By Teachers, For Teachers
Teaching the days before big holidays is challenging. Students and teachers alike are ready for a break. Both struggle to pay attention regardless of how innovative and engaging are the lesson plans and classroom activities. I've been there often. As a result, I've come up with fun ways to support learning while students power through the last few days of school. Here are seven classroom activities I use during the pre-Thanksgiving season:
Time required: Less than one class
ASCII Art is the graphic design technique of creating images by typing the letters, numbers, and symbols defined by ASCII Standards. Holiday examples include this Thanksgiving pumpkin and these holiday bells. Here's how you do it:
Tie-ins: Use this not only for holidays but any academic class by creating an artistic image of the topic being discussed. Click the link for an example of Abraham Lincoln to align with study of the American Civil War or this one of the American Revolution. This is also a fun and authentic way for students to practice keyboarding.
Time required: One class
Comics are a timely visual medium for digital storytelling done in a way that resonates with students. It’s equally appropriate for fiction and nonfiction, and does a solid job of reinforcing Common Core standards related to writing, literacy, and language.
Here is how to use comics in your classes:
Tie-ins: Comics can support any academic subject and any popular form of writing.
Time required: Less than 30 minutes
Just in time for the holiday, Wolfram-Alpha offers hundreds of widgets that can be programmed from scratch or remixed from designs provided by users. For those unfamiliar with widgets, they are free personalized mini-apps that are easy to create. They can do almost anything, from finding the weather in Brazil to finding the North Star in the sky. Their code can be copied into most blogs, wikis, and websites or used from the Wolfram-Alpha site. Here's a countdown clock sample that is perfect for marking off the days until Thanksgiving.
Here's how to create a countdown clock:
Tie-ins: A countdown widget can apply to any holiday or class event (like last day of school or summer vacation). A great option also is to program the widgets for an Hour of Code activity.
Time required: 1.5 classes
This is a fun team activity to assess student knowledge on a topic. Take half of one class to let students organize their team, review questions, strategize, and prepare for the Challenge, which will take all of the next class. The Challenge can be played unplugged (no computer required), as a Jeopardy! game, through Kahoot, or using a similar gameshow format of your choice. We'll use the unplugged approach today.
Here's how it works:
Students love this game. If I had time, I’d play it every grading period.
Tie-ins: This is an excellent gamified review for semester tests, final exams, or other summative assessments. Because it can be played unplugged, it's great for days when computers are broken or not available.
Time required: Minimal
Create a poll in Google Forms, PollDaddy, or another favorite. List as many definitions of the word "turkey" as you can think of and ask students to check off all those familiar to them. This may include a bird, a holiday, a country, something unsuccessful, to speak frankly, three consecutive strikes in bowling, and more. Post the poll on your class screen, class blog or website, or school blog or website. Students can complete it anytime during the school day. When the poll ends, share the results with students and discuss.
Tie-ins: Besides obvious connections to language and literacy, this is great to generate a conversation about symbols, idiomatic expressions, geography, science, culture, and more.
Time required: Optional
Pre-holiday school days are great for supporting school goals surrounding Habits of Mind, problem-solving, and critical thinking with websites that focus on those skills. Here are some of my favorites:
Time required: Optional
Don't forget the ever-popular Thanksgiving-themed education-oriented websites and apps. They are good choices for sponge times, class warm-ups and exit tickets, and when nothing else cerebral seems to work. Here are favorites:
When kids are too excited to concentrate, teaching is more about adapting to that particular learning style than capitulating. Using these seven suggestions, you can make sure the learning continues even as Thanksgiving pulls their attention away.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of mpre than 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.