Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snow Day Make Ups Could Be Better than the Original

Having a true winter has thrown many schools for a loop; wouldn't it be ironic if this is the impetus to truly innovate some aspects of education? One of my favorite professional reads has been Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Chris Horn. A key point I took from it is that "disruption" does not refer to a change that takes the place of something else, it offers something new that hasn't existed before.

Fortunately, Indiana State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, is giving districts flexibility in making up snow days. Districts can use built-in flex days, add on to the end of the year, go on Saturday, or add an hour of instruction to six days to equal one day. Using online learning with a high level of participation could be another option.

What could you do with an extra hour in a day?
 I can think of lots of great things that would benefit students:
-what about letting the students pick a special area of interest, ala Genius Hour?  In six days, they could really get some traction!
-at the high school level, many AP classes could benefit from an extra hour.  AP science labs, in particular, already require time outside the regular school day in most schools.
-you could have a mini-career day and have each student attend a presentation
-schools that have the equipment could connect to other schools, authors, or speakers via Skype, google hangouts or other platform.
-what if students simply read for an hour?  Staff could be sure that each student had quality reading materials. They could even designate a special book to read for the week, or some groups could read a common book.
Adding an hour to our school days would mean secondary would dismiss at 3:50, elementary at 4:40; that's not that late.

If the days are added on to the end of the year, please don't let it disintegrate into a movie festival. How about using all of the special activities that didn't fit the ever-prevalent pacing calendars and assessment windows?  I was on some highly-functioning interdisciplinary teams when I taught science.  We had several special days that have since been abandoned, such as "Math Day" (every class did something connecting the discipline to math), a "Who Kidnapped Cupid" mystery, "Hoosier Hysteria", "Winter Olympics", and more.

Once when my own children had a Saturday make-up day, I was able to assist in first grade as a parent volunteer.  The teacher made the day very special; the students had fun and they still learned.  One child said at the end, "Can we come next Saturday, too?"

I learned a very valuable lesson from a student about the worth of "teaching to the end". One year I was selected by a high school student for an awards ceremony, and one of the things she mentioned was that we dissected, cooked, and ate squid on the last day of school.  Other teachers might have been packing up, cleaning the room, having the kids sign yearbooks, etc., but we actually did a memorable lab on the last day.  I never did tell her that it was partly due to my disorganization and failure to order the squid on time. Each day should count as fully as possible, whether it's day 1, 60, 100, or 180.

Several schools have already held planned eLearning Flex Days, including Maconaquah, Attica, and Zionsville.  Districts could have just secondary participate, with other levels attending in person if needed.. These schools who have already participated have incorporated many accommodations for students and families, including meals. Success in planned eLearning Days can lead to using them for unplanned days off.

The key here is choice. In this day of so many mandates, it's refreshing for districts to have a chance to be inventive on a trial basis; who knows where it might lead? We need to get away from seat time and move toward learning time. Districts will be able to apply for a waiver from adding traditional days with submission of  a plan..

What are your ideas? Let's think about what's possible to maximize learning and move toward innovation, not just add more of the same. If anything has been disruptive, it's this winter! Let's take advantage of it.


  1. I would love to give my creative writing students time-on-task hours - in the spirit of a genius hour and Dr. King Day, I challenged them to make the world a better place over six weeks. I wish they could "bank" the time they are out improving the world.

  2. And I know that YOU could definitely make good use of that time for your students.