Pros and Cons of Ditching Free Days


Can we have a free day?

Um… no. The kids in my class quickly learned that the expectation in our classroom was for every student to engage in learning every day. My students figured out early in the year not to bother asking about free days. 🤷‍♀️

I am not here to bash free days. I just can’t handle the lack of structure. It makes me anxious.

Saying no to free days worked for me. I will be sharing what I liked and disliked about implementing this expectation in my classroom as well as some ideas on how to succeed with getting rid of free days.


Pros

Students expect to work hard when they enter the classroom.

This doesn’t mean they have to complete mind-numbing worksheets every day – fun days are awesome too! But they do learn to enter the classroom in a learning mindset and – sometimes – complain a little less about giving their brains a workout.

Classroom behavior improves.

Bored teenagers can be loud or sleepy, bouncing off the walls or engrossed in their phones. Some of these problems will persist regardless of the steps teachers take to engage students, but giving students a job to do limits the risk that they may accidentally put a hole through the wall or start social media drama. Limiting free days gives students more opportunities to interact with their peers in constructive contexts.

Routine improves student-teacher trust.

Consistency is important. My underclassmen went off the wall bonkers when they had an assembly, pep rally, or event that disrupted their day. When they realized it was life as usual in the classroom, they slipped into our class routines and reentered learning mode.

Impromptu admin observations welcome!

I did not set out on my no free day mission with the intent of pleasing the admin. However, it’s never a bad idea to manage a classroom where students are engaged and interacting with relevant content, even on weird days.

And yes, I have had observations the last period of the day after state testing. 😱

Cons

Students complain.

But then again, they are teenagers so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It takes more prep work.

You have to have something flexible ready for crazy days, even if you don’t see them coming.

It doesn’t always seem fair.

If you missed seeing 2nd and 3rd period but got to teach 1st and 4th, then some students had an extra opportunity to interact with the content. That’s okay.

Tips for Success

Have something on the shelf that is pertinent to your unit or course.

  • Activities such as puzzles or task cards work great on these days. Consider allowing more leeway for students to pick partners rather than assigning them.
  • Transform an extra worksheet or textbook problems into an impromptu game or partner activity.
  • Have students create a mini-poster on something topical. Creating multiple representations of a function works well in many algebra units. As an added bonus, integrating short answer writing prompts is easy with this assignment.

What if I have students that aren’t mine?

Sometime you end up with students that you don’t typically teach that have nothing to do. For me, this usually occurs on testing days when students arrive with their brains fried from testing all morning. Having a few go-to ice breaker activities goes a long way to keep students entertained and leave your classroom with a positive experience.