We have a traditional bell schedule with six periods of classes a day for our students. Each class lasts about 50 minutes with four minutes of hall passing time to get to the next class. Most of our classes are close enough apart that kids can get to their next class rather quickly. So if my students get to my room quick enough they get about four minutes of unstructured time. I also take a few minutes to take attendance and get ready for each class, before I have a class meeting to go over where we are, so my students can have about eight minutes or so of unstructured time. That may not sound like much but it’s actually not bad for having fun every day.
I like to observe my students and see what they do during that time. Since I have iPads, netbooks, and iMacs my students tend to take advantage of those devices often rushing into class to get first dibs at the iPads.
So one day I walked around with my handheld camcorder, like a flip cam one but without the flip. What was most funny is their reactions at me walking around filming them. They thought I was going to tell them to stop messing around and get on task even though I hadn’t officially started our daily class meeting. They were feeling way too guilty. I got a nice laugh at the whole thing. Once we do get to work I do redirect them towards getting some work done of the type we’re doing together but they still get some unstructured time every day.
So as I walked around this is what I saw and this is pretty typical of what you’d see any day you walk into my class during hall passing time or while I’m taking attendance and getting ready. What you see are kids playing chess, bubble ball, watching youtube videos of things like games, playing games on their iPod touches, listening to music on their iPods, playing simple physics, making pottery, playing minecraft on the iMacs, drawing on doodle buddy, and, not caught on this footage, playing hang man, googling, facebooking, using our collaborize classroom social network, or blogging.
Bubble Ball and Simple Physics are actually Science apps that will be fun during our physical science unit but kids love to play them all the time. If kids are going to be off task during class I find that having them play Bubble Ball and Simple Physics is quite cool because at least they are learning Science! I still redirect them though because I do like to see them learn some of the things we are learning.
I film my kids often but this one was just plain fun, for all of us.