The Hidden Opportunity in Throw-Away Days

The Hidden Opportunity in “Throw-Away Days”

I was frantically busy getting ready for the holiday, and frankly, my mind just wasn’t on academics. My students weren’t focused either, and quite a few of them were absent because of their own family stuff.I knew my students would forget anything I taught them in the two-day week leading up to Thanksgiving, so I decided to plan two days of holiday-themed activities with little academic value. They were the Throw-Away Days of Thanksgiving.

You might not call them “throw-away days” (at least not where your principal can hear you) but it’s an open secret in education that the days before major holidays may be a just a smidge less academically rigorous than usual.

I’m not saying this is bad. It’s actually part of the natural rhythm of the year. I’m just saying balance the word searches, videos, class celebrations, and construction-paper-based crafts with something that will make your life more sane the week after the holiday, too.

Activities like:

  • Invite your students to reflect on what’s going well in your class and to offer suggestions for improvement. Depending on your class, this could be a Google Form survey, a drawing, a class discussion, a word cloud, or a writing project. Let them know you will be implementing their best ideas after the holiday.
  • As a class, revisit and revise your rules/agreements/norms.This will give you a natural way to reteach and review when you return from the holiday.
  • Revise your class jobs. Ask your students to help create the job descriptions. They can then apply for the jobs in an age-appropriate way (such as filling out a sentence frame, writing a persuasive essay, creating a resume, or making a video explaining why they would be the best person for the job.) Again, this gives you the perfect opportunity to reteach and review classroom routines when you return.
  • Do a lesson on “organization” (otherwise known as cleaning and purging.) Have your students clean out and organize their desks, work spaces, and computer folders. Early finishers can reorganize common areas and bookshelves. When you return after the holiday, the fresh new environment will support your fresh-start activities and procedures review.
  • Further support your “fresh start” theme with a new room configuration. Ask for student input (diagrams, written suggestions, etc) and then roll out the new setup right after the holiday.

Activities like these can turn the after-holiday review into a new beginning instead of a boring rehash of the same old rules. Asking for student participation creates community and buy-in. And YOU won’t have to spend a lot of time this week on prep, or take work home to grade. It’s a win for everyone!

How do you leverage “throw-away days” constructively? I’d love to hear your ideas! Please comment in our private Facebook group or send me an email.

And now, go create a great day for yourself and your students (and have a fantastic Thanksgiving!)

Katrina Ayres

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