Whenever I talk to teachers at conferences, workshops or online, I hear the same thing: “I’m desperate for new ideas,” or “I wish I could make learning more fun for my students.”
As Juliet Marillier asked in her historical fantasy novel, Son of the Shadows, “Don't you long for something different to happen, something so exciting and new it carries you along with it like a great tide, something that lets your life blaze and burn so the whole world can see it?”
Wednesday may be Hump Day, but in my class it’s Wacky Wednesday, a chance to combat the midweek doldrums with creativity and gusto.
Wacky Wednesdays have made my students eager to come to class; they arrive full of anticipation and are excited to learn. The concept has transformed my classroom more than any other teaching practice.
What is Wacky Wednesday?
Wacky Wednesday is an outside-the-box lesson that breaks all the rules. And by the rules, I mean the types of lessons that I had a heavy dose of as a youngster—teacher in the front of the room delivering material, students sitting quietly at their desks listening/working, worksheets being completed, etc.—the kind of stuff I swallowed like bitter medicine.
Wacky Wednesday offers a challenge to be as creative as possible. It is not about silly creative or superficial creative, it is about making meaningful learning experiences in the most dynamic ways possible. My goal is to get students out of their desks, have them interact as much as possible, and share their ideas based on the critical thinking they are doing with the text at hand.
I got the idea for Wacky Wednesdays from James Cross, an AP teacher in California, who suggested Wednesday as a way to mix things up in the middle of the week. He showed a film or did a group activity—anything to break the routine.
I started experimenting with my own version of Wacky Wednesday, and I quickly realized how eager my students were to find out what was in store for them and how much they enjoyed the learning experience planned for that day. It soon took on a life of its own. I was giving out high-fives at the door as students entered class, and they returned the excitement by beginning each Wacky Wednesday with a slow clap that crescendoed into thunderous applause.
- Break the norm. Whatever we have been doing, we are going to do something different. If we have spent time the past few days with intensive close reading, we will look at the big picture. If my students’ noses have been buried in their texts, we will analyze images. If we have spent most of our time in discussion, we will play a trivia game, recalling essential information from prior units. It is all an attempt to disturb the natural flow of whatever we have been doing by doing the unexpected.
- Get students out of their seats. Learning does not have to be a sedentary, passive experience. Elementary teachers understand this, but sometimes that notion gets lost along the way in middle school and high school. Our need for order—desks in rows, students sitting quietly—supersedes their need to move. Students sit far too often for far too long. They are still kinesthetic learners, and movement and action can fire engagement and sear memorable learning experiences in their minds. Wacky Wednesdays honor this need.
- Build knowledge collectively. On Wacky Wednesdays, I encourage student collaboration so that knowledge can be built, reaching new heights. The diversity of learners and experiences allows each student to bring something to the table, and by working collectively, they develop deeper meanings and more impressive insights. Another significant benefit of collaborative learning is the group mentality that develops, creating a positive bonding experience among students.
- Do not repeat an activity. If Wacky Wednesday is to be truly wacky, then the challenge is to not repeat a lesson activity over the course of the year. There are times when I inadvertently let my students down and a Wacky Wednesday fails to meet their expectations. Yet, they see me trying, they see me taking risks as a teacher, and that ultimately earns their respect. I’m modeling for my students the need to accept challenges and to pursue something worthy of all of your creative energy.
Some memorable Wacky Wednesdays
- Shakescene It (the Shakespearean version of Scene It)
- The silent lesson
- Pin the quotes on the literary elements
- Mind mapping
- The great debaters
- Shakespearean musical chairs
- Speed dating
- Kick Me test prep
- Poetry scramble
- The inferential timeline
- Literary CSI
- The game on the board
How has Wacky Wednesday benefited my teaching?
The word “creativity,” in our society, tends to be applied to artistic endeavors. Yet, for teachers, the artistic challenge of the profession is found in developing ways to deliver content in a memorable fashion. Wacky Wednesday has taught me that lesson planning templates often can be a hindrance rather than a help. While they serve a purpose, eventually they lock a teacher into rigid structures of format and repetition that quickly become boring and mundane for the students as well as the teacher. Wacky Wednesday has unfettered me. It has allowed me to take risks with my approaches, some of which ended up failing, but there were far more successes.