Can we avoid student groans while still working toward student gains?
If you’ve ever been brave enough to give an assignment over spring break, you’ve seen how a perfectly stable classroom can devolve into mutiny and mayhem. And the possibility that students will even touch the assignment is unlikely. This leaves teachers in a precarious spot. High-stakes testing is right around the corner, set to follow a completely “wasted” week, so what are you to do?
With some cunning planning, you can assign an activity that doesn’t feel like homework, but allows students to stay engaged and transition back into the classroom more easily. Even better — you can tailor this idea to any grade level or subject matter.
Spring Break 2019: A memoir
Get students interested in the assignment by making their vacation the subject of it. It’s simple: Students document information each day of their break, regardless of what activities they engage in. Upon returning to school, they follow the writing process for a personal narrative, allowing for continued engagement and a seamless transition.
This assignment can also be easily scaled to fit different grade levels by increasing the amount of information collected. For example, you may give fourth-graders a graphic organizer, asking for a short description each evening, while high schoolers may be asked to write a minimum of half a page per day. Regardless of the amount, they arrive the following Monday with the bones of their Spring Break 2019 memoirs. Bonus: You also have your first few lessons mapped out for you.
Why it works
There are several aspects of this memoir assignment that increase the likelihood that it will get completed with minimal pushback.
- Self-differentiation. Each student writes about the topics they’re living out making it a subject they’re naturally invested in.
- Buy-in. It engages students by incorporating activities they get to choose.
- Students are told they need to collect this information for the assignment of the following week.
- Socializing. It encourages students to do what they want most upon returning to school — share their experiences with friends.
What if I’m not a reading or writing teacher?
This assignment can easily be adjusted for any subject. Simply change the type of information that students document, so they return with materials that relate to the subject matter you’re working in.
- Math – Have students document numerical information, e.g., minutes or hours spent doing various activities like sleeping or playing video games and sports.
- Science – Ask students to collect items that relate to the type of science they are studying, e.g. insects, stones, or buoyant and non-buoyant items.
- History – Request that students document people they saw on some form of media or places that they visit to spark research into the past.
Pro tip: Write your own Spring Break 2019 memoir to give students a peek into your life away from the classroom.