January Language Arts Tips: New Classes After Break

January language arts activities

These January language arts tips will get you through the longest month of the school year.

January exhausts me with its cold and long days. Whatever prep I can do to help my way of thinking makes the month manageable.

Plus, where I teach, we have two first days of school: one in August, the other in January. More hoopla surrounds August; students are pumped (even if they hide it), new friends, advertisements, school supplies… but… new classes after winter break need love too. My classes are new after winter break.

I always want to capture some of that fall excitement and sprinkle it in January. For many students, these are completely new classes. The first day jitters strike me all over again, and I always stress that this semester won’t be as meaningful as the first.

Because older students sometimes act nonchalant, I must force myself to remember that they do care. My January language arts approach matters a great deal.

Are you looking for January language arts lessons for middle school English & high school English? Classroom activities after winter break can engage students during dark winter months. Meet standards & bring fun to your secondary language arts classroom with winter language arts activities for seventh grade language arts, eighth grade language arts, ninth grade language arts & tenth grade language arts.

What are some common topics covered in January language arts curriculum?

Some common topics covered in January language arts curriculum include winter-themed literature, poetry analysis, and grammar review. Students may also explore themes of new beginnings and goal-setting in their reading and writing assignments. If we are working on test prep, we’ll complete comprehension passages and writing skills.

ELA January Activities

As I mentioned, teachers in my area have two first days of school, and it stresses me out! Many English language arts courses are only one semester (public speaking, creative writing) in length, so we get new students after winter break. How can I make the transition from break to school meaningful and smooth?

If you are asking the same question or are looking to spruce up winter, read on for January language arts tips.

incorporate new procedures if necessary

Fresh Systems

When new students arrive, my room has a fresh bell schedule and old student work removed. Over the years, I’ve less time to spruce the classroom than my first years of teaching, but I attempt to dust and tidy bookshelves.

If my labels for class supplies or sheets for classroom procedures are ragged, I reprint them. When a system did not work well the fall semester, the return from winter break is the perfect opportunity to try a new system.

Winter can be bleary and negatively affect students. I want my room to welcome them and even though I don’t have the energy to recreate my classroom from scratch, I spend time refreshing it.

literacy bulletin board


In August, we teachers are fresh and determined to make a difference. For me, in January, I am not as hyped (quite tired) as I was five months ago. Back in August, what was my goal? Overall, I want students to be readers, to value literacy. My classroom activities after winter break, therefore, include building a culture of literacy.

First, I implement First Chapter Friday and bring out books from my classroom library. If we have minutes to spare, students spend time reading. We experiment with different genres and research authors from Facebook and Instagram. Putting literacy at the front of my language arts winter lessons gives classes a purpose.

Another option to encourage literacy involves letting classes make a bulletin board in which they recommend books to each other. The recommendations are authentic, and students take ownership of part of the classroom.

January grammar and writing task cards


Students thrive on procedures. A “bell-ringer” needn’t be incredibly formal, but students start learning and allow me to take attendance if they can begin work when they enter. Starting a new procedure after break is a natural beginning.

Over the years, I’ve used coloring sheets, daily writing, task cards, and journal entries as bell-ringers. Learned lesson: keeping momentum every day contributes to positive class energy.

winter break allows for a fresh start

A New Start

Students deserve a fresh start. While covering classroom procedures, I tell students that I may have had them in class before. A new start begins with new classes after winter break.

Honestly? I mean it. I know some students don’t buy it, and some think teachers remember everything. (Teens give teachers too much credit—no way can I remember grades from a previous semester!)

Then I present classroom and normal first day rules: fire drills, location of missing work, art supply procedures, and on. Students may have forgotten, or they may have never known and were ashamed to ask.

Of course if students have a hearing problem or need special attention, I review that information from previous classes. My goal is to show everyone that even if they weren’t happy with the prior semester, they have a fresh start. Overall, my attitude toward the new semester is that it can be what students make it.

I get excited about new classes, and I want my fresh set of students to experience the same excitement that is expressed in August. It takes a bit of extra planning (and maybe getting to school over winter break), but I start the new semester with new classes excited and ready.

grammar worksheets

Worksheets’ Bundle

My go-to for grammar is not worksheets, but I am not anti-worksheets. Sometimes, interactive notebooks and themed activities work as grammar activities.

And? Sometimes, students need a fast review which a worksheet provides. For instance, if my classes spent time reviewing active and passive voice in the prior semester but then in a quick writing prompt, an abundance of passive voice is used, a worksheet might quickly address any confusion or forgotten concepts.

Plus, when a small group needs to review a topic and another small group needs to review a different topic, each group receives a worksheet for individual topics. If topics are incredibly scaffolded, I hand groups the answer keys too.

grammar coloring for verbals

Grammar Coloring

When students need a “pick me up” or when school has a short school day, we review grammatical concepts with coloring. Verbals, for instance, add variety to student sentences. Additionally, verbal phrases can require special punctuation that often need to be reviewed.

Grammatical topics often fall to the side in language arts, so coloring allows students to have fun with grammar—something not always experienced.

Narrative Writing

Middle school students thrive on narrative writing. When young writers are invested in their topics, you can model the writing process with them. The publication step is fun because writers can create artful pieces to share with others.

I always leave language arts lesson plans editable because all teachers need flexibility to incorporate Common Core Standards or specific requirements. For my winter narrative, classes work through:

  • A writing process review
  • Brainstorming sheet
  • January writing prompts (for inspiration)
  • Editing sheets

Since students can approach a winter narrative with any topic, no one is singled out for not having a picturesque break.

winter poetry activities

Winter Poetry for Students

Something about winter months inspire reading of poetry. The fireside poets, snow poetry, pretty books of poetry: Reading poetry during January makes for a happy class period.

Here are some January and winter-themed poems:

Turn on a crackling fire video from YouTube, turn down the lights, and read poems with students.

young adult literature activities

Wintry Young Adult Literature

Young adult literature provides plenty of mentor texts to study sentence structure, punctuation, and more. I pulled samples of winter descriptions from four young adult literature books.

Then, I looked at standards where students often need inspiration. Comma placement, after a bit, can become boring. So—the texts allow for a lesson over commas with engaging materials.

The rest of the questions spiraled from there, allowing students to look at sentence structure and then evaluate the use of different formations.

Instagram Perfect?

My classroom is not picturesque, and hopefully, my blog and social media reflect the authenticity of teachers working every day. For that reason, my truth is this: January is hard. New classes means new names to learn, to seating charts, and new Google Classrooms to set up. Hopefully, these ideas inspired other teachers.

Do you have new classes after winter break as a secondary teacher? Purposeful planning and classroom activities after winter break can engage students during dark winter months.

Need ideas for the fall? Try these November English lessons. Need to back up? Try December English lessons. Are you looking ahead? Try February English lessons.

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