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!