t know about you, but by the end of the year my room starts to look a bit shabby. It can be tempting to just wait until the end of the year to fix up your room, but mess and clutter sends a message to your students that things are getting more relaxed.

Just like a desk change, a refreshing room cleaning can set a more focused tone. I don’t usually ask students to help with cleaning (even though they love it), but it can be a good activity for them during the last 30 minutes of the day, especially after many hours of standardized testing.

6. Stay Positive

We’ve discussed keeping your management consistent and firm. But a little joy also goes a long way during the spring season! Even if you are feeling frustrated and burnt out, it’s important to resist letting that mood seep into your teaching. Students are perceptive, and if they can tell if you’ve checked out. If you’ve checked out, they certainly will.

My final tip should help you and your students keep that positivity and love of learning alive through the final weeks of the year.

7. End With Engagement

A traditional curriculum structure ends with final exams. If your school gives you any flexibility, I suggest moving your final exams forward on the calendar. Then, plan a highly engaging Project-Based Learning unit that will keep your students focused during those final days when all they can think about is summer break. Ideally, you’ll design something hands on and collaborative.

It can also help to schedule a showcase of student work for these final weeks. If students are no longer feeling intrinsically motivated or motivated by grades, the knowledge that their work will be seen and evaluated by a larger audience might keep them going. The best showcases reach a wider audience than just other students and parents. See if you can find some industry experts in the field of the students’ projects to join and provide feedback! A showcase gives a sense of importance to Project-Based Learning.

Spring creates management and engagement challenges for every teacher.

But with some careful planning and renewed investment, you can mitigate some of the worst effects of the season and keep learning going right until the end!

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Want more from this author? Check out Nicole's 6 reasons to use project-based learning in diverse schools.
Author Bio:

Nicole Nicholas is a urban public school teacher who is passionate about designing curriculum that is rigorous, engaging, inquiry driven and socially conscious. She loves learning about and discussing creative ways to support and differentiate for students with a wide spectrum of needs.

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