Spring Fever – 7 Ways to Deal With It

The top definition of Spring Fever in Urban Dictionary is:

spring fever

  1. wanting the present moment to become summer
  2. slacking off in school because the year is almost over
  3. wanting to be outside every day rather than inside

Teachers encounter Spring Fever on two levels – we have it and our students have it. It seems everyone is tired, distracted, and just DONE. So how do we squeeze in those 500 remaining Lucy Calkins lessons before the end of the year without sparking a rebellion?

Ineffective Spring Fever Approach #1

Some teachers pretend Spring Fever doesn’t exist. They crack down extra hard and load students up with high-stakes assignments, projects, and tests. This definitely keeps everyone busy, but it also tends to keep everyone stressed-out. And there can be other unintended consequences, which I wrote about in a previous Sanity Boost.

Ineffective Spring Fever Approach #2

Other teachers just give up on getting anything academic done and facilitate the Spring Fever slacking. These teachers plan a lot of fluff activities like extra recesses, parties, and dress-up days. Their thinking? You can’t get the students to do anything, so you might as well have some fun. There are several reasons this approach is ineffective (besides the fact that you’re slacking on the academics.)

1- Students who struggle the most with behavior also usually need the most structure. If the structure is suddenly taken away, their behavior can get out of control, and there goes your low-stress, fun activity.

2- Unless you plan to let the students do literally ANYTHING, you will still need to plan the activities and set up your behavior guidelines. This can be even more work than continuing with the routines you already have set up.

3- Believe it or not, some of your students actually like to learn and will resent wasting time when they could be learning. (I know this is a rare one, but don’t we want to honor this attitude?) Parents and administrators may also want students to continue learning.

Finding the Balance

It is possible to accommodate Spring Fever and still complete important tasks. Here are few suggestions and things to try.

1- Let your students know exactly what still needs to be accomplished academically. Put a list on the board, or give them a calendar, list, or agenda. This can be motivating to both teachers and students. It also lets the students know you aren’t just giving them meaningless busywork.

2- Do a low-key countdown, such as writing the number of days left on the board. This helps prepare students for the transition for summer, and you can also say, “We only have ___ days left to get everything done before our end-of-the year party. Let’s stay focused now so we can play later.” You can encourage them to make their last __ days memorable and fun.

3- Refrain from taking down your walls until the second-to-last day. Taking down your decorations, posters, and anchor charts too early communicates that learning is over.

4- Integrate content and skills with activities that help students reflect on their year or look forward to next year. For example, students can write a letter of introduction to their next year’s teacher or a thank-you letter to a previous teacher.

5- Consider adopting a class currency, token economy, or incentive plan that students can use to purchase prizes (such as unused supplies or books) on the last day of school. This can be a good opportunity to learn about keeping track of money, as well as a way to keep students focused.End of the Year Jobs for Students

6- If individual students finish projects early or lose focus to the point of being unable to work, you can give them a sorting or organizing job to do. Often this short break helps them get their focus back, and it helps you get ready for year-end, too. Check our Awesome Teacher Nation Resource Library under “Educator Resources” for a list of possible jobs.

7- Take your class outside from time to time when the activity will allow it. You can do it “just because” or use it as an incentive or reward.

Now it’s your turn. How do you find the balance when dealing with Spring Fever in your classroom? Feel free to comment below, post in our private Facebook group, or send me an email. I always like to hear from you!

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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Are Class Meetings a Waste of Time?

Class meetings are becoming more and more common, especially at the elementary level. Are they worth the time?

Class meetings, like any other classroom management tool, can be abused. When I was a full-time elementary teacher my class had Morning Meeting every morning. As I remember it, we would do a greeting, have announcements, sing a campfire-type song, and play a game. Every Friday we would do Pretzels, which sometimes took 30 minutes and involved students complementing each other for being helpful and asking for restitution (in the form of a pretzel) for being hurtful.

Are Class Meetings a Waste of Time?I was all gung-ho about Morning Meeting at first. I noticed improvement in students’ listening and problem-solving skills. It was also fun and seemed to build rapport. But then the students got really good at dragging the greetings and games out, so that sometimes the meetings would take 45 minutes or more. When we played games like Do You Love Me, Honey (to try to make each other laugh) and Can You Do This Like I Do This (a guessing game) the students would get out of control and goofy. I started to think the meeting was a big waste of time.

Older kids are not going to tolerate anything they see as stupid, boring, or patronizing.

So when I moved on to middle school, I left it out entirely. Who has time for a 30-minute meeting in a 45-minute class period? Plus, what middle-schooler would be caught dead playing Do You Love Me Honey? Frankly, I just couldn’t see the point. Why work so hard to build rapport and community when I only saw my students 45 minutes a day for 9 weeks? So I ditched it.

The education community ditched it too, as school focused more and more on standards and curriculum and less on fun. And we suffered for it. Enrollment in my classroom management seminars exploded as student behavior escalated out of control. Students seemed so angry, and they acted out in disruptive, destructive, and sometimes even violent ways. Yikes!

Pensulum

Now the pendulum is swinging back and class meetings are “in” again. Some schools even mandate them. And I think, on the whole, this is a good thing. (Not the mandating, but the reemergence of circle time.) Class meetings can help in so many ways. They can:

  • Promote the development of speaking and listening skills
  • Help students form friendships and understand each other
  • Teach students problem-solving skills and give them the opportunity to practice in a safe environment
  • Allow the teacher to become aware of emerging problems before they escalate
  • Increase student buy-in to rules, procedures, and classroom norms
  • Create a forum for solving whole-class conflicts when they arise

…and more!

