Students love half days. They love coming to school knowing there will be few assignments and many hours after the final bell to pursue adventure outside of our classrooms. I love them for a different reason. The compressed time frame pushes me to find worthwhile tasks for my students that require little set-up for success. Admittedly, some of my past efforts fell flat. It is a gargantuan challenge, competing with the half day. As happens so often, a fluke of an idea resulted in something magical-fully engaged, excited students on a half day.
Our class was scheduled for the annual visit to the middle school to dazzle our 6th graders with the wonder of elective choices and delicious meals in the cafe. The students-frisky, nervous, and vibrating with pent up anticipation-milled in front of the classroom. After taking attendance I told them we were trying something that might be a complete bust. They perked up. They were game. It was on.
I explained that they were going to write an origin story. “Write!?! We thought it would be a game moaned one of the students.” Nope, it’s writing. I proceeded to explain that animal groups have special names called collective nouns. Then I displayed an infographic with a list of animals and their group names on the Smartboard. Imagine 6th graders reading the list and discovering a charm of finches, a rhumba of rattlesnakes, a zeal of zebras, or a pandemonium of parrots. They were enthralled, hooked on collective nouns.
The assignment was simple, choose one or two of the odd names and write the origin story for them. The energy and conversation was contagious. My students dove into the task and I am happy to share some of their efforts. Half day, take that!
Add your thoughts in the comments. Let’s see how we can support one another and achieve our goals this year. There is a special magic in beginnings.
Long ago there was a Winter Wonderland with a lot of snow. Nobody has been there in a long time. I just heard that somebody went there last week. The person who went there last week said that there was a lot of snow. The person who went there today said that there was a blizzard and their friends had a snowball fight! Then, the next day there was no snow….. It was very quiet….. Then….. All of a sudden there was a…a…a SNOWSTORM!!! The person who is there, and their friends played and had the biggest snowball fight ever!!!
It was the 23rd of Christmas and I was rushing past stores looking for the perfect gift. The sky was turning into shades of gray but I still had one more gift to get. It was briskly becoming colder and I felt raindrops. Sounds grew louder as the rain pelted down and people rushed to their cars. But I couldn’t leave, I still had one more gift to get. The rain became icy and all became louder. I saw a snowflake fall and all was silent. It hadn’t snowed for as long as I could remember. What would happen now?
It’s a Christmas mystery! How will we find the presents? I put my detective coat on and search every inch of the house. No presents under the tree, not in my room, not on the stairs, they’re nowhere! While I was searching a thought popped in my head, Did Santa even come? As I come into the kitchen out of the corner of my eye something large and green with a box in its hand. Who could that be?
Hi my name is Cinnamon and I live in Gingerbread City. It is a very jolly, happy place but we have one enemy Santa Claus. I know everyone loves Santa but on Christmas Gingerbread City gets attacked by Santa! The last time Gingerbread City got attacked was in 1945. For the past 72 years we have had really good traps to keep Santa away. We have electric licorice fence and giant holes of Nesquik quick sand that leads to hot cola hot spring that is boiling hot.
But the Christmas of 2018 we got attacked by Santa. He leaped over the Nesquik and cut the electric licorice fence. But we were prepared. We replaced ourselves with chocolate chip cookies and we moved to a country named Ginger. We found all of our old friends there from the last attack. We never got attacked again.
The elves were hard at work making various toys for the children of the world when a man walked in the door. No one recognized the man.
¨ I need help,¨ said the man. He was an explorer and got lost during the night. The elves offered the man hot chocolate.
¨ Do you want to stay for the night?¨ said the elves.
¨That would be nice.¨
The elves gave him food and hot chocolate. The explorer left in the morning and will never forget the kindness of the elves.
I woke up ready to go to school. I looked outside and noticed there was snow. I live in Arizona. I walked outside and looked up. There was no sun. The sky was covered in a blanket of clouds. I looked at my phone. It was December 25. I went to my mom and asked her how long I‘ve been asleep.
“Two months.” She said.
I looked at her blankly. “Why didn’t you wake me up?!” I exclaimed.
She smiled and that’s when I fell asleep again. Was this reincarnation?
Cold wind. Freezing at that. I saw Santa, I think. “Hello!” I cry. This train must be where the elves make their crafts, it’s a speedy one. A Light? “Hello!” I cry again. The light climbing down, into the train. Too…ccccold. I crawl and struggle but keep going. I stand, slip and almost fall down. Chuga chuga choooo choo. Almost there. I need to give my letter to them, I’m late. Ding! I fell on the platform. Doors locked. Dang! Got to use my case I got for the letter. Hope the letter doesn’t fly away. Crack! “There!” I say a little too loud. The elves see me and say something in elvish and hide. I state that it’s fine and I needed to get my letter because I couldn’t get it to the North Pole on time. They came out but they took my letter, nodded, and threw me off the train aiming for a soft snow pile….