Let Me Count The Ways: 5 Things You Can Do To Energize And Recapture Your Classroom For The Rest Of The Year

by Carol Oseran Starin

It’s the time of the year when kids are looking out the window. Winter doldrums are over. The 6th graders are beginning to act like 7th graders. March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, but the kids do just the opposite. Begin livening up the classroom by re-arranging the furniture and move on to more substantive ways to recapture your class:

1. Liven up the classroom by escalating the activity level. Try new and bigger venues–e.g. the synagogue social hall. Plan structured experiences outdoors -Jewish Jeopardy, Hebrew baseball, Around the World.

2. Use drama in the classroom. My colleague, Paul Epstein, share two ideas: the first is to use the exciting moments that are inherent in the spring holidays on which to base activities: groggers; plagues; miracles. The second is just one of fifty-one drama activities he shared at a recent mini-CAJE. It’s called Timeline: Three or four actors create a scene based on a suggestion from the text. Tell them their scene should be about two minutes long. Once they have created their scene, replay it in one minute. Then in thirty seconds. Then in five seconds. Paul says that this is a great way to review a portion of text, and to see what stands out as the most vivid or the most important dramatic detail.

3. Create a classroom “event.” Plan a program to which you invite families or another class— a play, or “sedra scene,” based on an area of your curriculum.

4. Create a parent program. A few years ago Joel Grishaver invited parents to class and included text study, an interactive tzedakah piece, and concluded with a picnic and a parent/student baseball game. Jewish Parents: a teacher’s guide has dozens of ideas for family education days.

5. Create a project for your class to leave as a legacy to the school or to next year’s class. Design a wall hanging or quilt to hang. Give each student one large square on which to illustrate a portion of a text or event from the curriculum you are teaching. Find a parent or older student who is willing to sew the patches together, put on a backing and loops for hanging from a pole. A similar project can be done with ceramic tiles, in which each child creates a tile that is then cemented with all the others and framed to create or decorate a wall in the school. The tiles could also be designed as a table or bench for the synagogue foyer.