This year, I have started to use a program called ClassCraft in my classroom. It has been fun to watch how the students react to it. ClassCraft is a game created by a teacher to make learning fun. Students are divided into three categories, mage, warrior, or healer, each having their own special abilities. Students have maximum set health and action points depending on their character. They can earn gold and experience by being on time to class, answering a question correctly etc. All of these are teacher chosen to fit the class. If a student loses all of his or her health, they fall in battle. When this happens, they have one of five possible consequences: copying a text from a book, memorizing a poem and reciting it, a day less to finish their next assignment, bringing a surprise to class, or nothing. The one I have found to be the most fun is the surprise.
The first student to fall and have to bring a surprise brought in homemade cookies for the class. The next brought in a box of CapriSuns. The students appreciated these surprises, and it made for a fun day. After that, the students have become even more creative. They have brought in surprises that were free.
A seventh grader took me back in time to when my grandpa was still alive. My grandpa fought in WWII on a navy ship in the Pacific. One day, a lone fighter jet followed the airplanes back to the ship and let loose one bomb and skedaddled back to his base. That one bomb hit the munitions dump and blew things to pieces. My grandpa received shrapnel in his hand and had a scar to prove it for the rest of his life. A little seventh grader brought that story to life by bringing in a shell casing from a WWII ship gun.
This last week, after a boss battle that caused several students on one team to fall in battle, a student shared one by one how she appreciated each student. She told of fun times in volleyball, good times to come in basketball, and shared experiences through the years. With each telling, she looked the person directly in the eyes and relived the memories.
Both of these last two acts cost nothing but time and thought. The one took the time to double check that he could bring something to school. His treat brought history alive for his class and his teacher. The other cost a bit of humility to get up in front of the class and talk from the heart. It also took a bit of thinking to decide what would be meaningful for each and every student and the teacher. These are both gifts that can be shared this holiday season.
As we think of Black Friday and the gift giving season, think of those gifts that cost nothing. Sometimes this are worth more than those that cost a fortune. What can you give today that is free? Will you take the time to share memories of times past to make history come alive for a younger generation? Will you tell someone what you appreciate about him or her? These are simple and yet profound gifts. Gifts that anyone can give.