The typical school day is usually divided into eight periods of thirty five minutes each, interspersed with a fruit break and a meal break of ten and twenty minutes duration respectively. This is the general distribution of time in most schools across the country. There is also a unique period before the first period called the Zero period. This is of thirty five to forty minutes duration in the usual scheme of things.
Just as the engine drives the train, this period sets the tone for the rest of the periods of the school day for the students. In most cases this period is handled by the Class Teachers of the respective grades.
This period is usually allotted for miscellanies that the class teacher and the students are required to complete in the morning viz. attendance taking, distribution of circulars, collection of consents/ completed forms from students, collection or return of notebooks, or for planning the forthcoming.
Usually not much thought is given by the class teacher into how these forty minutes are to be constructively utilised. If not utilised well, the zero period also becomes a cushion time to complete procrastinated work for most students; sometimes even luring the diligent ones into the ‘Zero period trap’.
The class teacher must have a clear plan for the week, month, year, for achieving a tangible goal for her students, utilising the Zero period minutes available to her in her ‘own’ class.
Knowing your students
Every class teacher uses the first few zero periods of the academic session trying to know her students. But I feel that this exercise should be taken up at least once every month. Children face a lot of psychological trauma which we adults devalue. The class teacher can spend a little effort during Zero period to check upon the emotional well-being of the students by randomly questioning a few of her students, not publicly but in a one on one interaction, subtly. It helps us to achieve better results as educators when we spend time trying to understand the strengths and skills of our students. A class teacher who knows her students thoroughly is able to influence them at a much deeper level and leave a lasting impact of ideas and thoughts upon them.
This is a corollary to knowing your students. Once you start understanding your students, you will automatically mentor them as per their needs. More often than not, a student needs an understanding mentor around him. Ideally, the person should be someone understanding and non-judgmental; definitely not an absolutist with the attitude to chisel arbitrarily. The class teacher is that parent figure in the school who has the potential to get to know and mentor the students. And the zero period is fits in perfectly.
The class teacher must have a clear plan for the week, month year for achieving a tangible goal for her students by utilising the Zero period minutes available to her in her ‘own’ class
Once you’ve spent first few zero periods into understanding your students, you must quickly set a schedule for the zero period of your class. Newspaper reading is the best utilisation of the zero period. The students, class V or VI onwards can silently read the newspaper, any section that appeals to them; and for the students of classes I to IV the teacher can randomly ask the student to read aloud in the class. The class teacher should be simultaneously performing the same activity while at the same time invigilating the class. The students would gain vocabulary and a lifelong habit of updating their general knowledge. The ‘newspaper in school’ is a ready tool available for dissemination of knowledge.
These newspapers are school editions for students with lots of student-centric news and reading exercises. Else, the teacher can ask the students to carry the previous day’s newspaper to school. It’ll only require her students to get into the habit of keeping the newspaper in the bag; and you can ensure this by regularly reminding. Trust me, this works! And it works on more aspects of a child’s personality than you can imagine.
This is an addition to the newspaper reading; in case the child has not brought the newspaper, picking a book from class library could be a viable option. Setting a class library is simple; each child brings one book at the beginning of the session to keep in the class. Thus, you have 35-40 books in your class cupboard.
This is your class library! As observed, students take a lot of pride in their class library if the class teacher herself is passionate about this. Sadly even the language faculties who are class teachers fail to utilise this mine of language learning. This attitude could be a huge let down for other class teachers with expertise in different subject matters.
The culture of reading is an enriching habit that you as a class teacher can create in your class; and the class library serves the purpose. It is observed that the classrooms with spilling libraries have more composed students than classes that do not have one. Most students in such classes see the importance of reading in the free time rather than sliding into passivity. Class library also comes handy when the assigned teacher is absent and a substitute teacher is there.
The teacher can also ensure that the students pick up reading materials without much ado. Occasionally, the class teacher can return one set of books deposited, and ask the students to bring a different set of books. At the end of the session, the class teacher returns the book to its respective owner; for the next class teacher to start over. A whole article is needed to highlight the importance of this unacknowledged resource called the class library.
Small quizzes and tests
Alternatively, the class teacher can hold small quizzes on the current affairs or a small in-class speaking competition on the latest happenings in the Zero period. This will help the students analyse the debatable issues and form responsible opinions. The students enjoy such activities; more so because these help in learning and gaining insights without them even realising so. These small activities in the class maintain a positive buzz creating an environment bubbling with the spirit of inquiry.
Inter house competitions/ small workshops or seminars/ practices and rehearsals
Zero period also gives schools the time to carry out competitions without disturbing the academic periods. Practices for upcoming evens/ annual show/ sports days and so on can be carried out fruitfully in the zero period. Workshops and seminars can be carried out effectively in the zero period. It is noticed that the retention value of these workshops is much more when they are carried out in the morning. Zero period is also a time when students can involve themselves in various co-curricular activities of their choice; indulging in music/art/theatre/sports/literary pursuits and so on.
Not meant for completing pending work
This precious time should by no means is to be wasted in completing work that was to be done previously. ‘Zero period trap’ is the lure of deliberate procrastination even among the otherwise diligent and regular students. It could flourish an attitude of deliberate predestination amongst students and wane away the habit of punctuality.
This happens when the teacher has not chalked out a concrete plan for the use of this invaluable time.
Kick-start the day with ZERO PERIOD