Review/Renew or Push On?

To review and renew or to push on with instruction, that is the question!

I teach in a community where it is common for students and their families to take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to travel and visit their families in other parts of the country or other countries during the holiday season (December-January). That means, for me, every year around this time I have to decide the following… Do I use the two first weeks in January as a period of reviewing and renewing understandings, or do I push on with new material despite my missing students?

The question that I am REALLY asking myself here is, “Are enough of my kiddos back and ready for new material or do I have too many of my kiddos still out and do I need to review and renew their understandings?” Each year, I come to the same conclusion… review and renew!

I chose review and renew.

So what does this period of review and renew look like? It’s gamification central! LOTS of input! LOTS of fun! LOTS of keeping that affective filter LOW to allow for students to reengage with material and concepts without fear of “failure”.

This time is like a mental reboot, and each year I have found that it is well worth pausing the clock instead of pushing on.

5 Strategies to Review/Renew:

  1. Vacation/Weekend chat – You have lots of options on how you facilitate this. My go-to is for students to draw out what they did over vacation. Then, I wander around the room, pick a drawing and I “chat” (for the whole class to hear and see) with that student. I ask questions about what they did, where they went, with whom, getting lots of details and circling, circling, circling with the rest of the class. An extension activity can be to do a write and discuss on similar or different vacation experiences (being very aware to not draw and “negative” comparisons).
  2. Listen and draw – When you just can’t and the kiddos just can’t… they listen to a story and draw it out. So simple and so powerful. Lots of processing! LOW prep (if you’re a CI expert you might be able to create a story on the spot)! It’s quite easy to see who “gets it” and who doesn’t.
  3. Lucky reader – This is an idea I LOVE to employ, created by the great Señora Chase on her blogcito. Who doesn’t love a reading game that keeps kids re-reading over and over again! INPUT, INPUT, INPUT!
  4. Acting out a story – This keeps the kiddos processing, re-engaging with past content, having their voices heard, and for our actors, it keeps them moving. A fun and low prep way to get kids back into “school mode” without doing anything new too soon.
  5. Question trails – I found this idea from Write On with Miss G. Question trails are multiple choice questions on posters around the room. Only the correct multiple choice answer will lead you to the next correct poster. If students end up returning to a poster/question they have been to, they know they’ve mixed something up. This fosters a lot of team work, negotiating, lots of SEL to be had here.

But why not just PUSH ON!?

Why not? Because I think it is HEALTHIER for my students, and a more BALANCED approach to instruction for me, to review and renew over this two-week period than it is to push forward.

I rather my kiddos feel confident and supported, cared about and caught-up than to come back and feel left behind, forgotten about, and unsupported. If there is one thing that I’ve taken to the heart over the past several years it is this… put yourself in their shoes – how would you feel? If it is not positive, change the approach. I believe this approach to be #balanced.


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