Homecoming week- a week of fun as recent alumni return home and current students sit in class, dreamy-eyed about a Friday pep rally to cheer on the greatest achievements of the school and our undefeated football team. The sugar plums dancing for a school dance on Saturday evening as fingers tap to the anticipated tunes that will fill the gymnasium with a liveliness only school dances can bring.
Though teachers look towards this potentially disruptive week with a sense of uncertainty and trepidation, I decided to approach this week with an aura of comradery with my students. Just like most of you in this boat, I understand the weaknesses that our students succumb to when the change in routine hits them. They are antsy, a tad rowdy, and less likely to fully pay attention. They look doe-eyed at you when you try to get them to focus on the deeper meanings in your lesson and you know instinctively, that when Monday comes around, you are rehashing Friday’s materials when they are better equip to handle learning.
So I embraced the spirit of homecoming week with a review football game on our hectic schedule. The class is split into two teams and are asked to create a “playbook” order. Each student receives a number and it is that order that they answer questions. When a team has the ball, they can choose to try to move 5, 10, or 20 yards. The questions they get are progressively harder based on the yardage they want to go. If the student gets the question right, I move their pawn piece across the projected football field (but if I catch a teammate trying to give them an answer, it is an illegal move and automatic loss of 5 yards).
The students have to try to make it across the football field into the goal line for 6 pts (there are no extra points for my game). If a team gets two questions wrong while trying to get their first down, it is a turnover on the down and the ball moves to the other team. If a teammate gets an answer wrong and the next question has not been given, the next player on the other team is allowed to stand up and shout the answer proudly. If it is correct, they can get an interception and the ball moves to the other team.
The kids have a blast playing a game on a Friday morning when they are still groggy and they love playing a game when the pep rally is getting closer (even if it seems achingly slow). And, in all honesty, I figured, why fight it? Why fight the inevitable loss of attention I will have from a number of students? This way, I know that my students are engaged and I can estimate their knowledge at this point in time. They feel like they are not doing anything and I feel like they are using their memory banks. Honestly, a win-win situation to me!