In the morning light,
You sleep despite my meow.
I stand on your face.
Spring Celebrations to Enliven Your Classroom
By Anne Anderson
I’m back to help you celebrate learning every day with more quirky Calendar Celebrations!
Remember, middle school students love knowing something nobody else knows, and they especially love the weird stuff! Use that to your advantage to build their general knowledge base, strengthen vocabulary, and reinforce previously taught skills.
March from Women’s History to Optimism
March is filled with celebrations: American Red Cross Month, Women’s History Month, March Madness, and National Optimism Month. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins on the first Saturday of March, Absolutely Incredible Kid Day is the third Thursday, and Manatee Appreciation Day on the fourth Wednesday. There’s something for everyone!
Dazzle your students with your immense storehouse of knowledge. National Potato Chip Day is an example of a “Throw-n-Go” day. Throw out a tidbit of information, pause, and then move ahead with the lesson or activity.
Three days later the following conversation took place in 5th hour.
Me: What are you doing? Are you eating in class?
Willie: Well, yes, I was still hungry . . . and I had some crisps left from lunch . . . and I wanted to finish them.
Me: Put your crisps away. Now. Thank you.
That’s when I knew that the forty-five seconds I spent on National Potato Chip Day were worth it—at least, for one student!
Some days, the celebration has more substance and may take longer, as in Sam Walton’s birthday. This event includes an opportunity to strengthen and/or build vocabulary along with the possibility of a writing activity.
A benefit of the suggested activities in Calendar Celebrations is their versatility as shown here.
At the beginning of class, share some information about billionaire Sam Walton and his simple lifestyle. In 1990 the Chicago Tribune reported that “He keeps a dusty pickup truck in the driveway, a dusty Chevy sedan in the garage and a couple of muddy bird dogs in the yard. Each weekday, after breakfast at a local Days Inn, he drives the pickup, missing two hubcaps, to his office, a cubicle 8 by 12 feet.”
Then pose the following question to the class: Is being frugal a bad thing? Ask follow-up questions that lead your students to discover the meaning of frugal.
Your exit slip for March 29 might include Mr. Walton’s quotation. And, to make this activity more powerful, invite students to use the words wealthy and frugal in their responses.
But what happens if you run out of time in 2nd hour and don’t get to the exit slip? Nothing. You can always use it on another day! Or you can just omit it. Weeks later when you are revisiting connotation and denotation for the umpteenth time, remember to ask: would you rather be called frugal or a tight wad?
You choose what to use. You do not have to do everything with every class. With spring fever and testing interrupting schedules, it is okay if you don’t do the same thing with every class.
Fill April with Rhythm and Poetic Math
In April plan to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month, National Poetry Month, and Mathematics Education Month! These three month-long celebrations connect across all disciplines. Get your team members on board and create some “oh wow” events.
Jazz Appreciation Month celebrates the heritage and history of this music genre. Start the month off by playing a jazz selection as students enter the classroom. Some of the greats in jazz have birthdays in April: Billie Holiday (7th), Ella Fitzgerald (25th), and Duke Ellington (29th).
National Poetry Month celebrates poets and their poetry. Langston Hughes’ poetry is connected to jazz music. When spoken aloud, the rhythm of his short poem If-ing sounds like jazz! Share it with your students (you may have to explain what a Packard is!). April 17 is National Haiku Day which affords numerous instructional possibilities using examples of these brief, fun-to-write poems.
In the morning light,
Mathematics Education Month celebrates the understanding and appreciation of mathematics. What better way to celebrate math than with Kathi Appelt’s poem “Dreaming in Haiku” from her book Poems from Homeroom. Here is a list of poetry resources related to school and math.
Get Caught Reading and More in May
What’s on the calendar in May? Get Caught Reading Month, National Bike Month, National Pet Month, and Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month. The second Sunday is Mother’s Day and the last Monday is Memorial Day. Birthdays in May include Christopher Paul Curtis (10th), Stevie Wonder (13th), George Lucas (14th), Gary Paulsen (17th), Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (25th), Sally Ride (26th), and John F. Kennedy (29th).
Encourage your colleagues to celebrate May 3.
It will make your students shake their heads and roll their eyes in disbelief; but that’s okay. It gives you an opportunity to talk about individuality in a non-threatening manner.
Address Speaking and Listening standards along with career options with this event.
Prior to class you may want to make several instructional decisions: will this be whole class discussion? Will this be small groups discussion? Approximately how long will the discussion last? What will I do for closure? And remember, you do not have to copy anything. Nor do you have to grade anything!
Mark Your Calendars for Spring Engagement!
As spring fever begins to run rampart through your building, be prepared with some unusual celebrations to help reinforce previously taught material, build and reinforce vocabulary, and broaden general knowledge. Paper Airplane Day (May 26) may be just what you need to survive the end of this school year!
Anne Anderson always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She graduated from East Texas Baptist University with an English major and History minor and did graduate work at Louisiana State University and Louisiana Tech University. After teaching 8th graders for 24 years, Anne served as a content coach. Since retiring in 2011, Anne has worked as an educational consultant, presenting at national conferences and onsite trainings for public and private schools.
Calendar Celebrations: March, April, May is the third book in Anne Anderson’s series on resources for months of the year. (She wrote about the first one here and the second one here.) Anne has also published articles in IDEAS Plus and Voices from the Middle, publications of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is a frequent reviewer of professional books for MiddleWeb.com.