Saturday, December 5, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: The Classroom

I teach in a multi-grade classroom. I've been teaching in that classroom for four years now, and I've had a few of those students all four years. Teaching requires variety, and my situation is no different. In fact, I need more variety because I have students multiple years.

For example, my second year teaching in this classroom happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. I introduced the series to my kids by talking about who the Doctor was, the main villains, and the TARDIS. By the time November 23 rolled around, the desks were covered in Doctor Who posters and I'd created "Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Day" where I put every class (plus a few extra fun things) in a box and the kids pick the order of classes for the day. We still do that to this day! (We just did it yesterday!)

Adding these pieces of variety really help the classroom grow together under one united fangroup. Last year one of my parents purchased me a David Tennant t-shirt that I could wear on Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Day, and also provided coloring and activity sheets for the kids just a few months ago. 

Naturally, I decided to bring in some Star Wars fun for my kids this year, and while Doctor Who was a brand-new experience for all of them, I have quite a few kids in my room who know a lot about Star Wars. 

This made the experience even more fun for me. As the weeks progressed in the classroom, the excitement for Star Wars increased - and not just for those who had previous knowledge of the legacy. In fact, I just got an e-mail from a student a few weeks ago (someone who didn't know much about Star Wars before this school year) exclaiming how she'd found a Yoda doll in a magazine and told her parents that she wanted it!

I didn't want to make the classroom All Star Wars, All The Time. So I just took a few small steps here and there to bring something fresh to the classroom. 

Bulletin Board

I have a nice square bulletin board in my room, and usually I change it every few months depending on the season or what we're learning about. But not this semester. Instead, I traced a large Millenium Falcon on a sheet of white tagboard, colored it, and cut it out. I also found a template for that classic Star Wars font, and once I had the details in place, I put it together. I was so excited with the result that I chose to keep it up until Christmas! 


Read-Aloud

In September, new novelizations of the original Star Wars trilogy were released for young readers. I purchased them and decided to read them to my students. (Side note: I love that the marketing team has realized the importance of the original trilogy and is increasing its visibility on all sorts of platforms. For a while there it seemed like all kids were seeing was stuff from the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars. Some of them probably didn't even know who Han Solo was! End side note.)

The first one, The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farmboy, is based on A New Hope and adapted by Alexandra Bracken. It was a nice read, because it broke the story into three sections, and told each through the three main characters. However, it was a little long-winded at times and made it difficult to keep the kids' attention.
The second book, So You Want to Be A Jedi? is based on The Empire Strikes Back and adapted by Adam Gidwitz. It told the story from Luke's perspective, but also had interludes that had some great training procedures for kids who want to learn the Jedi way. The kids enjoyed the interludes, and had a great reaction for the reveal of Luke's father. 

We are racing through the third book, Beware the Power of the Dark Side! based on Return of the Jedi and written by Tom Angleberger. The chapters are short and sweet, which means the kids don't get bored because the story is always changing. His conversational style also is helping keep their interest. 

After I'm done reading the books, I always leave them out so the kids can read it for themselves. I do have to provide a little censorship here and there, but not enough to make me give up on the books. I've also realized that doing C-3PO's accent is incredibly difficult, while Yoda wasn't that hard to master. I quickly gave up on trying to roar like Chewbacca, and it took me a while to realize why the kids were giggling as I read Admiral Piett's name. (Just think about it - it will come in time.)

The funniest thing for me is that when I get to a familiar piece of dialogue that comes straight out of the movie (which happens a lot), I repeat the dialogue in the exact same way as it is spoken in the movie. It's not like I even try to do so - it just naturally happens since I've seen them so much. 

Row Names

We change our seating arrangement every couple of weeks, and once they are in their rows, I let them choose the row names. Usually I narrow it down so that they have an easier time finding something they all like in common. I've used things from sports to holidays to kids' television shows. This time, they were Star Wars names. 

The Star Wars galaxy is so big that it's impossible to pick the same thing twice. Thanks to my read-aloud, the kids are all familiar with the basics, and can usually come up with something very quickly. After they've come up with a name, they design a poster for the front desk. Some of these have been works of art, and I've been very impressed! 

I had a row of two girls that weren't really into Star Wars very much at the beginning. I suggested that they be the "Queens" and showed them pictures of Queen Amidala. They liked it, and they found more pictures of Amidala in her very first outfit in The Phantom Menace and drew her
face for the poster. It was beautiful! I was blown away. (I'm keeping the posters and will be putting them up in the school hallway the week of the movie release.)

Christmas Names

I do Secret Santa a bit differently, thanks to my student teaching supervisor. Every year I have the kids select character names - one year it was book characters, one year it was Disney characters, and one year it was sports athletes. This year? Well, you know.

All they know about their Secret Santa is if it's a boy or a girl. Otherwise, they are in the dark about who exactly it is. This prevents people from spilling the beans, or telling others who spill the beans (this is common in my age group), because even the gift giver doesn't know who he or she is purchasing the gift for! 

On the day of our party, I reveal who each character was, and they get to open their present. I need to make sure I don't make it too obvious. The tall, blonde-haired boy can't be Luke, because that's what everyone will assume and will spoil the surprise. 

It's fun hearing all of the speculation in the room after names are picked, and it's even more fun to have the big reveal on party day. I'm sure this time that reveal will be even more fun! (One already showed up, and it's just neat to see a Christmas present for Darth Vader under our tree!)

The Fun On Their Own

What I love the most is seeing Star Wars creep into everyday things that the kids do. For example, when the kids were supposed to write a story problem in Math based on a number sentence, I got this story:


Pretty cool, right? Now I could have written that Han would never have 11 lightsabers, but why should I mess with this child's imagination and love of Star Wars?

This group of kids loves to color pictures (more than any group I have had before). I have a lot of Star Wars sheets, but have also brought in a lot of Christmas pictures. Normally at this time of year they start decorating their desks with the coloring pictures. But they are stepping it up by using the Star Wars pictures too...with a Christmas touch!




I have to make sure not to overdo this type of thing, because kids who have no interest can sour on it quickly and not make it fun for others. I don't have major units on it in Science or Math, nor do I play the John Williams' score every single day. I bring in Star Wars when I think the time is appropriate, and let the kids do the rest. I've had kids show me that they've purchased our read-aloud books for themselves. I've had kids bring in drawings of R2-D2 that they drew on their own at home. And I had that aforementioned girl proclaiming to her mom that she wanted the giant Yoda for Christmas. 

I hope that The Force Awakens is something that some of them will watch and enjoy. And if they go out and see it during the Christmas break, I hope that I have prepared them enough so that they can get the most out of it as they can!


I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings. 


More Star Wars articles by Claire Nat:
Fears and Star Wars
Why Star Wars is the Best Trilogy Ever
Obsession

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