3 Tips to Help Kids Stay Focused Until Winter Break

Dec 17, 2021 12:00:00 AM


More than ever before, teachers and families understand the importance of working together to support our students’ learning. In these last few months, teachers and families have collaborated through unprecedented challenges and achievements to make this school year particularly rewarding for students. Now, we are officially starting the push until students, teachers and families take a much-deserved break for the holidays and new year.  

In my eight years of teaching and leading, I have learned that December brings unique distractions for students. Certainly, we love the special excitement of celebration and cheer—but that also means students begin to slide back academically in anticipation of the upcoming holiday break. Here are three tips from the classroom that families might find valuable at home to help kids stay focused between now and the holiday break, so we don’t lose any of this precious learning time: 

Focus YOUR excitement on academics  

Our school community likes to say that we will maximize instructional time with our students in December and celebrate them as they grow academically. Our students are craving rigorous and engaging lessons that allow them to show us what they know and magnify their brilliance. The same is true at home. Your child will follow your example. Spend your time together discussing what they’ve done in school that day. Ask them to show you what they’ve made, or ask them to explain something they’ve learned. Let them be a teacher to you so they feel confident and excited to keep their focus on their schoolwork.  

Bring learning to holiday activities 

Of course, we can’t—and shouldn’t! —ignore the delights of the holiday season all around us, even while we’re learning. That is why at KIPP Royalty Academy, we have a robust calendar of holiday-themed activities tied to our classroom lessons. For example, we kicked off December by creating ornaments for our class holiday trees and having Kindergarten KIPPsters name the shape of their ornaments. We also had “A World of Celebrations” day where we learned about how different places celebrate the holidays including Germany, Iceland, China, Brazil and the Philippines. Try something similar with your kids by practicing math skills while baking a favorite family cake recipe together or making a sight word game out of going to see holiday lights in your neighborhood. 

Talk about the best kind of gifts: Your child’s gifts 

I lead at a KIPP public charter school, where we believe every student walks through the doors bearing gifts: talent, perspective, drive, inspiration. This time of year, it’s hard to compete with the endless TV commercials and boxed presents calling to your child to be unwrapped, but you can help your child stay excited about their own gifts. Show them positive reinforcement when they show gratitude, articulate their emotions or ask a curious question about the world around them.  Remind them how much they excel in their favorite subjects. Just as important, remind them of their own growth; ask them about a specific example of something they used to struggle with, and now thrive in. Spend time together doing their favorite educational activities.  

Together, we can maintain high expectations for learning and personal growth so that, after a fun and restful break, our kids can hit the ground running in 2022.  

Kayla Johnson

Kayla R. Johnson is the founding principal of KIPP Royalty Academy, KIPP Miami’s second elementary school. Previously, she was the founding assistant principal and then school leader of KIPP Sunrise Academy. Kayla was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where she began her career in education as a middle school teacher and grade level chair. Kayla also worked in Philadelphia, where she coached K-12 educators and led diversity, equity, and inclusion learning experiences for teachers. Her work in Philadelphia drew her to KIPP New Jersey, where she became the assistant principal of KIPP Thrive Academy in Newark. Kayla received dual degrees in English and criminology with a minor in education from the University of Florida and her master’s in teaching, learning, and curriculum from Drexel University.

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