Ah, the dreaded day before a break. The kids are bouncing off the walls, and we teachers are doing all we can to hold it all together.
Yes, this day means the break is so close we can taste it, but corralling the kids for those last 6 or 7 hours sometimes feels nigh unto impossible.
For me, there’s just something inside that can’t stomach the idea of completely wasting a day of school. One year I think I tried to just teach through the last day. That was definitely challenging. Another time I figured “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and I just decided to make it a fun day in which we played games. Worst idea ever! Once they heard “we’re going to have a fun class today” they just progressively got more and more hyper and out of control.
So how should we spend those last crazy hours before a break? Well, I’ve found that the best approach is to provide enough structure that the kids realize they need to say in control. But they do certainly appreciate a little variety from a typical class.
Things to Do the Day Before a Break
- Give a test. Okay, I know this is the most grinch-like thing to do, but it works amazingly well, and I plan this whenever the schedule works so that I can. The kids stay focused, and I haven’t noticed any decrease in scores. To provide a little cheer, have a fun activity ready that they can work on quietly after they finish.
- Give an assignment. I know this is another grinch-like option, but once again, this works so well. Give students an assignment that is due at the end of class and will be graded. This should keep them pretty focused. If you want to make it a little more interesting, give the assignment some type of holiday twist. Or, give them a thought-provoking prompt and have them write.
- Plan a learning activity. Determine an activity that the students can complete in groups. And the key? Let them know they’re going to receive a grade (even if all you do is walk around during the activity and assign a grade based on effort.)
- Plan presentations. If it fits in your lesson plans, have students give presentations (or group presentations) the day before a break. Or, if this doesn’t fit in your plans, offer extra credit to any student who gives a presentation during the last day (just make sure the extra credit is on a scale. For example, 1 bonus point if you can tell they at least tried up to 5 bonus points for a superior presentation).
- Watch a productive video. Okay, I put the word productive in there because unless it’s part of your class party, this is not the time to just pop in your favorite movie. Try to find something that either relates to what you’ve been studying or teaches some other lesson. And require students to give some type of feedback in class, whether it’s answering questions, taking notes, or writing a brief summary of what they learned. Otherwise, chaos will ensue.
What have you found works best the day before a break? Share your ideas with a comment below.
Photo by shawncampbell