Monday, September 17, 2012

Spontaneity Part II: Planned Spontaneity

Spontaneity Part II:   Planned Spontaneity    

To keep school interesting, and to create an environment of wonder and “delightful surprise”, it is helpful to actually plan surprises for your students throughout the year.  
These ideas aren’t real spontaneity in the true sense of the word, but planned spontaneity-- where the teachers plan things ahead of time to surprise the students.

Now, we do some serious studying in our school.  We expect students to make honor roll with an average of 85% of higher in every subject, and most of them usually do.  So we don’t just do things like this to make school a barrel of fun all the time.  We do these things in order to:

*create a positive learning atmosphere
*instill in them a love for life, learning, and God
*show them how to have good, clean fun in hopes that they will not lust after the things of the world
*have “excitement in the air”, with students never knowing what fun will happen next
*to cultivate a love of school and learning

School does NOT have to be boring!  Learning is FUN!  It is an adventure that should last a lifetime, until we have finished the race.  A student who keeps learning will also hopefully continue growing in faith and in the knowledge of God.   We teachers have the ability and the responsibility to make and keep learning interesting.  

With all that said (or actually written) here are some planned spontaneous ideas.

*When it is time to order a new “critter”, get one that can be ordered through the mail. Tell the students a couple of days ahead of time that FedEx is bringing a very special package for the school.  It will create excitement and lots of fun when the package does arrive.  We were all shocked when our four-foot boa constrictor arrived in a TINY box, all wrapped up in a pillow case.  The students had no idea what would come out of that pillow case.  (The FedEx man was also surprised when 28 students met him at the door-- with permission of course.)  Critters that can be ordered via mail include the following:  chicks, hissing cockroaches, snakes, spiders, giant Emperor scorpions from Africa.  Go to or for more information.

* Ask a school board member, or a mom who bakes really well, to show up unannounced one morning with donuts (or stop and get some yourself.)  Have hot chocolate ready too.  This is a great way to brighten up a winter morning.  

* Get a few ideas from the book,  "The Encyclopedia of Immaturity".   We try to do one a week during the loooong months of January and February.   (Be selective when using this book.  There are a lot of great ideas, but some are a little crazy and we don't want anyone's feelings to be hurt.)

This is the “Human Table”.  Only their feet are touching the ground.  
If someone tells you about something nearby, within walking distance of the school, set time aside one day soon to go there.  We’ve done this with a nature trail through a church member’s woods, across the street to find fossils, out into the field to see a bird’s nest, and out in back of the school to see an old deserted farm. 

 Plan a fun science experiment to do once a week, or once every two weeks, or at least once a month.  I got some great ideas this summer from a class I took at Teacher’s Week at Faithbuilders.  Make sure students understand the “why” of the chemical reaction, and also be sure that they understand the safety issues.  Stress these to them repeatedly.  There was a high-school age boy in our church in another state several years ago that had something blow up in his face.  (We were NOT his teachers-- he attended another school.
This is a two liter diet pop bottle with Mentos plopped down it.  (Idea also from the Encyclopedia of Immaturity.)

* Parties can be a fantastic way to have a great time with your students.  If you don’t have honor roll, then just plan 3-4 parties a year for all the children.  See the posts on Honor Roll Parties to get a few ideas for these.  

A teacher friend of ours has her students plan a party for their parents near the end of the year, with the students planning the whole evening and serving their own parents.  We are planning to do that this year, and hope that it will be a way to cultivate servanthood, as well as encourage activities where families can enjoy time together without it having to be a  youth-only event.  

* Plan to do something really special half-way through the year.  We usually have a “BOOK DOMINO DAY” to celebrate the end of the second quarter.  This idea also came from the Encyclopedia of Immaturity.  

      Each class gets a certain section of the school.  The larger classes were divided up and the girls got one area and the boys another.    We let them know a day or two ahead of time so they can plan.  Let them go, supervise them well, and see what they come up with.  Let them have thirty minutes or so to plan the day before.  Spend until about 11:00 setting it up, try a few run-throughs of it, enjoy it, then clean it up before lunch and enjoy a normal school day in the afternoon.  

Here are a few ideas our students have come up with:
*book falls and rings a bell
*folding chairs slightly opened knock over books on a table
*book hits metal ball, ball rolls through the pelvis of class skeleton
*book knocks over the “Gut Man” (another science thingy with all the internal body parts that fall out)
*books fall and push roller skates tied to 2x4, board and skates roll into next row of books
*metal balls go through PVC pipes and knock over books
*books fall down the stairs
*books knock over ping-pong balls which fall onto a harp
making pretty bling-bling noises.....
and countless other ideas we would’ve never come up with.  

CAUTION:  This can be extremely difficult with 1st and 2nd graders.  They could have classes as usual in their room and then come and watch it.  
It is also frustrating if people are careless and “accidentally” knock over one little book.  If that happens, jump ahead and stop it as soon as you can.  
Encourage them to be very careful with the books so that they are not damaged in any way.
The trouble is WELL worth it when you’re finally finished, even if there are a few “glitches” in the system.

This makes a GREAT memory.