Saturday, April 30, 2016

How Do I Get Through May?

This question is one that ALL teachers ask themselves every year. There are some great meme's out there to show exactly what teachers feel like when these spring months roll around...when we go straight though with 5 day weeks for months (no holidays or days off in sight!).

Before I started using Whole Brain Teaching strategies, I will be the first to admit, I counted down the days until school was over. I think I may have even posted a countdown on my white board for all to see.

Now if that doesn't tell kids that it's time to shut off your brain, I don't know what does.

Full Disclosure: I absolutely still countdown until summer. Who doesn't' love days with no alarm clocks or the required showering and choosing of wardrobe? But now, my counting down is with less fervor.

Let me share with you some strategies that I use in my middle school classroom that helps me to not only survive the last months of school, but thrive through them.

First - the scoreboard. If you're not familiar with the strategy of the Scoreboard, you can read more in my older posts on the First Week.

By now in the year, we've used MANY variations of the scoreboard. Teacher v Student, Girls v Boys, Right Side v Left Side...we've done red points are double...we've played for small rewards like +/- homework problems, or lining up at the door.,..

And now that the weather is getting warmer, finally in northern Illinois, we are playing for recess minutes. Our middle schoolers don't get recess, a fact not overlooked by any of the students. For every point that a class beats my by at the end of class is one minute of recess that they have earned. That minute goes into their 'Recess Bank". Each class period has one. It's a magical area on my white board where I use dry erase marker to write the number of minutes they've earned for recess. Magical dry erase marker.

Each class period earns their own recess minutes. Points earned each day are added together in their bank. So if my 1st hour beat me by one point today, and two points tomorrow, they have three points in their Recess Bank.

If they lose the soreboard game, I do not take points out of the recess bank. Once earned, they don't go away.

Once a class has banked 20 minutes, they can vote to withdraw some of their recess minutes. A student can "make a motion" to withdraw some of their minutes at any time. If they do, then we have a short discussion, and take a vote. Majority rules, so if the class votes to withdraw minutes, we take a recess right then and there.

How many minutes is also voted on. Short discussion, quick vote.

Sometimes part of the discussion will be how they will make up the work that they will miss. If they take a recess, they still have to do the work that was planned for that day. Sometimes I can squeeze it all in, sometimes it may mean extra homework for them. We discuss it, then they vote.

My kids worked for TWO WEEKS in class to earn 20 minutes of recess in their bank. I got TWO WEEKS of amazing, focussed, hard work...and they chose to take 10 minutes of recess.
I call that a win!

Let me know in the comments what you think, and if you're using this in your class!


  1. This is great, Sarah...especially at the end of the year!!

  2. What a great way to use the scoreboard, you know for the longest time, I've been thinking about what to do with the scoreboard, and if it really is worth it all using it in WBT. It just didn't seem like something that was feasible or that we could use within the class time. Luckily for me, I came across your blog after googling you and watching you on youtube. Thanks so much for this.

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