When the school’s staff began looking for ways to incorporate more physical activities in the classroom, they came up with something called Fab Friday.
Instead of one of their regular classes on Fridays, groups of students head to the school gym. There, they take a break from normal classes to play games.
Fab Friday is led by teachers Chrissy Geren, Cheryl Hooper, Michele Dunkle and Pam Coffey. The team spends the whole day hosting the classes that visit the gym for a 45-minute period each Friday. Three classes per grade — kindergarten through fifth grade — take part in Fab Friday for one class period and continue with their other classes for the rest of the day.
Leading games like one that requires students to create compound words with their teammates is another way to teach skills the students need to know. The teachers said the activities cater to those who may have learning styles that make it more difficult to learn in a traditional classroom setting, and it provides another opportunity for all the students to practice what they have learned.
“Given something hands-on, they get it,” Dunkle said.
The activities themselves change from week to week, and the teachers who lead Fab Friday start planning earlier in the week to make sure activities go along with lessons.
They also ask other teachers what their students have been learning so they know which subjects they should address. If fourth-graders are learning how to multiply numbers, then they might play a game that incorporates multiplication.
“We are supporting their curriculum,” Hooper said.
A group of second-graders taking part in last week’s Fab Friday activities played games that had them making compound words, identifying money and solving math problems.
For the first game, teachers set up for a “compound word relay,” placing nets in the center of the gym and littering the areas around them with cards that had short words written on them. Teams of students each had a bean bag, and students would stand behind a card with a word they wanted to get and throw their beanbags into the nets. If the beanbag made it into the net, the student could pick up the word card and take it back to his or her team.
After the time was up, they used the cards to create compound words. Students with pigtails, ball caps and furrowed brows worked together to create compound words. Cards that said “box” and “mail” could be placed together to make the compound word “mailbox,” while words like “snow” and “flake” could become “snowflake.”
After that, students standing in circles with their teams were asked one-by-one to identify a coin. That student then ran around the circle and took their place before one of their classmates could go. If a student, say, guessed that the small copper-colored coin was indeed called a penny, they could grab a foam “doughnut” from the middle and place it in a bucket for their team while they were running. The team with the fullest bucket when time was up was the winning one.
Fab Friday also utilizes technology they have been able to purchase through, for example, a team grant awarded by the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation.
During something called a “math facts relay,” teams of students raced from the middle of the gym to the bleachers, where they had to solve basic addition and subtraction problems on Apple iPads. The children then ran back and completed five jumping jacks before their teammates could continue the race.
Hooper said the teachers had a thick binder of notes on the past activities. After all, the activities change almost as often as the lesson plans for regular classes do to ensure the students get to learn new concepts in a variety of ways.
Geren, who primarily teaches physical education, said in general children can better grasp new concepts “when more blood is pumping to their brains.”
Unlike regular PE classes, Fab Friday classes incorporate what students had been learning over the course of the week. Hooper said that “cements” what students have learned.
While the teachers explained the program is too new to know how well it works, they said teachers have noticed some students have improved their grades with the extra practice. At the same time, some of the students have told them they look forward to Fab Friday because of the fun games.
“Our students don’t often recognize we’re in an academic setting,” Hooper said. “We feel this program is heading in the right direction.”
Based on experiences with Fab Friday, the teaches have already presented their idea at academic conferences to tout its benefits to other schools.
Hooper said it is an idea which could even be adapted for middle schools and high schools. They hope more schools will look into creating programs to allow students to learn and be active at the same time.