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Student Engagement

Don’t Trip Over The Bar: Thoughtful Planning for “Throw-Away” Days

November 30, 2014

As I walk into my classroom on the Monday before Thanksgiving, my colleague jokingly says “Don’t trip over the bar.”  It’s a two-day week with 1st and 2nd graders, plus we’re expecting snow.  These are the days some teachers dread and all too often fill with movies, crafts, and extended recess time.  Now, I’m a big fan of the extended recess, but I also make those “throw-away” days some of our best days of the year because I plan carefully to make the most of them.  I believe these successes happen for two reasons.  

For starters, I am up front with the students and tell them these two days before Thanksgiving break will be hard, so they’re going to have to work even harder.  It’s funny, but this straight talk (and some discussion about why) seems to really help these days go well.  Last week we really did have the two best days of the year as far as learning and behavior! 

I also hold back my best content--the stuff I know they can’t resist and make sure that any project presentations fall on those last pre (or post) holiday days. The kids have a ton of energy and we can really build on the community we’ve built and the skills they’ve been practicing to be our best selves. 

This fall, that meant we did our weather cooperative learning reverse jigsaw project and presentations.  In the past I’ve done Jeopardy games reviewing skills we have learned over the previous months as well as various service learning projects.

What are your irresistible activities? What content could you hold for those “throw away” days?

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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