The last few days leading up to a break can be challenging for all involved. Teachers are tired, students are tired, the days feel long and the break too far away, and yet there is still learning to do and class time to use wisely. So how do you make the days before a break count yet still be cognizant of the fact that students are just as tired and drained as we feel as teachers?
This is my first year teaching high school, and the climate before a break is much different than it was in middle school. Yes, kids are excited and ready for a break, but you can see on their faces that they are just as exhausted as we all feel as teachers. In fact, my sophomores had two standardized essay tests to take earlier this week, so they are particularly drained. We also finished up phase one of a large project (our STEM Maker Fest) last week and began phase two on our project work day this week. We ask a lot of our students. However, I still feel that every class moment is important. I want to make every day I am with my students count.
So, how do I do this? For my chemistry students, I have been incorporating a high interest lab. We are about to begin our thermochemistry unit, so a calorimeter lab that involves setting food on fire definitely keeps kids interested! In fact, as we started the lab today, my students were very focused and engaged. We burned mini-marshmallows and Cheetos and will be using the data we collected to measure the heat released from the food products. Tomorrow we’ll compare with Doritos and large marshmallows. My engineering students have been studying structural principles. We built paper platforms and craft stick bridges first. Now we are building toothpick towers. I watched groups of students working very intently while building today.
Just because it is the last day or two before a break doesn’t mean the days are wasted. We can definitely make these days count. However, taking into account the mental and physical state of our students is important. We should provide them with educational opportunities that are valuable but also fun and highly engaging during these times.
So how do you make the days before a break count?