Using Hero to help reinforce student focus and effort prior to break/exams

At some point, almost every educator has either had an internal winter break countdown in their head or even written one on the board. The weeks before winter break can feel hectic and while everyone is indeed probably ready for a break, writing a countdown on the board– which was something I always admittedly did– is not necessarily the best solution for addressing student focus issues. If anything, it can encourage students to focus on the wrong thing and may even unintentionally send a message that you can’t wait to be away from them.

So what can this look like instead? First, simply tweak how you word your countdown. Whether you are actually writing this on the board, displaying it elsewhere, or stating it directly to your students, something to the effect of “10 more days to show what you know” or “10 more days– let’s make each one count!” are far more effective and encouraging! You can infuse aspects of growth mindset, have students set some simple goals for this time period, and provide specific feedback on their efforts.

You can also use Hero to help track and reinforce their efforts. There might be a specific behavior you have in mind, especially one related to student focus and engagement, so first make sure to revisit the expectations around this behavior and explicitly re-teach what students need to do. This is also quite helpful if your students have any exams or assessments coming up prior to break. You can then strategically use Hero to reinforce the desired behavior, specifically at times or instances where students may have been struggling before hand.

If your school uses our Fast Track feature, there might be multiple behaviors you are targeting collectively for your class as a whole and you can easily capture this as you conclude that period for the day. If framed properly, this group contingency approach can inspire teamwork, collaboration and community, and encourage students to hold one another accountable.

You can also have a competition among your classes. For example, if there are three school-wide behaviors you are targeting, each class could earn a max of three points per day. You could even display the totals to help motivate your classes, and the top performing class can earn a prize or treat prior to break. You can differentiate further as needed, allowing each class to have a different goal for points while simply posting and counting the number of times they meet this goal. For example:

Week 1:
Daily Goal Met?
Week 2:
Daily Goal Met?
Week 3:
Daily Goal Met?
Running Total
First Period: III First Period: First Period: First Period:3
Second Period: IIII Second Period: Second Period: Second Period: 4
Third Period: IIII Third Period: Third Period: Third Period: 4
Fourth Period: III Fourth Period: Fourth Period: Fourth Period: 3

Here are some other things you can do to scale up your efforts:

  • Implement similar approaches as a team, grade level, or school wide.
  • If you have exams or assessments prior to break, use Hero to track any students participating in tutoring or study sessions (hint: our Custom Groups feature may be helpful if you are meeting with students from multiple classes and/or who are not assigned to you otherwise).
  • Use Hero Reports to further assist:
      • Daily Activity Report to review student progress over this time as you conference with them regarding any goals they may have set (hint: if student accounts are active, you can also have them log in and review their behavior history directly from there).
      • Accrued Records Report to add further excitement and intermittent reinforcement. Set the pick threshold, behavior code, and date range as needed and give a shout-out to eligible students or enter them into a drawing that occurs prior to break.
      • Schoolwide Points Report with filters applied to see how many points have been earned during this time period (this can be very helpful if needing to create a list of eligible students for a grade level or schoolwide incentive activity).
      • Schoolwide Activity Report to also highlight and recognize the efforts of staff members.
      • Hint: you could also run a Daily Activity Report to provide shout-outs. For example, if your data suggests that Fridays have been challenging during 3rd period, run the report for that day after the period ends. You can select students and the staff members who tracked the behavior for a special shout-out. If you like, you can also export it to Excel and use a random sort to really mix it up.

Regardless of whatever approach you take, it of course has to be something you are comfortable with and that will also be meaningful to your students. You know your classes and students best, and oftentimes one small focus and new twist is the best way to start. And, yes, it is okay and perfectly natural if you are in countdown mode. You work hard and deserve a break! But with some minor tweaks, you can work smarter during these weeks so that the time prior to break doesn’t “break you.” You can also return from break refreshed with perhaps some new ideas and reflections for incorporating some of these approaches further into your regular approaches and routines.