Welcoming students back from winter break


As Winter Break is winding down, language teachers are planning learning experiences for their students as they reenter the classroom later this week- renewing relationships they have built with students and being purposeful about continuing to build classroom community.

We know that it is unlikely that most students engaged in language practice during break. Where do we begin?

I. Rethink asking students about what they did during winter break.

I started with this tip because I know it will be the most controversial. Not all students traveled to exotic places and participated in exciting activities during winter break. Breaks from school routine can be stressful and anxiety-producing for some students. We also do not want students to feel marginalized during these discussions. If the purpose of these types of conversations is to reactivate their use of the target language, what are some alternative conversation topics?

One suggestion is to have students reflect on their favorite memories from 2022 and set goals or make new year’s resolutions for 2023. I’ve collected lots of target language resources for you on my Pinterest board for multiple languages that can serve as whole class discussion topics, the basis for pair and small group tasks, and tools for individual reflection. It includes infographics, social media posts, games, videos and more in the target language.

For more information on this topic, check out these online articles:

Don’t Assume That Every Student Had a Fun or Warm Winter Break

Reduce Winter Break Stress for Students

II. Welcome students back with positive, encouraging messages in the target language.

From the very beginning of class on the first day back, reestablish routines such as beginning every lesson with a positive, encouraging message in the target language. It reactivates students’ thinking in the language and reminds them that they are welcome in the language classroom.

III. Restart classroom routines

It can be very reassuring to students that the classroom routines continue. Using the same slide templates and the same opening protocols assist students in reentering the classroom after break. Your opening routine might include: calendar talk, social-emotional check ins, the expression or question of the day, etc. Here is an editable slide deck you can use for your opening routine.


IV. Continue to conduct social-emotional check ins with your students

When you do check ins, make the experience communicative. Give students sentence starters and sentence frames to support them. Here’s the link to my Pinterest board with lots of check in ideas, some of which are winter-themed.

V. Give students lots of opportunities to reactivate their language skills

Here’s the link to my Pinterest board with lots of prompts and games to get students back in the habit of speaking and writing in the target language:

Wishing you a great restart to your school year and I hope some of these ideas are both thought-provoking and practical for you.

Additional resources for you:

6 Things to Do the Week After Winter Break

Independent Reading: Building students’ confidence in interpreting authentic texts


The thought of having novice language learners confidently interpreting authentic text is far-fetched for some.  With their limited vocabulary and facility with the language, unlocking an authentic text can feel daunting to beginning language learners.

It is magical to walk into a classroom and see students sitting in chairs and lying on the floor, fully engaged in reading books in the target language, both fiction and non-fiction, that they chose based on their interests.

How do we build students’ confidence with interpreting authentic texts?

One strategy is to provide students with regular opportunities to read independently in the target language.

What are the benefits of providing independent reading time to students?

  • It builds confidence with reading in target language
  • The texts are sources of comprehensible input and add to students’ vocabulary and understanding of structure and syntax
  • Choice is motivating and engaging
  • The experience increases fluency
  • Reading texts of choice adds to cultural knowledge
  • It allows students to read text at their challenge level

Here are some basic steps to start independent reading time in your language classroom:

  1. Provide access to students to target language books.


Many language teachers have a library of children’s books that they have collected over time from purveyors such as Amazon, book stores, and speciality foreign language book sellers.

In addition to buying hard copy books, many target language readers can be found online.  Click the image below to access a page on my website where you will find links to multiple sources for online books:

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On that same webpage, you will find a list of online target language magazines:

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2. Decide how independent reading will figure into your planning

Students will benefit the most from recurring opportunities to read a book of choice in the target language.  Will you provide class time every other week or on a weekly basis for students to read independently?

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Image credit: Heather Sherrow (hsherrow@hcpss.org)

One approach would be to have a designated day of the week for independent reading.  It may be the first or last fifteen minutes of a class.  Independent reading may also be an option for students who complete tasks early.

3. Hold students accountable during independent reading while keeping it low stress

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Because the purposes, among others, for independent reading time are for students to read freely in the target language and to maintain a low affective filter where students take risks during independent reading time, it is not advised that students are assessed on what they read.   The intent of independent reading time is not to check comprehension and have students complete worksheets.  Some examples of student accountability during independent reading time include: keeping reading logs, recording new words they learned through their reading in their personal dictionaries, and creating a short journal entry that summarizes what they read.

4. Ensure students, especially novices, feel confident enough to read in the target language independently

As shared in an earlier post, How do I build my students’ skills to prepare them to interpret authentic text?, I shared the poster below:

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This poster gives students a protocol to follow when they encounter a word they do not know while they are reading.  It is also important to make sure learners understand what a language learner at their current proficiency level is expected to be able to do with text.  Finally, learners need to be reassured that they do not need to understand every word they read and that they can use text features such as visuals, titles, and captions to unlock the meaning of the text.

5. Get started!

My first foray into the blogosphere

3-2-1- Lift off!  Creating a blog is something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.  I consider myself somewhat of a “resource specialist”… I love to find and use or adapt new strategies, ideas, and tools.  I’ve mentored many young, novice teachers and have a passion for creating meaningful, strategy-rich professional learning experiences.  I’m a modern day hunter-gatherer, as are many of my colleagues.  Through this blog, I hope to share my passion for everything relating to education, teaching, and learning and hear from you about what keeps your love of teaching and learning alive.