December 4, 2017
Although this is traditionally the season of giving, not all of students will be able to participate in the many charitable activities that occur in schools everywhere this time of year. While some students will bring in heavy bags of canned goods or armloads of warm winter clothing, many students and their families do not have the means to do so. The challenge for a compassionate teacher is to find charitable activities where every student can participate.
One of the best ways to do this is to have students play an online game that allows them to learn and help others at the same time without having to spend any of their own money. Free Rice (www.freerice.com) is an addictive charitable game that any student who can read can play. For every correct answer, ten grains of rice is donated to the World Food Programme. It is a legitimate enterprise with thousands of players around the world--and loads of fun to play.
The photo above is a banner my students and I made to celebrate the total number of grains of rice they donated in one month several years ago. After they learned to play the game, we made it a class goal that they would use their spare time in class to play the game to help others less fortunate. (We were fortunate enough to have a one-to-one laptop classroom.) They set a goal near the end of January that they would try to raise one million grains of rice by the end of the school year in June. They reached that goal by the end of February. The banner is a representation of how proud my students were at being able to help others. And what a gratifying way to spend any extra time in class: a shared class project that provides differentiated learning opportunities for all players, does not cost students anything but time and effort, and encourages students to do good deeds. It's worth a try.