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Winter Work: Four Ways to Keep Your Students Learning Over Winter Break
November 16, 2011 by | Posted in English, Social Studies, Teaching Tips

Whether traveling across the country or staying put at home, students and teachers enjoy the time off provided by their extended Winter Break. Teachers seeking fun, interactive homework to assign during the holidays, look no further. Here are four ways to keep students learning over Winter Break:

1) Family Style Homework with Movies: Since many students will have family or friends visiting during the holiday season, assign homework that is both fun and that can get everyone in the household involved. Create a list of appropriate movies and have students watch one or two of these at home. (Subjects of the movies can be what you’re studying in class or what you’ll be studying after the vacation. TWM subscribers can access our TWM’s Movies as Literature Film List for a list of recommended films.) Encourage students to watch with their family. Provide them with a copy of TWM’s movie worksheets (for social studies classes, TWM’s Historical Fiction Film Study Worksheet, for ELA classes TWM’s Film Study Worksheet or the Hero’s Journey Film Study Worksheet). Review the worksheets to make sure the questions are appropriate for the educational level of the class. Encourage students to consult with their families to get the best answers possible to the prompts on the movie worksheet.

2) Family Matters: For some people, seeing extended family is a holiday treat. You can capitalize on this while, at the same time, giving students an assignment that will hit close to home. Have students interview someone in their family. The topic can be the life of the person interviewed, the life of another relative, or events in the history of the student’s family. You might want to have students create a mini-biography about the person they interview. While the response should feature a written interview, memoir, or mini-biography, allow students to fulfill a part of the assignment in a medium of their choice. It could be drawn, painted, sung, animated, filmed, performed as a one-act play, or written as a short story, poem, screenplay, or comic book. Encourage students to have fun and get creative—a project like this could be something that their families will treasure for years to come.

3) Reflect and Set Goals – Metacognitive Thinking: It’s nearing the halfway point of the school year, so this is a great time to check in with students about how the year has gone thus far. Finding out what’s working and what isn’t is crucial for effective teaching. Learning about things that are confusing, stressful or worrisome to students can help you take corrective action. Assign students to write an anonymous “Partway There Review”. This can be in a worksheet or as an essay, without grading for “correct” answers. Expand their thinking by first defining the word “metacognitive.” Ask students to think metacognitively by telling you what they’ve learned so far in class, what they still don’t understand, and what they hope to learn in the new year. Have them tell you their favorite part of class, their least favorite part of class, and what they want more and less of. Keep it helpful; add some fun activities, for instance, ask them to write down a favorite joke (you could even share one of these jokes weekly, as part of a morning routine).

4) Read and Report: And last but not least, there is the old stand-by of having students read a book and write a report. Provide students with titles of books that would be acceptable and allow them to propose other books that interest them. Give students the assignment far enough in advance that they’ll have time to check the book out of the library. This assignment is not only appropriate for English classes, but social studies teachers can assign novels from the historical fiction genre. TWM’s film study worksheets (links are above) are an excellent basis for a set of questions students can answer about the book they’ll read. Modify the forms to exclude the references to film and cinematic devices and focus on what students have learned during the first part of the school year.

By assigning homework projects that are fun, but still educational, you’ll keep students engaged and productive over their Winter Break. And remember, you should enjoy your well-deserved time off, too!

Written by Lauren Humphrey and James Frieden

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