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Oh, those dreaded half-days. How can we make them worthwhile and engaging?
The month of November in my school district is a teachers’ worst nightmare as far as planning lessons.
First of all, there is Veteran’s Day. Certainly a worthwhile holiday, but the first of many “off” days. Our county always schedules a Staff Development Day right next to Veteran’s Day, so that’s at least 2 days off for students.
Next, our first quarter finishes up around early November. That means we have an early dismissal for students … they get out at 10:30 am … and then teachers have to be available to meet with parents from 1:00 to 3:00 pm and then also 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Parents come to school to pick up their student’s report card and then are able to immediately talk with teachers who are all in the gymnasium.
On a half-day like that, we have the first 4 periods of the day and that’s it. During some of our half-days, students get out at 12:00 or 12:30 pm. On those days we schedule every period but they’re shortened (about 22 minutes each) AND out of order. We do this so that everyone isn’t eating lunch at 9:30 am! So you can imagine what chaos can ensue on those days!
Then, of course, there’s Thanksgiving break, which for us includes the Wednesday before and the Friday after the holiday.
Making Half-Days Worthwhile
My biggest issue with half-days is that I always strived to keep my like classes together. I wanted my Regents Living Environment classes to be doing the same lesson each day and I wanted the same for my Honors classes. So what can you do when you meet with only 1 or 2 sections of one course and not the afternoon classes?
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
- Are there many students in the classes you’ll see behind in their work? Do many of them owe labs? If so, this could be a good opportunity to allow them some catch-up time. Give them the class period to work on things they might owe that you would still accept.
- Set up some quick stations for review and reinforcement of current content. Or this can also be a great time for review of past content.
- Use this time to discuss mindfulness with your students. There are tons of great content for this topic to be found online. My students loved to color some intricate mindfulness designs, especially if I broke out some of the new gel pens and colored pencils! Click here to print some free pages.
- Let them play some games! Again, there are lots of science games you can purchase from some of the science supply companies. Or even board games such as Scrabble are fun. Sometimes it was okay with me if they weren’t doing science specifically, as long as it was some kind of learning game. Click here to see a great list of science games.
- I always had puzzles available in my room for early finishers. Jig-saw puzzles, fractals … they love to have time to use these. And they’re great for collaborative efforts.
- Of course, there are always videos. This can be tricky, though, because I always felt that if it was a good video to show I wanted ALL of my students to see it. Sometimes I could work it out so that my other classes had extra time in the coming days so that they could view it as well.
- Sometimes I would use this time to give the whole class some more practice in a particular skill, such as graphing or writing CERs. Granted, it’s practice that the other classes didn’t necessarily get. But I feel that things like this always seem to balance out in the end. And I always made myself available after school for students who needed or wanted extra practice with content or skills.
How do you handle half-days for lesson planning? Share some of your ideas with us!