How to Incorporate April Fool's Day into Your Teaching
Celebrate the merriment of April Fool's Day without the mischievousness.
By Andrea Ferrero
April Fool's Day inspires even the sweetest of friends or students to be a little mischievousness. As a child, the day was marked by multiple practical jokes. In fifth grade, my friends and I saved up money weeks in advance to buy a mechanical mouse which we carefully placed in a nook in the back of the tiled room. During silent reading time, we sent it roaring into the middle of the classroom. I can remember my teacher squealing from atop her desk. The panic that ensued took the rest of the reading period to calm. While such moments are fun to look back on as a student, I cannot imagine my past teacher taking as much joy in the memory. Over the years, I have met many educators who incorporated the informal holiday into their curriculum in ingenious ways that eliminated distraction and engaged learners.
Sharing the history of April Fool's Day adds an air of mystery since the origins of the informal holiday are not exactly known. Many suggest that it is related to the calendar change of the celebration of New Year in the 16th century. After the New Year became widely acknowledged and celebrated on January 1st, those people who continued to celebrate the New Year during the spring were referred to as "April fools." Students can work in pairs to create their own explanation of how the holiday may have originated. Older students can use historical events to support their conjecture either in a funny or serious way.
The day opens itself to multiple avenues of literacy development. Students can craft riddles and jokes to be shared with classmates. They can create historical timelines of well-known pranks or hoaxes, after which they can create their own hoax as a fake radio or television ad. Students can also create a class book of pranks and practical jokes. Each student is responsible for a single page in which they give the joke a title, briefly summarize or describe the joke or prank, give step by step procedures for carrying it out, and finish with their recommendation or tale of successfully using the joke or prank.
Science can also be explored when looking at how and why certain pranks work. Fourth graders marvel at the chemical reaction that stops bar soap from lathering when painted with clear nail polish, the effects of baking soda on ketchup (warning: this one is messy and similar to baking soda and vinegar), or how water can be tied in knots through surface tension.
No matter how it is celebrated, all students are sure to have fun, if safety and silliness are coupled. I always remind my students that all pranks and practical jokes should be harmless, not damaging to property or relationships with friends and family. What follows are lessons and activities that can be done to celebrate April Fool's Day.
April Fool's Day Lessons and Activities:
After exploring the history of April Fools Day, students create and organize a "goose chase" for another class to take part in. This lesson includes ideas for other mini-activities as well as a template to parents explaining how the holiday will be observed in class.
Students read, share and create jokes in this literacy lesson. While promoting fluency, vocabulary acquisition, sight word recognition and use of homophones, students design a classroom book full of unique student ideas and illustrations.
Students take their work with fractions to the next level in this innovative lesson. Using attached worksheets students decode humorous messages.