Rosie – 09/06/2019
Joy in the classroom through “us time”.
Children know they are at school to learn, and know that the time they spend doing it is the most important aspect of their education. They see this importance of time in everything they experience at school, whether they know it or not. The minute school starts, the attention turns to the teacher. The timetable of the day is displayed on the board. There’s getting to recess on time, a race to fit in the trip to the library, the teacher changing activities based on the clock, the last few minutes of a day where a game can finally be squeezed in…if there’s time.
But what if we place more importance on fitting in the rituals and brain breaks as much as filling the rest of the time? Not to be considered as time spent doing nothing, but time alongside the learning: the classroom connections times, the game times, the times to give children a “brain break” from a structured lesson before moving on. Scheduled times to have a laugh and simply get along. The students in my class experience joy when we play games together. They also love to share, and in these moments, we all grow as a group and develop a positive culture.
My students love ‘The 3 Cs’ and ‘Bucket Filling Times’ (see below) and also playing any games. These may be maths based, English based or simply lots of fun.
These are the things they request to do, want to spend time on and look forward to. There is no doubt they understand the importance of spending quality time on learning, but there are days when their requests to play a maths game gets met with an “Only if we have time” from me. In doing this, my unintentional message to them is that I’m the one with all the control, and they have none. I don’t want them to stop requesting maths games, and I also know that the laughs and smiles resulting from these contribute to our classroom culture, so I need to commit more time to those requests and other “breaks from the norm” during the teaching day.
I am challenging myself next week to schedule in time for more games, fun and classroom rituals – more time for brain breaks and experiencing joy.
I want to challenge you to do the same.
Below are some ideas to get started, but for this experiment to work, the students themselves should have some ideas about how they would like to make more “us time” in the classroom.
- The 3 Cs – In a circle, children can take turns sharing a ‘Care’, a ‘Concern’, or a ‘Compliment’. Care stands for anything on their mind, something they’re up to, doing on the weekend, something going on in their lives. A concern is something they are worried about, with a focus on not accusing anyone in particular. E.g., ‘I feel upset when…’. A compliment is clear, and can be for anything, though I try to direct them away from complimenting looks. Children can share or say ‘Pass’ if they don’t have anything or need more time. Some variations are to stick with just compliments, or to introduce a talking point to share on. I have also used it as a listening and speaking task to get children practising their active listening skills.
- Bucket filling – This one is pretty well known, but the twist for how it runs in my classroom is that children are given time after lunch to think of the people who were kind to them during the day. We read them out on a Friday afternoon and it is motivating and endearing for students to take this feel-good feeling home with them on the weekend. If they were read out every day, the children would likely work harder to fill buckets in general, and so to test it, I aim to try reading them out on a Tuesday afternoon as well as Friday afternoon to see the effects it has during the week as well as heading into the weekend.
- Games – Too many ideas here, but on high rotation in our classroom are: Greedy Pig, Place Value Bingo, Around the world, Guess the Part of Speech, Heads down Thumbs up (all of which I am happy to give more information on if needed).
‘The 3 Cs’
When introducing this change, particularly if it is entirely new to you and your class, it would be worth having a classroom discussion at the beginning of the school week. Create a list of ‘break’ activities (or name them another way) and schedule it by putting them in the visual timetable, setting a timer to go off or holding a child or a couple of children accountable for reminding the teacher between sessions that it could be time to try one of the breaks.Personally, I’ll be looking for more English language games to try, as well as making my current ‘Greetings’ ritual more enjoyable. An excellent teacher I know uses a well-known morning ritual where children choose which kind of greeting they would like to start the day with; a handshake, high-five or a hug. Perhaps I’ll call it the “3 Hs” and use it for myself as the perfect way to tell my children that the “us time” we share together is just as important as the learning we do.
Rosie is a teacher from Australia, working in an International School in Switzerland. She is contactable at email@example.com