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

Student Engagement: A Hot Topic

It seems everywhere you look, student engagement is a hot topic.  Engaging students in learning in the 21st century is very different from the way we engaged students in the past.  We know that many students are “cooperating” and “complying” in our classrooms, and some are downright angry about how disengaged they are.

If you are interested in exploring the topic of Student Engagement, I would like to direct you to a wiki I created called “Let’s Get Engaged.”  On that wiki, I have accumulated a considerable amount of resources on topics relating to student engagement, originally based on a multi-session workshop series.

On the page called “What is student engagement?,” I include a variety of resources in multimedia on the topic.  One of my “go-to” resources on the topic is the Schlechty Center.  You may know Phil Schlechty from his popular book, Working on the Work.  Schlechty describes several levels of engagement:

  • engagement
  • strategic compliance
  • ritual compliance
  • retreatism
  • rebellion

For a pdf description of the levels of engagement, click here.

I have created a tool I call the “Engage-O-Meter” for teachers to use when reflecting on activities they plan for their students.  No one activity is likely to meet all of the qualities of engagement.  When teachers try out a new activity with a class that students do not seem to engage in, the Engage-O-Meter can give some direction to the teacher as to how the activity might be re-engineered to increase student engagement.  Here is that tool:


An important point of discussion is the difference between engagement and entertainment.  Do I have to wear a clown nose and juggle to get my students to engage?  Not at all.  Quite simply put, entertainment is what the teacher is doing, engagement is what the students are doing.  Engaging with each other, engaging with the content, engaging in discussions with the teacher.  How do your lessons measure up on the “Engage-O-Meter?”