Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Keeping the Learning Fire Lit-Two FREE Activities

During the last few days I've read posts by colleagues across the country and beyond our borders who are wrapping up their 2012-2013 school year. "In early May,how lucky," I thought with envy as I remembered how my days in Room 216 didn't close until the third week of June.  My teaching friends in this school district will still roll into their various parking lots between 6:30 and 8:30 AM for the next 5+ weeks. When I talk with them, I hear the exhaustion in their voices.They stifle yawns as they question where they will dig up any  inspiring lessons that will keep their students actively learning during these winding down days.

Here are two learning ideas that should fit their needs. One, Activity: In Honor of Soldiers-Every One: A Veteran's or Memorial Day Project will carry them from now into June, if they require students to present their projects.

1. Activity:  In Honor of Soldiers-Every One: A Veteran's or Memorial Day Project

Middle and High School ELA Lesson Plans- Memorial and Veteran's Day Activity
This is an activity to honor and remember all military personnel who died in battle (Memorial Day), and all men and women, living or deceased who served in the military (Veteran’s Day). Students select afiction or n on-fiction  book to read from the list provided, or one that they choose about American men and women who have served the United States by fighting in any war from the Civil War to Afghanistan and Iraq. When they are finished, they are to complete the following two assignments:
     Middle and High School ELA Lesson Plans-"In Honor of Soldiers-Every One"
  1. Prepare a project relating their knowledge and understanding of the story. This can follow any format. Here are a few ideas:  A poster, painting, sculpture, photographic collage, video, skit, song, book report, or project of your choice. For the latter, they must get your approval. These will be due on the date you specify. This is a visual assignment. IThe only writing I required were the students' notes and ideas sheet included in the packet.
  2. Students are also to write a letter to a soldier. Here are two places to find soldiers’ names, to get ideas about what to write and to learn how to address the letters: www.operationgratitude.com/letters-to-heroes and www.anysoldier.com/WheretoSend. This is a writing assignment. 
On the due date, students must show the letter and addressed envelope to you  before they mail them. Do remind them to include their email or snail mail address if they want a response. If  you want, have each student present either Project 1 or 2.

Teachers can also use the activities in this posting if they are reading a military-based book as a class  unit (example: All Quiet on the Western Front-Remarque, The Red Badge of Courage-Crane, or The Things They Carried- O'Brien).

2. Printables: A Summer Bucket List
Project two, Printables: A Summer Bucket List is a result of years of hearing my now adult children whining about how bored they were about three weeks into summer vacation.  In the last eighteen years, I've listened to my friends with school-age children sigh as they rolled their eyes and muttered the complaint that has dwelt in parents' hearts and minds since the first one-room schoolhouse opened their doors to summer vacation, "Another 7 weeks of, 'I am so-o-o-o bored". These words usually swirl into the night air with the cordite smell from the 4th of July firework finale.

 Middle and High School ELA Lesson Plans-A Summer Bucket List
This handout insures that children will keep their minds and bodies active and alert during their summer vacation. The plus is- they won’t feel like they are completing an assignment or doing a task related to school while they keep their comprehension and their analytic and creative thinking and writing skills fresh. Although this list is best suited for children in grades 5-12, third and fourth graders will find activities that fit their abilities and skill levels, too. Many 6-10 year-olds I know blow me away with their ability to text, use a computer or a digital or Smartphone camera, play an instrument and cook, so they will find a number of suggestions to choose from. Ideas 8, 10 and 11 are more fitted to older children, though. Idea 13 is great for kids in grades 1-8. Using simple household supplies they can have fun with science experiments while learning chemistry, biology, physics and much more. Some parental guidance will probably be necessary with the younger kids. Tell the children and parents about this terrific book to use: The Everything Kids Science Experiments Book by Tom Robinson for $8.95 ($6.12 Kindle edition). They don’t have to spend money on a book unless they want to, though. They can probably find similar books at the library. Best of all, they will find activities on-line using the search terms: kids science experiments.

Some friends and neighbors have taped this list to their refrigerators and have seen remarkable success. Pet sitting,  baby-sitting and lawn services have popped up to the delight of our community. Two pre-teens started a Summer Reading Hour for the 4-6 year-olds in their near-by development. My own grand daughters LOVE the science experiments (Hint: Starbucks Frappuccino bottles work best for the egg in a bottle activity). Two former students, home from college saw this list when I was working on it. One chose to keep  a social media file and the other decided to create a photo journal.  The possibilities and variations are endless.
Middle and High School ELA Lesson Plans-"A Summer Bucket List"

Be sure to give the handout to students at the end of the year. Maybe, follow this up with an email to parents to explain how they can tackle the, “Mom, I’m bored,” grumblings or to show their children how they can use their various devices to inspire instead of tire them.

This list insures that young people will have a lot to show and talk about in September when their next year’s teachers ask, “What did you do this summer.”

As the school year winds down and after the initial excitement of summer falls victim to the Ennui Epidemic, thinking, reading and writing can still flame instead of fizzle-whether in the classroom or in the family room. These two activities offer that much-desired antidote.

Happy Teaching,