According to poet T. S. Eliot, the “cruelest month” is April, but teachers, I’m sure, would disagree. Anybody who’s herding a group of tired-out kids through the post-winter break curriculum knows that it’s not April that’s really a challenge. It’s February, the shortest month with the longest days. The holidays are far behind, spring break is a century away, and the work goes on. And on. And on. Calling in sick four weeks in a row might seem tempting, but it’s not a good plan! There are more practical ways to get through February.
Give Your Classroom a New Look
Consider the physical environment where you and your students are currently being held captive. Look it over, and then change it. For instance…
- Rearrange the furniture. If you can’t do that, at least rearrange the kids in a new seating plan, and move your desk. Here’s a good article from last month’s Cool Web Sites that’s filled with ingenious ideas for using the space in your classroom. Try a couple of them to make your room more functional and appealing. And different!
- If your bulletin boards still say “Welcome back!” and feature a lot of autumn leaves, change them, too, for everyone’s sake! Check out these ways to revamp the bulletin boards you’ve been looking at for months:
- Don’t stop with the bulletin boards. Brighten up the rest of the room, and give it a new look without spending a lot of money. Get started by visiting this site and looking at the pictures of some cozy classrooms.
- Create a collection of photos you really like—pictures that are intriguing, inspirational, or just funny. Before class each day, project a new one onto the SmartBoard, a screen, or even a wall. Kids will look forward to seeing what’s waiting for them in your room. You will enjoy looking at the photos because they’re your favorites.
Plan a Game Day, & Don’t Feel Guilty About It
Kids learn a lot by playing games, especially good board games that develop thinking skills as well as social skills.
- You’ll find a list of excellent board games here. There’s also a good discussion of the ways students benefit from playing board games. Good to know in case somebody asks!
- Some board games are now designed specifically to develop critical thinking skills in teens and tweens. This site lists six of them.
Another great way to use board games in class is to give students a hands-on activity in which they work in teams to make games related to whatever they’re studying.
- Here’s a lesson plan and rubric for an activity in which students create a board game over a novel.
- With this lesson plan, students design a board game over the Revolutionary War.
Before writing a board game activity for your class, look on line for what you need. You may find one that’s just right or one you can revise a little to suit your purpose. After each team makes a board game, let the teams swap games and have fun playing them.
Video games, no doubt, would be really popular on Game Day. Happily, there are now many video games with strong educational value that are also fun to play. If you have the technology resources that allow students to access video games and apps, here are some good ones you might want to use.
- The video games listed at this site are designed to develop math and English skills.
- This page at edutopia is a great place to shop for good video games related to many subjects.
Watch a Movie, & Deal With Standards Later
You deserve a break today, and so do your students! Watching a good movie together is time well spent; it offers some relief from the daily routine and gives everybody a chance to unwind before hitting the books again. Furthermore, there’s much to be learned from a quality film, and it isn’t hard to use one as a springboard to learning something of value.
If the idea of enjoying a movie now and dealing with the standards later seems worrisome, there’s a solution for that! This web site offers free standards-based lesson plans over 350 feature films, with lesson plans for numerous subjects and grade levels.
The winning strategy for getting through the long days of February, I’m convinced, is change, so dare to be different this semester. I’ll see you again in March, the month when spring starts to feel like a real possibility. Until then, remake your classroom, let the games begin, and remember that movies are always better with popcorn!
This is a guest post from eNotes Staff Writer, Susan Hurn. Susan is a former high school English teacher and college instructor. She loves writing for eNotes and also enjoys good books, creative writing, and all things related to history.
Let us know if you’re interested in contributing to the eNotes blog.