Tis the season . . . for forgetting stuff just before the semester ends.
If you are among those teachers who love spending Christmas with your family but dislike that the break disrupts the continuity of learning just before the semester concludes . . . join the club.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or any other holiday at this time of year, the problem is the same.
As a teacher, you are torn.
You want to respect the fact that those bright young people in your classroom deserve a break. And let’s face it, you need and deserve a break, too.
But there are those end-of-semester tests looming in the third or fourth week in January. And if you are anything like me, you fear that amid the mistletoe, tinsel, and gifts, your charges will forget everything they need to pass those important tests.
I am not suggesting that you should send them home with “homework” that’s mandatory over the break. But have you ever thought of creating something fun that they can do while away from school during the holidays?
The idea is to create home projects that are very definitely optional, but students who do participate will have the benefit of keeping their minds stimulated amid all the present-swapping and heavy eating.
If you communicate with your students through a website or school-sanctioned Facebook page or even school provided email, for example, you could create a daily contest. This could be a simple problem that you can post or tweet and allow students to reply with their answers.
The question can be varied and general, or be directly linked to the content areas in your classroom. It doesn’t matter. The idea is to keep your students’ minds stimulated. Sometimes veering off into another world helps invigorate the little gray cells in those developing minds.
There are all sorts of ideas. It may be identifying a piece of music with some significance to a topic you have taught. Perhaps they could be assigned to find as many pieces of music as they can with “water” themes in the title — then win points if they identify one that no one else does.
In thinking about this one, I came up with several, from the rather obvious Handel’s Water Music to Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” Any of my students who listed The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” would definitely deserve extra credit! (Well, d’uh. A submarine cannot exist without water, can it?)
Depending on your teaching assignment, it could be listing some events or people from history and asking students to identify what name is missing or out of place. Did Davy Crockett really help Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson draft the Declaration of Independence? (No, silly! He wasn’t born until 10 years later.)
Science teachers could do something creative with the periodic table. I’m an English teacher, so it’s rather beyond my understanding what all those clever-seeming symbols mean. And I am just a couple or more years too young to have been around when Tom Lehrer performed his famous song. But I am sure my colleagues in the chemistry lab can cook up some sort of treasure hunt — maybe hiding the abbreviations for elements like Pb, Au and Sn in words that students have to figure out?
The reward is bragging rights, but you could set up a method whereby those who participate earn extra credit.
The contest could be photos — perhaps having students look for the best pun on a reader board, either in their locality or on their travels (I liked the one at the top of this column, which I saw during a trip to Poulsbo, Washington. It appealed because I am a farm girl at heart.)
To keep writing skills and creativity honed, perhaps you could post a sentence starter and invite students to write the next two paragraphs of the story. Pick the best response, paste it on to the original, and invite them all to try writing the next short chapter.
Taking a break is a balancing act for us all.
I suspect just about everyone reading this is as convinced as I am that teachers are the most hard-working people on the planet. We, too, need time to recharge our batteries, concentrate on the importance of family, and refresh our minds before returning to the classroom in January.
But, darn it, the holiday break comes at a time when our students are just about to peak in their studies. Those important end-of-semester tests loom and we need them to be sharp and focused.
That’s why some creative thinking by we teachers now, and setting up some optional activities during the break, can help get them thinking “outside the box.”
A little challenging fun should put them in a mindset to tackle the challenges ahead.
@DebWebb100, #WATeachLead, #ReadyWA, #CORElaborate
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