We always have a short week before Thanksgiving break. At least two school days, sometimes three. The students are incredibly difficult to focus. I’ve found that even if I can engage them in our current task (unit, story, etc.), they don’t retain as much of the activity or information as they do at other times. (Worse if they have family or financial problems that make Thanksgiving break more stressful than celebratory.)
One year, I wrapped up the previous story the Friday before Thanksgiving week. I wasn’t about to try to start a new story– I’d only have to re-do/ review that same information. So, I brainstormed hard over the weekend, and came to school Monday with the Thanksgiving Rhyme project. Students would come up with a Rhyme about some aspect of Thanksgiving– such as their traditions (or a modern Thanksgiving), the first Thanksgiving, the meaning of Thanksgiving. I hoped they would find it fun while they also worked on some concepts: tone, rhyme scheme, and storytelling (narrative poems).
First, they whined about having to write rhymes. But, I pushed back and told them they could rap it instead. (Really, it’s the same thing, but in marketing, words matter.) Many of my young men enjoyed rapping, so they grumbled less about having to do a Thanksgiving rap.
Whining over with, they began working. And they really started to get into it. I circulated the room and chatted with students about their Thanksgiving plans as well as helped them review and apply tone and rhyme scheme to their writing. They used the thesaurus and looked up rhyming words to make their rhymes fit. We talked about meter and counting out syllables. It was useful reinforcement of select English concepts.
They had fun completing their Thanksgiving Rap or Rhyme Project. The stayed on task– even talking about their weekend plans counts as being on task with this assignment! The time passed fairly quickly on those two pre-break days.
And I always enjoy reading their rhymes (or raps, if you prefer) usually alongside left-over turkey and gravy.