Friday, November 16, 2012

Classroom Fluff?

I recently had a discussion with a fellow educator and they referred to this time of the year as the "fluff".  This individual talked about Thanksgiving, then Christmas and how several academic areas get pushed aside.  This got me to thinking.  How important is the "fluff"?  Let me first say that "fluff" looks very different depending on the grade level you are teaching.  Fluff is not just in the classroom, fluff can also occur with assemblies.  So this made me think, should "fluff" be cut out?  Is "fluff" important?  Can too much "fluff" be detrimental? 

Before I dive into my personal opinion I need to reflect on my days in 5th grade.  Every year at Thanksgiving my 5th grade students watched a movie.  Every year it was the same movie, "A Thanksgiving Promise."  This movie had stars such as, Beau Bridges, Jason Bateman, and Courtney Thorne-Smith.  The movie was dated, it was a mid 1980's made for television story.  I never got tired of watching this movie.  It had heroes, villains, bullying, conflict, suspense, and joy.  Year after year I was able to use this "fluff" activity and use it as a teaching tool.  I actually became so comfortable and confident in my planning that I enjoyed the short Thanksgiving week more than any other.  I had it down to a perfect science.  In fact, each year my students had a half-day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I actually had enough materials to make it a full day.  My kids were engaged and excited about what was going on, there were no glances at the clocks and no comments about how slow the day was going.  In fact, students often said, " Wow! This week went really fast!"  That was my feedback that they were so engaged in the learning that they didn't have time to get bored.

As for my opinion on "fluff".  I believe there are two types of classroom "fluff". The first type is fluff with a purpose.  I would view these as: classroom art projects, classroom created books, spelling word searches, coloring pages and anything else that has a purpose, but the purpose isn't in the forefront of your thinking.  I will never criticize purposeful projects.

Then we have the second type of "fluff", fluff as a filler.  This in my opinion is not real educational.  It could be watching a movie that isn't directly related to anything you are doing.  It could be creating a project that has no real value or purpose.  It could even be extended reading time to essentially fill time.  When I was teaching I never did "read-ins" where kids would simply read all day.  I always believed that you could read for a substantial amount of time, but all day seemed excessive in my mind.  I'll admit I did show movies that didn't always have a purpose, but the only times this ever happened were as classroom rewards.  These times were very few and far between.  I tried very hard to have purposeful fluff.  I tried to avoid filler fluff.

My take is this, Classroom "fluff" will always be around.  Take the time to create meaningful projects that have a purpose.  You'll be happier with yourself and your lessons will have flow and reason.  Embrace the Holiday Season with purpose driven projects like these:

1)  Show a Thanksgiving or Holiday themed movie 
*  Write a persuasive paper on the choices of the main character in the movie.
*  Stop the movie 20 minutes from the end and have the students write their own ending.  Complete the movie the next day.
*  Relate parts of the movie to Core Democratic Values, discuss choices, actions, and consequences.
2)  Create a GingerBread House
*  Work independently and make your own design, identify geometric shapes
*  Work with a partner and communicate
*  Design the house on paper first and then see how close they come with real materials.
3) Create classroom crafts to take to Retirement homes or create Christmas tree decorations and decorate trees at local businesses.

If you are searching for purpose driven holiday activities a good spot to begin is Pinterest.  The above ideas were things I tried as a teacher.

Next Week at a Glance:

Happy Birthday on Saturday the 17th to Chris Kline
Monday, November 19th:  4th grade to Local Businesses
Monday, November 19th:  Paul Bickle is bringing his Jazz Band over for a 30 minute performance 8:45am for (Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade) Located in the Gym
Tuesday, November 20th:  Rose Queen Kelly Gooch is coming for all grades, check your email for locations and times
Tuesday, November 20th:  Warner String Team 4pm
Friday, November 23rd:  Happy Birthday Suzanne Gibbs
Wednesday the 21st - Sunday the 25th  Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday.

Great Things Noticed or Heard:

*  I saw Aurora at the grocery store, she ran up to me and hugged me.  Then she proceeded to say, "What are you doing here Mr. Gilpin?"  
*  Book Fair week!  So many students shopped and came out excited to read!
*  Conference Week...As Jenny and Brad stated, we ate like Kings and Queens.
*  Mrs. Oliver made sure to tell me that every time she saw me I was in the lounge...are you saying I eat to much? 
*  Showed a slideshow on Tuesday during lunch.  Kids love to see pictures of themselves.
*  Visited gym on Friday, watched our 5th graders Limbo.  Very impressed with Natalie S. and McKenzie P.  
*  Shout out to Mrs. Struck's 5th graders, impressive job working together in science.
*  Wonderful comments about Pioneer Living from parents, teachers, and students.  Then they came back and watched Little House on the Prairie.  #classic
*  Saw a wonderful creation in Mrs. Kline's room.  Students built a city, the tallest structure was called, the church
*  Terrific assembly with the Spring Arbor Men's Basketball team!  Lots of fun and excitement.
*  Watched Jack paint in Mrs. Nash's room.  Young Five students painting almost every day!
*  I got to dance to the letter "P" in Mrs. Moffitt's room.  Gotta Love Smart Boards!
*  Worked with Tim and Alex R. on Social Studies.  #broughtbackmemories
*  Played Julian K. in checkers and dominated him.  I tell students I do not let them win.  They must EARN it.  Proud that Julian had a good day and earned the right to challenge me.
*  Impressed with Mrs. Delor's data and preparation before a challenging IEP.  #WellDone
*  Heard wonderful comments about Mrs. Soper's Stone Soup.  Only one problem, based on comments I'm afraid to chew.  #PossibleStonesinSoup?
*Began doing daily announcements:  several students commented positively, they even asked why I hadn't been doing that all year. Thank you to everyone that takes the time to watch morning announcements.  I believe it informs our students and sets the tone for the day.

Articles Worth Your Time:

10 tips for using Evernote in the Classroom by Joseph Sanfilippo 

50 ways to use Skype in the Classroom by Katie Lepi   (shared by @ShellTerrell)

Avoiding the Staff Lounge? by George Couros (Truth to this?)  (Shared by @PrincipalBerry)

12 Things Kids Want from Their Teachers by Shannon Schuster  (Shared by @MrPowersCMS)

Apple TV versus SmartBoard

Videos Worth Your Time:

Hilarious 2 minute clip!

Choices, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce?  (18 minutes)

Power of Introverts!  Great speaker...interesting to listen to.  (19 min)

Saturday Night Live Spoof.  This makes me laugh out loud.  (30 seconds)

Kindergarten students learning together!

Panther Pride!

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