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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Reflect, Revisit, Recharge: 3 Tips for a New Year Reboot

Reflect, Revisit, Recharge: 3 Tips for a New Year Reboot

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Student at flipchart The start of a new semester can feel a lot like a do-over, like a chance to start fresh, with the wisdom of the first semester to inform us. But after two long weeks away from the classroom, my students need time to reflect on the previous semester, revisit what they learned, and recharge their academic batteries. Here are some welcome-back, New Year strategies that have worked with my 8th graders:

Reflect 

New year = New Year’s resolutions, right? But after a long vacation, few students will be able to put a finger on what went well (or wrong) a few months ago and how they can improve in the new semester. If we give our students guidance in identifying their successes and struggles, along with prompts for writing specific, attainable resolutions for the coming semester, they can start their new year with a clear focus on success. Rather than sending my students’ graded work folders home in December, I hold on to them until January. Once the holiday distractions are behind us, I give them time to review their work, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and plan for improvement. They keep these written reflections + resolutions in their notebooks as reminders for the new semester.

Revisit

My students work hard in the fall semester learning to annotate and write thoughtfully about what they read, but I know they will need to continue to practice and hone these skills for the rest of the year. To get them back in the swing of literary analysis, I try to spark their interest with some unusually engaging reading. Maybe it will be news articles about local events (like the torrential rain and flooding we experienced that resulted in two days of school being cancelled); or maybe a short story that will surprise them with its relevance (like Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day” - and they thought they had experienced non-stop rain!). If I need to keep them engaged in academic reading, compelling text is a great way to hook them as they revisit the analysis skills they worked on last semester.

Recharge

A few years ago I discovered the hilarious satirical reviews written for products on Amazon. Rave reviews for the banana slicer were the first to catch my eye:

“What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn't already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone.... this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day's banana slices. It's one of those chores NO ONE wants to do!... The Banana Slicer saved our marriage!”

Not only would these clever reviews help my students learn to recognize satire, but I was pretty confident they would inspire them to try writing satire themselves. So after reading through some of the best banana slicer testimonials, we identified the elements of satire and watched some infomercials for equally ridiculous products (remember the Hawaii chair? or the Flowbee haircutting system?). My students wrote with glee, eagerly sharing their satirical wit with their classmates. They posted them on our own Banana Blog, commented on each other’s posts, and got swept right back into reading, writing and learning while laughing and having fun. They may not have been thrilled to come back to school after their winter break, but the Banana Blog gave them the recharge they needed to get focused and on track again. And maybe they will become such savvy satirists that they won’t fall victim to sites like The Onion.

How do you kick off the new year with your students? Please share your best reboot strategies below!


 

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Laura, I really like the way you're thinking. By starting with the student- his/her exhaustion, distraction, and energy- you're really tapping into the social-emotional needs of your kiddos. They're so lucky to have you!

Someone needs to create a Pinterest board with curated Amazon satirical reviews like the banana slicer. I remember one about a wolf t-shirt, but there have to be more, right?

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Writer on education, teaching and learning. Chief Education Officer at The Writing Project

Laura, that's such a great idea! One thing I never had time to do with my students is having them write their own satire. I would imagine it'd be a very funny class when everyone is sharing their examples. Towards the end of the semester I usually do a similar activity, but with literary strategies. So I would give them topics that we discussed: love, friendship, education, etc and ask them to choose a literary strategy and write an example using the topic. Often their examples are quite funny. (So interesting that mine and your classes often share many similarities!)

Do you ever share other works of satire with them? What are some of your favourite to study?

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Since satire hasn't been a focus in our 8th grade curriculum, these Amazon reviews are as far as we go. It would be fun to include more examples, especially since there is so much available on sites like The Onion, but we usually move on to other kinds of reading and writing. But I do know that the best way to help students learn literary elements is to have them write them on their own! Much more effective than just studying another writer's work.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Laura,

A 4th grade colleague of mine uses Weird Al to teach satire. I love these recharging activities. It not only charges the students, but the teacher as well.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I used to use Buffy the Vampire Slayer to teach satire, particularly some of the early episodes that focused on ubiquitous high school experiences. So much fun!

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