Friday, November 17, 2017

Free time

My son sent me a message during school yesterday via Snapchat.  It was a video of students playing cards, talking, and napping.  The teacher said it was a free period because it was the last class before the Thanksgiving holiday break.  Today, he sent me another message.  He begged me to let him leave school because his teacher for his third class of the day told them they had nothing to do.  This morning, the teacher for his fourth (and last) class of the day told him they would have free time.

For the last half of the school day, my son walked into classes with nothing to do.  He begged to leave.  I told him to stay.  As an educator, that is the right thing to say.  Maybe because the benefits of good attendance have been driven into my brain over the last 30 years!

What are the benefits of spending three hours doing nothing?  There are no benefits.  Are there negatives?  Certainly.  This kid already complains of boredom at school.  Now I am telling him he must sit through three hours of free time because attendance matters???  He isn't buying it.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Healthy competition

There are plenty of arguments for and against competition in the classroom.  I certainly have some strong opinions about the appropriate usage of competition in elementary schools.  Before kids compete in schools, a good environment for healthy sportsmanship is paramount.

Watch your students at recess, if a kid scores a goal, makes a touchdown, or hits a jump shot, does he throw his hands in the air and puff up his chest, trying to emulate a pro athlete?  Or... does he run over to his teammates for a quick high-five to celebrate?

To make competition healthy in school, we must create an environment that celebrates winners and losers in a supportive manner.  Will the winner smile proudly and give everyone a humble thumbs up?  Will everyone else be happy for their friend who won?  Is the classroom a place where learning is the important thing and the contest simply makes it a bit more fun?

Today, my class played a quick game online.  They worked out a few long division problems on whiteboards, then clicked their answer choice on the computers (Kahoot!)  The goal was to simply practice the skill of division.  The winner was unexpected.  The response from the class was outstanding!  The kids who thought they should have won were genuinely happy for the winner!  There were no sore losers.

And the kid who won!  He smiled and said, "Thank you," to everyone who congratulated him.