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Friday Club March 25, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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The first year I taught I realized I needed to find a way to reward students who work hard and complete their homework each week. “Friday Club” was born.  Unlike Fight Club, (“the first rule of Fight Club is – Do not to talk about Fight Club“), EVERYBODY talks about Friday Club.  It’s the place to be a quarter ’til three on a Friday afternoon. Are you in?

I lay out the membership qualifications for Friday Club in a letter home to parents on Week 1.  A student cannot participate in Friday Club if 1) I’ve had to call home because of their behavior; 2) another teacher or staff member talked to me about the student’s behavior; 3) A student has incomplete homework that was not completed on the bench, or 4) a student has unfinished classwork or has not met their AR reading weekly point goal.

I let all students participate the first week (even those with less than stellar behavior), as I want them so all see how much fun it is.  But after that first fight (er, Friday), the gloves are off.  I write “Friday Club” on the board with the universal NO symbol over it, and if you mess up during the week that’s where your name goes.

So what do kids DO during Friday Club?  In years past, I’ve had two computers with two versions of “I Spy” on them.  I set the timer for 10 minutes so two kids can play at a time and then rotate. For my English Language Learners, just trying to locate the “tong-goo” is a challenge. When they invariably ask me what it is, I ask them to stick out their tongues. When they do, I say, “That’s your “ton-goo.” They never make THAT mistake again.

Students can draw on the whiteboard, but if it gets out of hand, I set a limit. They love to take turns playing “teacher” and mimic everything I do. If you want to see what your teaching looks like, just sit back and watch your students do the most amazing impression of you. (And you thought they weren’t paying attention!)

I’ve got a bin of board games.  The two mancala boards are the hands-down favorites. Students are also allowed to bring board games or puzzles to share.

This year I’ve got a group of boys who love to play with the math pattern blocks. I’d like to think they’re solving complex mathematical problems, but I know they’re really building forts and dungeons. There’s usually a couple of chess masters who sit locked in a mental battle while all this activity swirls round them.

And there are always those artsy craftsy girls who are happy to just glue beads and bend pipe cleaners to make butterflies.  If I’m lucky, I’ve got one student who can do origami and teach it to the rest. I’ve cut squares of newsprint so they can practice. I’ve got lots of “How to…” books that kids love to go through – How to make hand shadows, puppets, draw monsters…

Last year I had two boys who designed elaborate marble chutes using paper towel tubes. I took to dragging in boxes for them which they fashioned into half-pipes and jumps. I liked to think they were destined to be engineers or architects, but then I’m prone to optimism.

I’ve always let one child walk around and pass out ONE red licorice whip. This is the first year my students have been so sweet, I haven’t bothered to break the seal on the licorice. (But, I’ve seen the students coming up from the second grade, so I’m already stockpiling licorice.)

Some days, with all the direct instruction, I feel like I’m teaching junior college. What I love about Friday Club is my kids get to act like kids. And that 30-minutes gives me time to clean up and prepare for Monday, or just go around and talk to kids one-on-one – something that’s often hard to do during the regular school day.

I used to have the kids who weren’t in Friday Club sit at their desk and write standards, e.g.,” I will do my personal best.” (No one is allowed to “distract” them). Sometimes I had them write the standards in cursive as that seemed less draconian. (And yes, some kids can write standards until the cows come home and they’ll still misbehave and be writing the same old standards the following week.)

This year I’ve had a terrific class, so when a kid sits Friday Club out, I have them write me a letter about what’s going on in their life or they can tell me their plan for improving their behavior. (I’m big on telling kids you’ve got to have a plan, or you plan to fail.)

I have a student who missed Friday Club a while back. He hadn’t been returning his homework and when he did, it was sloppily done. I told him to write me a letter. He wrote he was upset since his dad left. (I found out his father had been deported). Knowing this, I was able to sit and talk to him. I’ve found that the kids who aren’t eligible for Friday Club are often the very ones who need someone to talk to.

During Friday Club, some of my former students invariably stop by. They’re supposed to be en route to the bathroom, but I know they’re taking a trip down Memory Lane. “Ah, Friday Club,” they say wistfully. There’s always a collective groan when I tell students it’s time to start cleaning up. When I ding the bell, the kids have to clean up EVERYTHING. (One of my students loves to tell visitors, “Ms. M is a horrible maid – Just ask her husband!”)

But I’ve got to get my students out the door cause I’ve got my own Friday Club to go to. It’s called Happy Hour.