Primary Teachers, My Secret Lessons To Back To School Fun In January

Dear Lesson Plan Toolbox,

I know they say time flies when you’re having fun, but this winter break has gone far too quickly. Those back to school scaries are already starting to creep in and I simply don’t want to think about school. I followed your helpful hints leading up to winter break so I literally didn’t have to do any work while I was off. It has been an amazing feeling! Now, to think that I’m about to get back on that roller coaster of teacher life again I can’t begin to describe the amount of anxiety I feel.

Is it terrible that I’m not excited to go back? Do I miss my students? Well, yes, of course I do! However, I don’t miss all of the paperwork, observations, parent emails, and documentation. How do I get back into a groove where my teacher's heart is being fulfilled again? 

I am determined to make the most of this last weekend off! I am determined to enjoy these last few days of family and friends while avoiding those uneasy feelings that are setting in. I am determined to live my life outside of school, knowing that school is not my life. With this all being said, any tips you have that could help me go about achieving these goals would be most appreciative.

Can’t wait to hear your reply,

Determined Teacher On Break


Dear Determined Teacher On Break,

Everything you just described with your feelings right now could probably be said for a majority of the teaching population no matter what grade. Two weeks off to focus on you and live your best life is exactly what you and every educator should be doing. Can we take away those feelings of anxiety and stress for you? Nope, but we sure can help to put them at ease.

You touched on a key component to avoiding those back to school blues and that is your mindset. You’ve already decided that you are determined to enjoy these last few days of break, so go for it! If you have everything prepared for your classes to return to school, then by all means don’t even think about school unless it is something that must be done. Being a good teacher doesn’t mean making school your life.

We do want to share one suggestion on how to make that first day back exciting for both you and your students. Best of all, there is very little prep on your part and you can probably scoot your lessons back a day to squeeze this in. Try celebrating your first noon of the new year together. Trust us, your students will love it!


So right about now you might be wondering what this even looks like and that it sounds like a lot of work. These thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s just the opposite. You will have a day planned out with engaging activities that your students will be shocked at how fast the school day goes.

Here’s a quick summary of what worked in our classrooms, but of course feel free to alter this as you would like:

7:45-8:00 - Arrival- complete color by number Happy New Year

8:00-8:40 - Classroom Meeting - Review classroom procedures and routines; allow students to share about their breaks if they so choose; ask how many students stayed up until midnight on New Year’s Eve (they love sharing their stories so you may have to limit this)

8:40-9:20 - Math- teach a lesson about am and pm with a focus on noon & midnight; make a list of activities that can be done during the day (noontime) and at night (midnight); play a game of Stand Up/Sit Down by giving a task and students deciding if it is done in the am or pm.

9:20-10:40 - ELA - discuss what a resolution is and why we make them; watch Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller on YouTube; discuss story elements; break into centers; when you meet with your small groups have them write at least one resolution for the new year.

10:40-11:00 -phonics- brainstorm as many New Year's words as you can (midnight, horns, resolution, family, celebrate, party, etc.); have students clap the number of syllables in each word.

11:00-11:40 - lunch

11:40 - let the FUN BEGIN! Use construction paper to create party hats or decorations; save the scraps to use as confetti for NOON; if there’s time, show a YouTube clip of Happy New Year from around the world; 11:58 stream New York City’s NYE Ball Drop. If you can’t find it, then simply use a countdown clock and have your own countdown celebration.

12:00-cheers and celebrate; have juice and a small treat while watching Happy New Year Charlie Brown (you may have to order this over break, but it’s worth it! In fact, try checking your library first before you buy anything.)

12:45- Use Anna DiGilio’s The History of New Year’s Eve to compare holiday traditions.

1:15 - recess

1:35 - handwriting- practice writing New Year’s words from earlier today.

2:00 - closing circle time; students share what they loved about today.

If you teach science or simply are looking for another interactive activity,Laura from Make Life Lovely has easy to follow directions for making snow. Your students will have a ball and your room will small A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

It may look like a lot, but we promise you that this day is soooooo FUN and easy to implement. Your students will be so excited to be back to school with you. This is what worked for us, but of course let your imagination run wild. Have fun with this!


As always, we are here to help. We are so thankful you reached out to us because this is truly a reality for many teachers. Keep showing up and making a difference each and every day! We are here to help and support you on your teacher journey.

PS: Our gift to primary teachers in this season of giving is Teacher Refresh Retreat. We will work to calm your mind, body, and soul. Plus, we have teamed with some AMAZING primary teacher creators that have offered their resources (everything from nutrition to STEM) just for you.

The best part is that even the first video drops on January 5, you can watch it anytime at your convenience. Annnndddd, once you complete the four week oasis of your teacher journey, you will receive 4 hours towards PD…happy season of giving!


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