I have something better.
Let me start by saying…
There is nothing wrong with celebrating Fridays! You are eager to wrap up the week and start your weekend.
Fun Fridays are a way for teachers to celebrate student participation and work completed during the week by rewarding students with free time, tickets, or tokens that can exchange for small prize items, computer time, movie time, etc!
What could be better than that?
Have you noticed any of these?
Well, If you’ve done Fun Fridays long enough, you may have noticed one or more of these things happen in your classroom.
- The same students earn it, and the same students fall short.
- Your challenging student completed no work Monday-Thursday, then had an AMAZING Friday – now what?
- Your challenging student is told they didn’t earn Fun Friday – and the tantrum-of-classroom-destruction unfolds
- Lastly – Missing out on Fun Fridays is added evidence to a student’s already negative narrative that they do not belong to the classroom community you spent so long building! More evidence of feeling misunderstood and even vengeful towards their classmates and teacher
Five things instead of Fun Fridays
Here are 5 things you can do instead of Fun Fridays: Let’s see if these can eliminate any problems you are experiencing above
- Instead of Fun Fridays, try daily earned time
Why daily? We know waiting a week can feel like a really long time for younger students who are still developing a concept of time. So if teachers think that waiting until Friday is teaching the skill of patience- think again. For most students, Fun Fridays are irrelevant until Thursday afternoon or on the actual day – Friday. The days preceding that are just that – days.
Secondly, we know that students who consistently miss the mark on earned Fun Friday time, are most vulnerable to developing a pattern of “so what, I probably will mess up again anyway, what’s the point?”
This fun DAY that you have spent so much time building up momentum for suddenly becomes meaningless to the student who needed this motivation the most!
- Instead of Fun Fridays, try morning earned time / afternoon earned time
This works SUPERB for younger grade levels where one school day feels like an eternity.
But don’t let that stop you from trying this with your older students! If you anticipate days where a high level of concentration is expected, try this strategy and watch your students endure the school day with more ease than you could have ever imagined.
- Instead of Fun Fridays, try no earned time
What? No earned time?
Listen up. This is going to be good.
No earned time works great for students who experience academic anxiety, have difficulty coping with loss of rewards, or simply have a pattern of engaging in strategic compliance (see Schlechty’s 5 Levels of Engagement). If you want your students to experience the true feeling of engaged learning without pressure or competition – consider removing all prizes, points, toys, and trinkets. Maybe save them for random or special occasions. Keep in mind, that even though there is no earned time, students still need free time and brain breaks. These are offered to all students as part of your classroom cadence and routine.
- Instead of Fun Fridays, celebrate Friday with everyone
There’s a behavior term called non-contingent reinforcement and that is exactly what we are doing here.
What YOU need to know is that there’s a major benefit to filling your student’s buckets with joy (or whatever they need!) before they feel empty of it. When we are deprived of what we need, we fall into a deprivation state which makes us the most vulnerable to challenging behaviors occurring. So what does your student (or collective students) need? Is it an academic break with some quiet time, talk-time with peers, fun engaging activity, or some movement and stretching? Do that in place of your Fun Friday time.
- Instead of Fun Fridays, celebrate Monday with everyone
What day is the most challenging for the general population – MONDAYS. Have you ever thought to sprinkle Monday with some Fun Friday energy? You have the power to change your classroom vibe. Who says a Monday can’t feel like a Friday (at least for a moment)? We are doing the same thing here by providing everyone an opportunity to enjoy this time (whatever and whenever that time is!). The best thing about bringing this kind of energy into a MONDAY is that you can set the tone for an awesome week. But maybe for your classroom, it not a Monday, and that is ok. If Wednesday afternoon is rough or Thursday morning? Change this to fit YOUR classroom.
A couple of questions you can ask yourself:
When do you notice the motivation and concentration the most depleted in your students? What times in the week feel like they are dragging the most? What upcoming academic lessons require high level concentration and your students could use a boost of fresh energy beforehand?
Listen – YOU got this. The most important thing is creating opportunities to bond with your most challenging students so that they have new memories to hold on to. It’s new evidence for them that they do belong and that they are worthy of having a seat in your classroom.