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In Your Words

How do you beat the post-holiday blahs?

I stress how grown up [the children] are, and I recognize their maturity as students in the midyear by giving them more responsibility and independence in the classroom. For example, I have shown them a number of ways to work on spelling words during the first semester. In the second semester, I ask students to assess how they learn best and allow them to choose a learning approach on their own. Since the classroom expectations are still the same, children begin to take ownership of their learning without it being micromanaged by me.

Michelle Wise Capen, elementary teacher/curriculum coach, Lenoir, North Carolina

My students and I recharge by doing literature circles. Students choose their own books and read and discuss them in small groups. They love to have a choice in what they read, and it's interesting for me to sit in on their book discussions. Students often say that literature circles were their favorite part of the whole year. Besides, nothing beats curling up with a good book on a cold winter day.
Dana Moody,
High school English teacher,
Athens, Tennessee
Photo: David Humber

Starting the new calendar year is energizing! We celebrate with a review of what [students have] accomplished so far in the school year and connect it to what they will be doing for the remainder of the school year. In drawing, for example, we start with shapes and learn to add shading and texture to individual objects. After the break, we learn to place objects in a composition, like a still life. I show visuals of what they will be doing, and students always ask, "When do we get started?"

Carl Clausen, elementary art specialist, Bellevue, Washington

One great way to reinvigorate students is to be sure you are also reinvigorated and ready to get back to work. I find the best way to beat the blahs after the holidays is to prepare before the holidays arrive. In October and November, I make efforts to schedule vacations for February break, and make skiing and snowshoeing dates with friends for January weekends. When all the hoopla and hullabaloo of November and December are finished, I know I have more excitement on the way. Prevention is the name of my game.

Larcy Mansker, physical therapist, Kent School District, Washington

In January and February when we have a lot of "indoor recesses," I like to organize checkers, chess, and arm wrestling matches. I pair up the kids, draw brackets, and let the fun begin. They love it! I also punch out paper badges they wear to the lunchroom. Kids from years past see them and remember the fun we had. Sometimes I can buy cheap checker/chess sets at Dollar Tree for the champs. Some years, the principals challenge the champs.

Cathe Kas, third-grade teacher, Frankfort, Indiana

Last year after winter break, I signed my class up for a "School Night at the Apple Store," a program hosted by Apple Stores to showcase student projects created on Apple tools for family, friends, and other teachers. I had the students sign up on two clipboards, one with projects we had created using computers in the beginning of the year, the other to create new project ideas. Working in partners, my fourth-graders whirled into action. They grabbed computers, cameras, and camcorders, working whenever they could to prepare their iMovies, slide shows, podcasts, and blogs. Suddenly, it was April, time for a very exciting night at the Apple Store.

Linda Labowitz, fourth-grade teacher, Havertown, Pennsylvania


We want to hear from you!

So Tell us: What lessons have your students taught you? What word best describes your teaching style? Please use specific examples and anecdotes, and we'll consider your submission for an upcoming issue of NEA Today.

E-mail Cindy Long at

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