Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Making the Most of "Lost Days"

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Making the Most of "Lost Days"

Article excerpt

In a given school year, one or two weeks of class time are inevitably eaten up by the calendar. There are the days before Thanksgiving, winter break, and spring break--when some students have left for early vacations, those left behind seem off the wall, and most teachers are fried and ready for a break, too. Then, you have state testing days, snow days, and random assemblies that interfere with some, but not all, of your classes. Though it's easy to write these days off as do-nothing days, you can maximize this time and shift the focus back to content while capitalizing on the unique atmosphere of the day. Here are some ideas for making the most of these "lost days."

Play a game. Take this opportunity to do something entirely different with your course content and add a competitive edge to reviewing for midterms or state exams. There are a number of Jeopardy-style templates available online that can be modified for your topics of study (see "On the web"), and many are adapted for PowerPoint and optimized for interactive white boards. Alternatively, have your students create their own games. My chemistry students make board games on nonteaching days surrounding state exams, and then split into groups and play them when reviewing for finals in June.

Show a film. My first year, I overheard a student ask her classmate what she missed on a day she'd been absent. Her classmate's response frustrated me: "Nothing, we just watched a movie," she said. There is a negative connotation attached to movies, but perhaps this stems from the practice of showing movies that are outdated, unrelated, or lack student engagement. On lost days, I show episodes of Planet Earth and Blue Planet to my biology and marine biology classes. Students love these DVDs, and I am able to tie in connections to biodiversity, evolution, and anatomy. Now when students ask what they missed while absent on a movie day, I often hear classmates respond with answers like, "Oh man, you missed the coolest movie!"

Go edible--with a twist. Not a break goes by without students asking if we can have a party the day before. …

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