Spring can be one of the most frustrating times of the school year for teachers. Just when your classes are finally going well and your students are on track to a successful finish for the year, warm weather happens. Suddenly, you notice that even the most cooperative students are staring out the window and begging you to teach class outside. They are restless, unfocused and distracted.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to have fun with your students while enjoying springtime; you don’t need to dread each warm-weather school day. Here are few strategies to help you get started on overcoming the negative effects of spring fever:
Review expectations. Take a few minutes to review the rules, policies, procedures and other expectations for your class. It’s best not to flood students with a long review, but rather incorporate it into the natural flow of the school day by commenting on the positive behaviors you observe and providing frequent quick reminders of what you expect from your students.
Be calm and focused on instruction. When things go wrong (and they will), handle problems calmly and with a matter-of-fact approach to minimize lost instruction time. When you assign consequences for misbehavior, be sure to remind students that the purpose of their good behavior is not just to comply, but to learn.
Patience is key. Although you don’t want to abandon the expectations you’ve had in place all year, try to be understanding and patient with your students. The more patient you can be as you redirect student focus from the beautiful weather outside, the less stressful your school day will be.
Be careful about holding class outdoors. Even though students beg to be allowed to work outside, be careful about giving in to their pleas. Be sure to carefully plan any outdoor excursions. If you are a new teacher, be sure to clear your plan with an administrator just in case students have allergies to pollen or insects. If you do go out, leave a note on the door so that anyone who is looking for you or your students can find you quickly.
Use routines to minimize disruptions. Having predictable routines for the beginning and end of class will make it easier for you and your students to manage these difficult transition times without discipline issues arising, because the students are familiar with what is expected of them and can manage the changes without hassle.
Set class goals. Setting goals is a productive way to channel student energy in positive ways. Whether it’s a goal within the classroom such as not missing homework assignments for three days or keeping the room tidy or beating a personal best on a formative assessment, or an out-of-class event such as a school or community service project, working together to accomplish a shared goal is a powerful way to refocus and energize students.
Personalize instruction when you can. Because you are familiar with your students by this time of the year, it should be fairly easy to design instruction that incorporates their interests as well as meets their learning needs. Personalize and differentiate instruction as often as you can to increase engagement.
Increase engagement. Tame the restlessness that students may be feeling by allowing more opportunities for them to move around, work together and complete hands-on activities that can engage their attention fully. High-interest activities such as field trips, project-based learning, online activities, flipped lessons, games, ongoing anchor activities, learning centers, personalized checklists, differentiated instruction, and activity choice boards also help students engage in instruction instead of being distracted by spring fever.
Finally, although your students’ spring fever may dominate your classroom, spring fever can also have a negative effect on your own motivation to be the best teacher your can possibly be. Just as you plan ways to help your students successfully manage this time of year, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to reflect on how you can stay steady as well. Determine your strengths as an educator and use those strengths to overcome any possible negative effects that spring fever may have in store for you.
Julia G. Thompson received her BA in English from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. She has been a teacher in the public schools of Virginia, Arizona, and North Carolina for more than thirty-five years.