Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Fantastic Flashlight Friday

I was once told that the"emotional bang for your buck" on any activity, whether it's a vacation for your spouse, or a five year old's birthday party is far greater when there is suspense involved.  The building up of wonder and excitement makes the days leading up to the event thick with, hello....Christmas!?  Some may say it's even better than surprising someone because that expectation is so packed with emotion that it makes an already fantastic occasion even richer.

Now, don't get me wrong...if the hubs surprised me with an all-expense paid vacay to Hawaii, bags packed, sitters arranged, work accounted for...I must say (LOUD & CLEAR ahem...husband...if you're reading...) I would not complain. 

But, you gotta admit, the build up to such a vacation...knowing how hard you've worked and saved and sacrificed adds a delightful perk to the whole trip before you even pack your suitcase. And let's not forget the little bits of showey-offey-isms you can drop oh-so-regretfully to the poor souls stuck in winter wasteland.  Insert heavy sarcasm here - "Oh, I'm soooo sorry, I wish I could but I simply won't be able to make your [fill in loathsome activity here] as I'll be in Hawaii that week."  Insert tight-lipped apologetic head shake.

It's a sad follow up to talk of Hawaii, but let me tell you, if you haven't lured your students in with Flashlight Fridays yet, here's your bait people.  Do it.  Do it now.

So the idea is simple.  And it's not mine.  Don't give me credit as it's all over Pinterest, although everyone seems to be thanking Joanne over at Head Over Heals for Teaching (so I will too!) and I'm sure pre-pinterest, crafty teachers did this all the time.  Heck, my hardcore grandma probably did it with candles and kerosene lanterns!

But here's my kicker...BUILD IT UP.  Trust me, if you don't, it's one of those lost opportunities you can never get back. 

On Monday, (if you have a reliable parent network as I am so very fortunate to have) send out a note requesting one mini-flashlight per child.  Don't tell them what they're for other than a classroom activity and to label them as they will be returned (and make sure the batteries aren't dead!).  Yes, the Dollar Stores carry them but a) I'm cheap b) I live 45 min away from the nearest store so that makes me lazy and c) this information is likely to leak to the kids and it's the start of something really fun.

On Tuesday, check if the note got home.

On Wednesday, the lights may be trickling in.  With the obvious questions..."Mrs. Weatherhead what are these for?"  To which you of course, innocently shrug and reply, "I can't say.  You'll have to wait." (Keep these in a safe place.  They are strictly for Friday and should not be allowed in students desks.)

On Thursday, remind students that they should be bringing their flashlights in tomorrow if they haven't already.  At this point, even if you are cheap and lazy like me, you really should run to the Dollar Store if you don't have an amply supplied junk drawer and ensure you have at least 5 flashlights for back-up.

On Friday, make a fun poster to greet the students (mine doubles as a window shade to cover the hallway light streaming in) and satisfy their bursting excitement by explaining to them that they get to read to themselves by flashlight for the first 20 minutes of class.   I let them grab their parkas to sit on as I don't have any cushions, pulled the blinds and shut off my computer to ensure maximal darkness.  Flick the lights a few times as they get settled and then, voila, total darkness, sheer silence, pure literacy magic folks.  Pure literacy magic.

**Full disclosure...I give my students a lot of rope (metaphorically speaking). 
Assuming they can't physically hurt themselves, I like to see what they do with it (stay with me, still metaphors). 
The first Flashlight Friday, they actually hung themselves.  It happens. (metaphors, people, metaphors)

After I explained that they could read on their jackets wherever they wanted in the room, they started building forts.  With whatever they could.  They're crafty like that.
Chairs, snowpants, our interlocking cushy mats, tables.  Nothing was left untouched.  As I flicked the lights to get them settled they focused more on their books and started reading inside their cozy abodes so I thought it was okay. Then, in a moment of foolishness, I responded to a colleague in the hall and got pulled into a conversation in another room.  Upon return five minutes later, my unadulterated magical literacy kingdom vanished into thin air.  Forts were being destroyed, chairs were being stolen, comfy reading spots turned into cramped quarters with five boys attempting to huddle under one table.  Not pretty, but in the end, just as much my fault as it was theirs.  This was new.  And like anything, this needs to be practiced.

The next Friday I was quick to point out that this was not "Fort-building Friday".  No mats would be harmed in the makings of THIS Flashlight Friday.  And wonder of wonders, I stayed in the room.  And read my own book.  By flashlight.   (cause you can't really do anything else except maybe catch a few zzzz's if you were up late marking the night before!) And it was fun.  Really fun. **

Who knows how long the magic will last but I will milk this for all it's worth.  Reading is so very important and if it gets just one more kid into a good book, then even the fort-building fiasco was worth it!

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