Two teacher work days and a weekend put four calendar days between first and second semester. Now I won’t say that the gap drained students of recall more than summer or winter break, but on our first day of the second semester a 7th grader asked me what time school started.
Knowing her kids as well as she does her subject area, one of my gifted history teachers greeted her students with a fun, active, and short project on the first morning back. I was walking past her room when I spotted her up front introducing what I thought read: “Constitution as a Smile.”
I had seen her students perform songs about history, create Revolutionary War podcasts, and reenact the first Constitutional Convention, so I knew that if anyone could make a smile out of the Constitution, it would be her.
So I slipped inside the room and listened. “You can use anything in the room,” she told her class. “The butcher paper, these art supplies, and develop a simile to explain the Constitution.”
I’d seen the same class given inspiration and an equally short time frame of about thirty minutes, make marvelous maps of our town. With an emphasis on creativity and critical thinking, the students were being given another opportunity to focus on the process of learning, with their eyes on a product with both merit and whimsy.
The kids were active and engaged, collaborating, laughing, and thinking together. It was half an hour that reoriented them to school after a long weekend, and left them all with a simile, and a smile.