It is no secret to any instructor that the second semester can prove to be more challenging than the first. Often students return from break unmotivated or distracted, and once spring returns, they are often already mentally on break again. There are a few things teachers can easily do to combat this problem and keep students engaged for longer and more effectively--thus improving class participation, test scores, and attendance. In the process, it can make even the best teacher reach the maximum amount of students possible.

One of the first things every educator should do before the start of the second semester is to evaluate the grades given to every individual student in every instance. Whether it be a pop quiz, an essay, or a test, looking for patterns in the grades of these assignments can bring many different things to the surface that otherwise may have been overlooked. These are a few very important factors to pay attention to:

Grades of individual students

As an educator, if an individual student performed poorly in the first semester, it is essential to find out why. Look for patterns of incorrect answers or missed assignments--if they are erratic, it is possible to discern where the student is having problems, and help to correct this in the second semester.

Overall grade patterns

Teachers can use student grades to enlighten themselves to where they themselves need to improve. Looking at important test questions or essay questions can be very important--if the majority of the class did poorly in one particular section, then it is possible that this was the product of an ineffective teaching method. This gives teachers time to correct a problem before it gets larger. Keeping students engaged can be the most challenging thing for teachers in the second semester. There are many ways for educators to prepare for this problem moving forward. Winter break can be a time to look over the coming lessons and plan ways to integrate different activities into the classroom to diversify the overall learning experience.

Group activities

Placing students in small groups of their peers enables learning on many different levels. First of all, it enables teachers time to view how different students learn in a group environment. In addition, placing students in groups almost forces increased participation. Planning these activities--even if they involve collaboration to solve one problem per class--can drastically improve the learning experience by guiding groups, letting students learn from each other, and keeping them engaged at the same time.

Interactive activities 

Creating things such as powerpoint presentations, finding online videos, and other audio visual materials can have a large impact in the classroom. These supplementary learning materials can assist students in retaining information when end of the year testing comes.

Creative ways to review important information can truly help teachers make sure their students retain the information. Taking half a class before an exam to play a game themed around the subject can increase test scores, and again keep students more prepared for final exams. These activities are easily planned between semesters, and can be a very effective tool for teachers.

Although the second semester can be the most challenging, planning activities and evaluating both students and overall effectiveness as teachers can result in more prepared and comfortable students--thus more effective teachers and a better learning environment.