This morning I came across Patti Grayson’s post on MiddleWeb about The5 Craziest Times of the School Year. I certainly agree with Patti that each of these times presents a challenge. Students are excited, making it difficult to keep the focus on learning. However, as difficult as these days can be for teachers, they are important for students. The level of excitement that makes educators want to run for cover is one of the things that makes school enjoyable for students.
As I read Patti’s post I began thinking about ways we as teachers can channel student enthusiasm on these days into something productive. With Halloween lurking in the not too distant shadows, my thoughts turned to ways of focusing student energy on a day when they are thinking about costumes and treats rather than the historical significance of a topic we may be studying. Why not embrace their want of a Halloween party rather than trying to fight it? It seems like students might enjoy (and learn something from) a history-themed Halloween party.
Why not have students dress up as people from the past? Or in a costume they think a historical figure might have worn? Or as zombies representing the reanimated corpses of historical figures? Any of these options could be preceded by a small amount of research to establish background information on the individual they will portray. This requires students to learn about their character and justify why they dressed the way they did. Each student could be required to come to the party with a few prepared talking points that exemplify their person.
Alternatively, the party could be set around a specific time period, event, or issue. This would require students to be familiar with course content. Student research could focus on differing opinions related to the topic and how people might have discussed it at a get-together. Students could also research games and snacks that partygoers might have enjoyed during this time in history.
Any of these options could incorporate a number of other fun activities. A teacher could decide to divide the class into committees to decorate the room, develop games, come up with treats, etc. Each committee could ensure that everything adheres to the theme of the party. If a teacher is feeling very adventurous, he or she could even allow students to carve pumpkins that reflect the historical content being studied.
Sometimes we as teachers get so into our content that we forget to embrace the opportunities to make learning enjoyable. School needs to be a place where students feel they are allowed to enjoy themselves, without being shut down on days that might be important or exciting to them. When “crazy” days arise, find a way to use the energy to your advantage.