“When will we get our reward?” a student pleaded.
I wasn’t so sure when we would get around to the reward I “owed” them for completing a row on the hundreds chart. With all of the academics, interventions, reading groups, assessments, online work, and other extras, it’s hard to fit in a period of fun. I fully believe these things are some of the most important for students at times, but that doesn’t change that the pressures of our day to day lives make it hard to prioritize.
So I decided that today was the day. And when I give my students their reward, I usually let them vote for what they want. Today I chose. Most times when they vote they want computer time, a movie, video games, electronics, electronics, electronics. I always advocate for anything but electronics and today I just sensed we needed some time away from them.
The students spread out around the room and played various games.
One group played a guessing game with headbands and cards. The student had to guess what the card in their headband said. I watched one student pick up a card and laugh, saying “Oh this one is perfect for you!” as he carefully slipped the card into his classmate’s headband.
Another group played hangman. When I walked by I saw a word that looked impossibly long and hard to guess, but the other players kept naming letters. When I came by later the creator asked me, “Do you want to know what my word was??? It was ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ!” I didn’t care to mention that that isn’t a word, and probably breaks the rules, the girls laughed and laughed.
In one corner I watched a girl who chose to read alone. I wondered if she was feeling left out. A moment later a classmate approached her and asked if she wanted to join their game. She thanked them, but said no, that she preferred to read. Only a short while later another student did the same, with the same answer. The reading student smiled huge, seeing how much her classmates valued her friendship, but still wanting to use her free time to read.
The most amazing thing happened in this 20 minutes. There was not one single disagreement, there was no yelling at peers, there was no accusation of cheating, or playing unfairly. There were no hurt feelings, and no one left out. It was just the sweetest, simplest, happiest time. I think the most negative feelings in the room were mine, guilty that we haven’t done this sooner, or more often.