As the year draws to an end, my colleagues and I are stretching ourselves to think of creative ways to keep our students engaged in the classroom. I find myself reminding my students several times a day that the winter break doesn’t start until after school lets out on Thursday–at least for the students; the teachers still have to work on Friday.
One of the ways we are keeping them engaged while teaching material is by providing fun activities that tie in to our lessons. Now, this isn’t to say that we don’t do fun things during the rest of the year, but it would be a lie to say that we don’t up the frequency of these activities as the semester draws to an end.
Which is why I found myself co-teaching a lesson on how one of the important ideas behind How the Grinch Stole Christmas is that Christmas, or any holiday for that matter, isn’t about the trappings and bright lights and presents, but rather it is about spending time with those we love and taking time to thank them for everything they do for us. (And yes, I realise that one can argue there are many other reasons. This is the one we chose to focus on today.) After the students wrote about this main idea and used textual support in their brief essays, we had them make a list of the people in their lives who mean a lot to them. I thought it was interesting that about 90% of the students in the room listed “Mom” on the top of their lists! Then they made simple thank-you cards to give to those people.
It was inevitable that a few of the students would make cards for their teachers. Cards, pictures, notes, and other such home-made student gifts are always a treasure. I have a file folder where I keep all of these gifts I’ve been given over the years. (Well, except for the scrapbook that my first graders in Paxton made for me; that stays on my bookshelf in my living room.) One of the cards given to me made me realise that, perhaps, I need to smile just a bit more in class. On the outside was the name of a student and a funny face picture with the word LOL and an arrow pointing to it. On the inside was this:
In addition to my dismay that this student portrayed my Naturally Curly Hair (TM) as a flat-top reminiscent of the early 1990s, I was shocked to see that my facial expression was a stern frown, accented with a straight unibrow (although that may just be my glasses). I showed this picture to my wife after telling her about it and she said that she agrees that I need to smile more. I guess I can try!