Holidays and hurricanes. Sick days and snow days. Special assemblies and teacher workshops. Sometimes it can feel like you and your students spend more time out of school than in school.

Whether this loss of teaching time is a function of the school calendar or mother nature, disruptions make it even harder to stay on pace and teach your students what they need to learn.

Fortunately, you can plan ahead with so that when life gets interrupted, learning doesn't have to. Here's how.

Vacation Challenge: Sure, everyone needs a break now and then. But every teacher knows that extended time away from school is when the dreaded backward slide creeps in. When your students return, it can feel like you've lost a month's worth of academic progress in 9 days. Have we got an idea for you! Create a vacation challenge during your next school holiday. Award a bonus homework grade of 100% to every student who masters 15 words during the week off. Starting a new unit or a new book in January? Prep your students for better reading by assigning Practice based on one of our Lists, or create your own. Would your students be motivated by a little friendly competition? See if they can top your state or county leaderboard for a specific day during vacation, and reward them with a night off from regular homework.

Sub Plans: Make your go-to activity when a substitute teacher is covering your class. If you've got time to plan ahead, assign a short List that's visible right when class starts, and set the due date for the end of class. Students can always finish later, but this gives them an assignment with clear expectations that doesn't depend on a sub giving a complicated lesson. Or just have your students click Play and do the Challenge to work on the words in their Learning Program. You can easily check your students' progress on your teacher dashboard, so holding your students accountable doesn't mean a ton of extra work for you when you return.

Emergency / Disaster / Weather Plans: Many districts and schools are now planning ahead so that in the event of a natural disaster or severe weather, students have quality independent work to do.'s fully responsive website provides a great experience on mobile devices, so learning can happen just about anytime, anywhere. By simply playing the Challenge, students are doing meaningful work — not busy work, and not a pile of papers that you have to correct when school resumes. Parents might also appreciate the fact that their kids have something productive to do during an unexpected hiatus!

However you decide to use when your students are way from school, remember:

Feed them a balanced diet. If you're assigning Practice based on Lists, remember that your students should also Play the Challenge about half the time. That's when follows up with them on their trouble words, so you don't have to try to keep track of which words each student still needs to work on.

Tell us what you're up to. We love hearing (and seeing) all the ways that teachers and students are working with Email us at or find us online @VocabularyCom and #VocabBowl. We can't wait to see how your students spend their time away with words.