Times of change can be difficult, especially for young children.
Throw a sprinkle of Christmas excitement into the mix and teachers can rapidly reach the ends of their tether before the festive season even begins.
So, the question is: how do we help our students enjoy the festive season, without seeing their behaviour deteriorating?
Here’s are our simple, 4-step guide to minimising disruptions and keep school fun and productive, right up to the end of the Autumn Term.
1. Stick to the routine
The routines and training that you have been working on with your class since they started with you back in September are vital.
Just because Christmas is coming, don’t be tempted to throw out all of that good work and go completely off timetable.
Sure, organise fun festive activities, but embed them into your existing structure as much as possible. If you normally do English and Maths in the morning, stick with that and work your activities into that existing format.
2. Pre-empt change
In school life, there will inevitably be changes to routines.
To minimise the disruption they cause, it’s crucial that you pre warn children about what is happening throughout the day.
Use your daily visual timetable, and add in pictures to represent new activities such as Christmas play rehearsals. Let all children know at the beginning of the day that some things may be different today, but reassure them that lots of other things will stay the same.
Many children (and adults!) prefer the security blanket of predictability and routine. They like to know what is happening next and how long it will last. Unexpected changes in routine can cause anxiety and distress which may manifest itself in poor behaviour choices.
To help, click on the download below and use these Christmas symbols to help with your visual timetable:
visual timetable symbols
3. Time all activities
It can be really useful to give pupils a visual indicator of how long an activity will take on the interactive whiteboard.
A few minutes before a change, provide a countdown, use visual prompts such as a sand timer or whiteboard clock. (You can find some good ones here.) Visual strategies like these can often help children with autism manage their anxieties about change.
Look out for children who may be showing signs of anxiety, so that the adults can offer additional explanations and support.
4. Don’t emphasise that normal classroom routines are over
Students take their cue about learning and classroom expectations from the adults.
If you swap out afternoon lessons for watching endless festive DVDs, this sends a clear message to your class: “Learning time is over.”
So whilst it can be fun for your class to enjoy some Christmas entertainment together, avoid over-doing it. Otherwise your class will grow bored and their behaviour will deteriorate…which isn’t the best way to finish before the holiday.
In short: save the DVD for a one-off experience, right at the very end of term. They’ll appreciate it more.
Helping children to manage change by giving warnings and support will strengthen their trust in you and enhance their ability to cope in an ever changing world.
Lessons will run more smoothly and everyone will gain maximum enjoyment in the run up to Christmas.