However, as I said in the beginning, class meetings CAN be a waste of time. It can be difficult with today’s large class sizes for everyone to get a chance to speak, and it can be hard for younger students and students with short attention spans (in other words, everyone) to listen for that long. Introverted or shy students can feel unsafe. Meetings can become too heavy or too silly. And older kids are not going to tolerate anything they see as stupid, boring, or patronizing.

If you decide to make class meetings a part of your day, here are a few suggestions to make them beneficial for everyone.

Keep It SnappyKeep it Snappy

The entire meeting should take no longer than 10-15 minutes on a normal day. No long games or involved greetings (like I did.) If everyone is going to share, teach them how to share in five or six words. If you want longer sharing, limit it to two or three people per meeting. Use hand signals such as “fist-to-five” and “same-as” to give everyone a chance to participate at once, instead of slow, boring, one-at-a-time models.

It’s important to have a structure for the meeting, but don’t do identical activities each day.

Build In Variety

It’s important to have a structure for the meeting, but don’t do identical activities each day. For example, it’s great to have a greeting component for your meeting, but change up the greeting. Use a different language. Have a choral greeting on some days, and an individual greeting on others. Go around the circle sometimes, and sometimes allow students to choose their greet-ee. Don’t be as rigid I was with my set agenda (greeting, announcements, song, and game) every day. If you build in flexibility you will be able to adapt when you need extra time for problem-solving or when you need to cut it short.

Include Everyone

I used to make students who didn’t complete their homework do it during the game time. This was a mistake. Everyone needs to participate in the meeting.

Make it okay to pass or have a way they can participate anonymously, such as submitting discussion topics to a suggestion box.

Make Sure Everyone Is Safe

Some students will feel uncomfortable sharing. Make it okay to pass or have a way they can participate anonymously, such as submitting discussion topics to a suggestion box.

Avoid Heavy, Reactionary Meetings

If you only call a class meeting when there’s a problem, it may feel like scolding to your students. It may not be necessary to have a class meeting every day, but it is helpful to have them on a regular basis when things are “normal” so students are used to participating and feel safe doing so.

Keep It Relevant

Class meetings can and should be fun, but they should also feel purposeful and important. For older students, it may be appropriate to have a debriefing meeting at the end of the period where they can celebrate learning and work through any problems that came up during class. Ask students for discussion topics, and provide ways for them to safely share what’s happening in their lives.

Build In VarietyCreate Traditions and Positive Habits

This can be done in many ways and can be easily adapted to your style and the needs of the students. Use class meetings to teach students how to greet each other, how to give and receive compliments and show appreciation, and how to use centering techniques such as purposeful breathing. Create special signals (like saying “one-two-three-BREAK”) to end the meeting or transition to another activity.

Class meetings are a powerful tool that be used in many different ways, and there is always more to learn.

Class meetings are a powerful tool that be used in many different ways, and there is always more to learn. If you have a suggestion or question about class meetings, I invite you to share in the comments below.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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Improve Student Behavior With Your “Magic Clipboard”

I didn’t lose my cool. I simply invoked the power of the magic clipboard.

Let’s face it. Our students are smart, especially when it comes to figuring out how to “get away with” attention-getting misbehavior. For one thing, they know timing is everything. If you want the maximum attention with the fewest consequences, you need to pick a time when adult attention is divided, or your campaign will be shut down before it can attract enough attention.

For example, why make fart noises in class during the day when you’ll simply be sent to the buddy room to fill out a reflection form? Why not do it at the end of the day when it’s too late for the buddy room and the teacher doesn’t have time to deal with it? And better yet, why not get two of your buddies to do it with you to maximize the effect and make it even harder for the teacher to stop you?

Instead of ignoring the behavior, trying to send the students to the time-out room anyway, or losing my temper and yelling at them, I simply put the reflection forms on clipboards and calmly asked the students to fill them out at their seats.

Yes, this happened to me this week in a lovely 4th grade class that is the terror of the school.

But I didn’t lose my cool. I simply invoked the power of the clipboard.

Instead of ignoring the behavior, trying to send the students to the time-out room anyway, or losing my temper and yelling at them, I simply put the reflection forms on clipboards and calmly asked the students to fill them out at their seats.

Two of them immediately finished the forms with the fastest writing I had ever seen.

When they started goofing off instead, I said, “I’m sorry you’re having trouble getting done with the forms. Don’t worry! We can just take them with us to the dismissal area, and the three of you can work on them there. If your family is already there to pick you up, I’m sure they won’t mind waiting until you’re finished.”

Two of them immediately finished the forms with the fastest writing I had ever seen. The third one still hadn’t finished when it was time to go, but he instantly developed the superpower of being able to write and walk at the same time (even though he’s barely coordinated enough write his name on his paper the rest of the day.) I went over the completed forms with each student at the dismissal area, said a friendly goodbye, and sent them on their way.

Without the Clipboard

What would have happened without the clipboard? Either they would have gotten a lot of attention from yelling, begging, and pleading; or there would have been no consequences when I ignored them; or they would have had delayed consequences the next day when they had forgotten all about it; or they would have held the entire class hostage while I waited for them to complete their reflection forms. None of these solutions would have helped them learn more appropriate behavior, and several would have reinforced their behavior by giving them what they wanted – power and attention.

Clipboards are an essential classroom management tool!

Uses For Clipboards

Clipboards are an essential classroom management tool! You can use them to separate students who are having difficulty working together. You can use them as an intervention for students who have trouble sitting still, so they can walk and work. You can use them as a reward or incentive. (If you do ___ you can use the clipboard and work on the floor, cushy chair, or counter.) You can use clipboards to give students a legitimate choice – do the work now, or work on the clipboard at recess.

Please Share!

Do you have a magic clipboard trick to help with student behavior? Or something else that works for you? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina@AwesomeTeacherNation.com

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