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Showcasing Victor Vázquez and "Special Fridays"


"Special Friday adds elements of high expectation and just plain fun to our English class," said Victor Vzquez, a teacher in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

Victor Vzquez and students engage in a lively discussion on the basketball court.

"I firmly believe in incorporating [Dr. Howard] Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences into my teaching," Vzquez added. "Our classroom, however, does not provide adequate space for many activities that emphasize bodily-kinesthetic learning or interpersonal sharing. Naturalist learning also is more appropriately implemented in outdoor spaces. So, I decided that, at least once a month, we would hold our class activities in non-classroom settings."

So, on those Special Fridays, Vzquez and his ninth-graders, enjoy unique activities, such as non-competitive games that are dynamic and "enjoyably rowdy," and that often include music.

"The activities are chosen on the basis of two criteria," Vzquez explained. "The first criterion is the unit we are studying that month -- a short story, a novel, poetry, and so on. I identify values-related issues in a novel or story and then design activities that allow students to reflect on and respond to those issues.

"The second criterion is current events -- something in the news, a holiday, or a special occasion. At Christmas, for example, I might bring in my accordion and teach students traditional American Christmas carols; they play along with typical Puerto Rican musical instruments."

Students participate in a group lap-sit to explore themes of trust, teamwork, and friendship in Rosa Guy's "The Friends."

"The first year we did Special Friday, I consulted with the students first," said Vzquez. "Needless to say, they loved the idea." Now, students look forward to each month's event. Because his students share information with incoming students, Vzquez strives to maintain an "element of surprise" with innovative and fresh activities each year.

"Special Friday should not be held more than once a month," Vzquez advises. "More than that would make it commonplace or routine, thus losing some of its appeal. Less frequency could decrease its effectiveness as a learning tool. More than enough issues, activities, and resources are available to make it worthwhile at least once a month."

Vzquez also suggests that teachers make Special Friday a positive experience for all by avoiding activities that might be threatening to some students, and by giving students the freedom to not participate in an activity (within reason). He views Special Friday as an opportunity for all students to learn through their specific strengths -- in music, art, dance, pantomime, writing, movement, audiovisuals, and technology.

Photos courtesy of Victor Vázquez.

Coming Soon...

If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World

 

02/02/2004