It's important to honor our students' interests and give them a 'Brain Break' from the curriculum now and again. As with working out, rest or recovery time is just as important as the workout itself. Google recognizes this and gives its employees "20 Percent Time" or time to pursue special projects and individual interests. Why not use this concept in our classrooms to encourage our students and model how to pursue real life interests with expert guidance from their teachers?
UPS Day is a special day in my classroom. It's like a 'free day' with some parameters. Students must be working on something related to reading or writing. This could mean anything from reading a novel to writing a poem or researching the newest topic in Science or Social Studies. The second parameter is that they must deliver an 'accountability artifact' by the end of the day. This artifact must explain 1. how they spent their time 2. what they accomplished and 3. how this helped them to grow as a reader or author.
UPS Day could be one period (hour) or a whole afternoon. It's completely up to you. I use this with my 8th grade class, and I believe this would be an excellent activity for grades 5 through 9.
You can hold UPS Day as often as you like; I do this once per quarter. This could also be the perfect activity for an emergency sub plan, for a break in between projects or units, or for a crazy day where you have a sudden schedule change and find yourself with a magical gift of extra time.
This free download includes a description of UPS Day as well as some ideas to help students get started.
Kristen Dembroski Ph.D.