My students appreciate surprises as well as routines. "Monday Pun-Day" is a student-centered routine we have come to love.
If you love language, which I do, that love can become contagious. By the end of the year, every year, all of my students celebrate how crazy and unpredictable English is as a language. It makes our classroom a fun place to be.
Fun is an important element of my classroom environment. I can't find any academic research that specifically says if students are having fun while learning, they will learn better, but I know this statement is true. I've seen it personally. During those first five years of my teaching career, I know how begrudgingly my students participated when my classroom was admittedly dull, traditional, and my students were rarely prompted to talk to each other. In this--my 27th year as an educator--I see how excited they are to "tackle" a new poem or writing mini-lesson because they trust that I've added an element of fun to the lesson. They expect certain things we do to be fun; it is part of our routine.
Now don't misunderstand me. In my classroom, we have to learn things that are not very fun too. But I balance out each un-fun thing we must do with something that's purposely meant to be enjoyable. It works. The less-than-fun things don't seem so bad when they know something fun will most likely follow.
When Dena and I first came up with the idea for our 366 Sacred Writing Time Slides, our original thinking was that each slide would contain a "Pun of the Day." When we asked ourselves if having a "Pun of the Day" would be the best way to inspire possible writing, we changed the category on the slides to "Inspirational Quote of the Day." I never forgot the idea of having regular puns, though. Two years back, I decided I would create a new routine that salvaged the puns I had originally wanted; it has now become known as "Monday Pun-Day" or "Language Fun-Day." It is a very short, five- to ten-minute routine that my students not only love, but they also take over.
The reason I enjoy having regular routines in my English classroom is, once students can follow the routine, they become capable of taking over it entirely or partially. Here are student-centered ways my students participate once they learn my routines.
- In April and May, after seeing my Sacred Writing Time slides every day and all year long, my seventh graders research and create SWT slides for the last two months of school. Here are some student-made samples.
- In December of their eighth grade year, my students brainstorm and create rubrics and exemplars for new Vocabulary Writing Tasks for our Vocabulary Workshop that occurs every other Friday when students bring eight new words to class to teach their classmates.
- On Mondays, after I share puns and language jokes on PowerPoint slides for the first month of school, my students submit their own puns and language jokes that we share every Monday. The "Take What You Need" poster with tear-able puns (at right) is one of the posters you can obtain when you purchase this set of classroom posters from our Teachers Pay Teachers store.
The third bullet just above is the first primary focus of this new page at our website. Lower on this page, you will find links to lessons and resources that also help us celebrate language with fun and laughter. I firmly believe that if you love language, your students will too.
Monday = Punday or "Language Fun-Day"
|Back in the 90's, for that first week of teaching, I used to never crack a smile. This was advice given to me by one of my mentors that I eventually "outgrew." I minored in speech and theater in college, so I am a pretty good actor still to this day, and if I wanted to give the impression that I am the meanest teacher in the hallway, it's pretty easy for me to do.
These days, during that critical first week or teaching, I make sure I tell a great language-inspired joke or sing a language-inspired song. Rather than being "Captain Frowny Face" for week #1, I have evolved to being "The Guy Who Laughs at Language!" As soon as I share some of my favorite language puns and jokes and riddles, my students start bringing them to me. This is what inspired Monday Pun-Day in my classroom.
On day 1, instead of being terribly mean and strict, I sing "What Did Delaware?" to my sixth graders, which is an old song made famous by the great Perry Como. It contains fifteen puns based on the names of fifteen of the United States. I pause during the second part of each verse right before the second state is named, to see if my students can guess the pun. As soon as I have sung it to them, I have students partner up and try to remember the "sixteen names of states" they heard in the song. I love to tell them there are sixteen states instead of the actual number, which is fifteen, because they sure rack their brains trying to come up with the sixteenth state name. They sound out each name of each state they can think of, exploring it for pun possibilities as they search for the sixteenth pun. When I tell them there were actually only fifteen, they groan, but I am quickly forgiven. I say, "I have always loved this song because whoever wrote it loves language as much as I do. In this class, you will enjoy yourself much more if you LOVE the language."
The next Monday, I explain that we will be having a routine called "Monday Pun-Day or Language Fun-Day." At some point in the year, each student will be expected to bring a language-inspired joke, pun, or riddle on a PowerPoint slide for the rest of us to interact with. The PPT slides must contain "interactive animation" so that after question or observation is posed, students have the opportunity to try and guess the answer before the space-bar is clicked and the next piece of text is revealed. Here are the example PowerPoint slides I show them to demonstrate what I mean by "interactive animation" and to share the rules of submitting. As soon as you open the PowerPoint, press F5, then use the space bar to move through the animation.
For each of the next four Mondays, I use 5-10 minutes to show them ten different slides from the Teacher Model I have created. There are forty slides in all, and they contain jokes, weird observations, or riddles. We groan at the answers, we laugh at the language, and then we get on with the day's lesson(s). I keep reminding them that I expect them to prepare to share a Monday Punday slide before the year is out, and the sooner they get their done and submitted to me, the less likely it is that someone will think of the same joke. I tell them to ask their parents for any riddles and puns they know that demonstrate our language's humor or weirdness. I caution them that they can only submit one, so they should be looking for the very best one they can find.
By week three, a few slides from students will have started to arrive in my mailbox. I copy/paste their individual slides (after checking them for correct formatting) into a master file, and I let the students know I have received theirs, which puts "the fire" underneath those who haven't thought about the task yet. During week five, when my samples are all gone, I begin to show theirs. I have about 180 students, which divided by the thirty-two remaining weeks means I should be showing 5-6 on each Monday. It doesn't always work out with perfect mathematics; last year, for example, we had a dry spell for a few weeks where I only had one slide submitted, and we also ran out of slides for the six weeks of school. We just had to roll with what we had, but all throughout the Fall semester, the routine thrived, and my students learned to love language in a new way.
Other than the love of language I am fostering, the best thing that happens is that my students realize I am a teacher who will be turning over responsibilities to them. My classroom is student-centered, and this is a great and FUN introduction to that concept.
Did I have students who never submitted a slide? Yes, about 20% of them, in fact, but I don't grade these slides; when my students' puns and jokes are shown, they earn a prize from my extra credit bucket, and they get to be a "language celebrity" that day. . All of my 'A' students and most of my 'B' students participate, and it's the 'C-or-lower' kids who mostly don't participate. Me giving them a zero for this expectation wouldn't lower their grades more than they are already lowered, just as me giving points to those who do the expectation wouldn't really raise the grade. When I was a less-skilled teacher, I used to think students would only do tasks if there were points involved. That's simply not true, especially if it's an expectation that involves FUN and allows my students to be "the clever one" in class.
Four Great Authors who
|Any books by these four authors are worth a read. I have many different titles from each of them in my classroom library!
Students who flip through these books often discover puns they can use for their Monday Pun-day Slide Expectation!
by Richard Lederer
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire
by Karen Elizabeth Gordon
The King Who Rained
by Fred Gwynne
by Jon Agee