The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Teaching On A Holiday

Today was the first time this year that we’ve had school on a major holiday. The students were fairly antsy most of the day in anticipation of our first classroom party. The gloomy weather this morning did not help the situation, either. It started raining yesterday and, with few breaks, continued on throughout the day.

To help the c;lass make it through the day, I made sure they knew exactly what we would be doing all day long. Of course, this is something I try to do as a matter of course, but I have found that holidays are especially important days to set clear expectations for everyone.

Despite have a school-wide costume parade and classroom parties at the end of the day, we had a very busy morning and early afternoon. We started with our regular journal writing and then went down the music room for our twice-weekly 30 minutes of Arts Infusion. The music teacher has been sharing Renaissance-era music and dance to complement our social studies unit on early European exploration. Then we returned to the classroom and discussed the journal topic from the morning, sharing tips for being safe tonight, especially during trick-or-treating.

The next big part of our day was our regular literacy block. I wanted the students to have a large block of time today to work on their writing, as we have started a number of assignments over the past several weeks. We reviewed the general phases of the writing process, but focused on the planning/pre-writing phase and the rough draft phase. Some students told me they were done with a writing assignment. I reminded them again of the great amount of time that should go into writing, with planning, drafting, revising, drafting further, revising again, peer-reviewing, revising and drafting yet again, and repeating the process several times until they are ready to publish.

I had everyone work on their writing for about 20 minutes, then we took a break before going into the computer lab for more research on our explorers. We only had half an hour in the computer lab, but the students did a fantastic job staying on task the entire time.  Our morning was wrapped up with a math lesson on quadrilaterals. I discovered some time ago that students really enjoy learning about geometry, which is what we are doing for the next week before we get back to arithmetic. I had the class name different types of quadrilaterals and then determine what makes them unique and what makes them similar.

Following lunch, which had an indoor recess, we met in our math groups for review of multi-step word problems and two-digit by two-digit multiplication. This went on until it was time to go to music. And then it was finally time for our holiday celebration! There was a costume parade (outdoors because the rain broke for just enough time!) and then we had our classroom parties. Some classes have a lot of games and activities planned. Fourth graders tend to prefer to just socialise and enjoy copious amounts of sugary treats. (We had so many cupcakes that some parents took them to other rooms to share!)

After all this, the day was finally done. We pushed through and made it through and, I hope, had a lot of learning going on. It is far too easy for holidays to turn into fairly unproductive days, but with clear objectives, a set timetable, and goal to accomplish work before we could play, we had a day that went very, very well!


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