This idiom has bounced around in my head throughout this school year. Every day I see a kid dancing awkwardly in the hallway or doing some other bizarre behavior that makes me wonder if I need to call a medic in. This school year has been full of these moments and more with the incorporation of the many fads our students brought to our classrooms and hallways.
Over the past few weeks, I've seen this meme make its way onto various social media outlets:
Are these things a nuisance? Absolutely, but is banning these fads really teaching our students anything? Prohibition only makes kids get sneaky and try to hide it (as I type this, I see some back alley speakeasy where kids are flipping bottles and spinning their fidgets while dabbing out on the dance floor). Is there a better way to deal with these things? Here are a few ways I've taught myself to let my students to embrace these fads.
Fad 1: The Dab
Many times this year, one student after another comes up to me and asks me if I know how to Dab. My response is usually to start raising the roof or waving my hands in the air like "I just don't care," and ask the student if that is Dabbing. Students usually shake their head disapprovingly and move on with their day. But, this tactic slowly wore thin, and students began Dabbing more and more. Time to embrace the fad.
Fad 2: The Bottle Flip
Thunk. Thud. Bonk. "OH YEAH! I CAPPED IT!"
These are all noises most middle school teachers have heard in their classroom this year. Most of the time these were sounds associated with students flipping quarter-full bottles of water onto tables and against walls. My school is located in Flint, Michigan, a place that has been in the news for the past few years related to lead tainted water. With our drinking fountains shut off, water bottles are found in abundance in our classrooms.
I teach a Math intervention group during my first period. We call it What I Need (WIN) Time. Students are grouped in these classes based on their need and can move from one class to another to focus on another target area of need. One day, a kid was flipping a bottle and causing a huge distraction to our learning. Every ounce of my being wanted to address this student, take the bottle and chuck it across the room into the recycling bin. Instead, I embraced this as a teachable moment.
I told every student to get a bottle of water and drink it down to their desired level. I walked over to my classroom timer and set it for one minute. Once each student had their bottle ready, they found a partner. Each student would take turns flipping for a minute. Their partner would need to keep track of how many times the flipper flipped their bottle. The person flipping would be keeping track of how many times they "landed" the bottle. You would have thought I had given every student $1,000. Joy, cheers, and a whole lot of noise filled the classroom. After two minutes, I had students stop where they were and get their stats.
Once students had their stats, they needed to take their numbers and make a fraction showing "landed" bottles as the numerator and attempts as the denominator. Each student then reduced the fraction and turned it into a percentage. Once each student had their percentage, I asked them to line up in order from least to greatest based on their percentage. The kids loved this part because they got to brag it up about who was better at bottle flip than the other.
Once the line was created, I asked students to analyze the bottle the winner used. We discussed how much water was in the bottle, flipping technique, and the area of the room they chose to flip in to achieve success. The students engaged in a great conversation about the physics of flipping a bottle and we as a group decided to test whether or not the bottle or the person flipping the bottle had more to do with success in this game. Every student got the same size and shaped bottle, measured the amount of water found in the bottle and made their level match. We then flipped again for two minutes and tested the result by repeating the math process.
The kids loved using this new fad as a learning tool, and agreed that they would only bottle flip in my room during appropriate times.
Fad 3: Fidget Spinners
The most current fad in our school is the fidget spinner. This is one that, based on all of my social media feeds, is the most annoying of all. I've read article after article about schools banning these devices from classrooms across America. I mean, sure, can be a distraction. And, yes, they are a toy. But, really? Prohibition? That's always been successful in American culture, right?
I spent the first ten minutes of each class period showing my students the proper ways they could use the fidget spinner in my classroom. I provided them with three techniques to use while working and together we set guidelines for their use. We, as a class, then discussed the consequence for not following the procedure we discussed (I jokingly told them I would take them, sell them for $15, give their parents the $10 they spent of the spinner, and pocket $5 -- An economics lesson, right?). Now, the students regulate themselves and look to me when they accidentally break our expectations. The number of distractions have gone down substantially in my room due to the frantic spinning and those students who actually could benefit from the fidget spinner can keep it. The ultimate win-win situation.