Eight and a Half Ways to Take a Break or Be Absent

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We all have those days.  When we need a break, because we do not feel good, or because the kids need a reset.  Here are eight ways I have found to take it a little easier or ideas for things to leave for sub plans.

1.  Let another teacher do the teaching.  Mike Peto has a blog post about this.  Your students can watch the lesson and you can pause it from time to time to have them summarize in L1 (English for me) with a partner, orally, or on paper to turn in.  Some playlists/channels to try are:

Kathrin Shechtman (German)
Alice Ayel (French)
Ben Slavic (French)
Pablo Roman (Spanish)
Scotty Jimenez (Spanish)
Brett Chonko (Spanish)
Grant Boulanger (Spanish)
Alina Filipescu (Spanish)
Jason Fritze Elementary Lesson (Spanish)
Jason Fritze Advanced Lesson (Spanish)
Tina Hargaden (That’s me!) (French and Spanish)

2.  Have the students illustrate a class story.  I use Mike Peto’s comic book template (which you can download here) but you could simply use a piece of paper folded over with boxes on each page if you are feeling lazy.  You can give the kids a blank copy and they write the story as you do Write and Discuss to retell a previously- created story.  Maybe get the kids to vote on which one is the most popular.  You get a break, you get some texts you can put in the class library, and the kids get input – oral input during the Write and Discuss time and reading input as they illustrate.

3.  Do a Reading Vocab Story Challenge.  I just made that name up.  Basically what you do is have them read for 10 minutes in their free-choice book.  This is, in my class, just par for the course.  Then have them share with a partner for four minutes or so.  Their goal is to find two new words each that they figured out from context.  they should verify the meanings in a dictionary or glossary or  using the Wordreference app.  They add those four new words to a list.  Then they return to reading for another ten minutes, then they do another partner share and add two new words each to the list.  Then they work as a pair to handwrite a 1story using four of the new words from the list.  (I find hand writing cuts way down on the whole Google Translate thing!)  You could extend this by editing their stories, returning them to the students, and having them make comic books with the edited version.  In that case, I would have them work in a group of three kids just so I had fewer stories to proof.  I would also tell them that their stories had to be 12 sentences exactly to fit into the comic template, and make sure I am not proofreading long, drawn-out stories.  (You could even proof them on the overhead for the benefit of the whole class.  Grammar points are sure to come up, and you do not have any extra work to haul around!)
As the students read and share and work on their writing, you should plan to have a throat lozenge and rest up for the more talking-intensive CI days that are sure to return.

4.  Use Martina Bex’s resources (French and Spanish).  Martina has developed the amazing ability to write super-comprehensibly.  She makes resources that let you you just plug in or print out and go!  These are perfect for a day when you need a break, or a sub day.  I personally have an emergency sub folder with some of Martina’s sub plans printed out and ready to roll, in case I just can’t make it to school.
Fast Finishers Bundle (Spanish)
Substitute Lesson Plan Bundle (Spanish)
Substitute Lesson Plan Bundle (French)
You can enjoy watching your students work through these materials as you sip a nice hot beverage and relax your voice.

5.  Make artwork to fuel later input.  Using Ben Slavic’s Invisibles approach (The book on it is available here or you can learn more about it in the FB group CI Liftoff) has transformed my teaching, because it has woken me up to the engagement kids feel when their artwork and creativity is the basis of the lesson.  You do not have to go whole-hog 100% Invisibles day in and day out (though I did and I felt like it turned my classroom into a story-creating FACTORY) to reap the benefits of using student images and artwork to provide input that the kids want to listen to.  You can have them draw characters on regular-size paper using markers and color pencils  and add a little backstory on the backs (in pencil so it does not bleed through), and then plop the characters up on the overhead and simply describe them to the class. Some tips for getting good characters are:  They must be outlined in black marker.  They must fill up the page.  They must be colorful.  they must be simple in design.  They cannot be a real person or character.   Of course, they must be school-appropriate.  The backstory must contain at the least:  Name, Age, Job, Likes, Dislikes, Problem, Secret, Fear.  Often as you are describing the character, a little story emerges because of the thing they wrote on the back.  You can then do Write and Discuss on the little story.  You can then do Ben’s Reading Options Excerpt on the story, including Readers’ Theatre with student actors.  You can easily teach for three days off of one character, without ever really having to leave your overhead projector!

You can also have the kids make four- or six-panel drawings about themselves.  Each panel has a fact.  No language is used except dates and proper names.  They write their name on the back.  You can use this to play Who’s That Person?

6.  Dictée.  Dictée is the best thing ever invented for nice, quiet times with your class. It’s been used for generations in French school systems. In fact, my high school French teacher did them with us back in the nineties at First Presbyterian Day School in Macon, GA. But I forgot about them until I read about Ben’s using them in his TPRS classes about a decade ago. He brought them to the attention of the CI community and I’m glad he did too. Cause they’re relaxing as all get-out. Dictée is basically a spelling test.  You read sentences to the class.  You do not show them the words till later.  They write what they hear.  You read three times.  The first is a normal classroom conversational pace.  Slow, but normal.  The second is slow as Christmas.  Think molasses in January in Minnesota.  Super slow, so the kids can write.  Then the third time is more like classroom conversational pace.  They write then skip a line or two, then do the next sentence.  After you finish the list of sentences, reveal the correct versions to the kids.  They copy the correct sentence and circle the errors in their original sentence.  After the correcting, many students have questions on the spelling or grammar. I like talking about grammar with interested, motivated kids. (Just not with apathetic kids I’m force-feeding grammar to!) You can make this take a whole period if your class enjoys asking grammar questions.  Mine does.  I just don’t normally let them.  I like to leave ’em BEGGING me to teach ’em some grammar!

7.  Authors’ Chair.  You can either have them write for ten minutes (a standard freewrite) to prepare a story to potentially share with the class or have them look back through their portfolios and select a story they would like to share.  Have them write/select, then work with a partner to “clean up” the story, to make it more interesting, add details, suspense, and look at the grammar.  Then invite students to sit in some special Author’s Chair and read aloud to the class.  Encourage them to use expressive reading to make the story come alive.  You might model with a story of your own.  It is a special touch if you can have a special beverage for the authors to sip.  It also entices more kids to share.

8.  GAMES!  The Word Chunk Team Game, once it is set up and ready, practically runs itself, and you jut sit back, sip a nice hot beverage, and provide the word chunks.  It is totally worth setting this up and playing it a time or three, PRIOR to getting tired or needing a break.  It is not, and I repeat, NOT, a break to START the WCTG.  It is a total break AFTER you have trained them in their jobs and how the gameplay works.
Here are videos showing me setting it up:  Part One and Part Two
You can also do Board Dictées.  Teams line up facing the board.  They hear a sentence twice.  They run to the board, write it, and the one with the fewest errors wins the point.
There are tons of games to play.  It’s fun to take a break and just do a game.  Go for it.  Enjoy the kids.  YOLO people.

This is a bonus suggestion.  Watch these videos.  They are adorable.  I found one on Grant Boulanger’s website and then found a whole playlist of them.
LEGO en español

2 thoughts on “Eight and a Half Ways to Take a Break or Be Absent

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