Preventing the Before Break Phenomena


A teacher can never expect the same behavior from their students the week before a school break, like Thanksgiving. The kids will be all wiggly, excited, tuned out, and looking forward to some time off. Even your most respectful and responsible teacher’s pet students can be a bundle of energy at this time of year.

Have no fear! There are some things we teachers can do to help!

1. Talk to your kids! This seems like a given, but really make them accountable for their own learning. Tell them that this pre-break learning time can’t be wasted and your expectations aren’t any different.

2. Keep everything as normal as possible for as long as possible. I highly recommend NOT doing a count down, because as soon as you do the kids will check out, even if the break is still three weeks away. Also, don’t do holiday parties until the last possible day. You might even want to keep decorations to a minimum. Anything that makes kids think about break and not school might be working against you.

3. Reinforcement of expectations (before they start acting up and during.) Keep holding them to those high expectations. Remind them what it looks like to walk in the hall and what they should look and sound like during silent reading. Keep reminding them of this all the way until the day before break. You will need to do a lot of reminding when they get back from break too.


My class that I love so much this year is no exception to this before break phenomena. I have had a lot of  chatty and wiggly kids today (the last day of school before our week off for Thanksgiving.) So we stop and have a lot of conversations about appropriate school behavior. And as much as I tell them my expectations aren’t any different, I’m also realistic, and I’m a little more lenient than usual. On the last day there is only so much I can do.

I also know that this phenomena will occur again before winter break, which is why I am giving a unit math test two days before. I also switched my viking unit test that I was going to give the day before break into a project. Then the very last day is a space celebration day because we are in the middle of our astronomy unit. We are doing some fun activities but there is still a lot of structure and learning going on.  We’re watching Wall-e, making space shuttle cookies, and having guest speakers come in.

If I ever have parents complain that I give tests right before break, I tell them that having school days where I’m “not allowed” to teach or assess anything are a waste of instructional time and a disservice to my students whose education I am responsible for. I need to utilize every minute I have with my kiddos!

Have a happy Thanksgiving Break!


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