Some Classroom Traditions Remain in a New Normal

By Sean Keane ’23

Although the beginning of this school year is drastically different from years past, teachers and Marianist educators have not failed in keeping class interesting. Classes this year have half as many students as usual, the student body is split between various buildings, and masks are worn at all times. Despite all the drastic changes in this new normal, and through the dedicated work of the administration, faculty, and staff, we have met for in-person learning every day of each week.

The concept of a school “classroom” has taken on a whole new meaning over the past months. Digital platforms on which teachers could instruct their students, such as Zoom, became the new normal. However, there is something about seeing people in person that cannot be replicated online. Putting up a Christmas tree in your homeroom, conversing with friends in the hallways, and being able to talk to your teachers face-to-face are just some of the advantages of in-person learning. Another overlooked benefit of in-person learning is certainly the classroom activities that we often take for granted.

Classroom activities at Chaminade take many different forms. One prevalent activity among freshmen is Mr. Michael Griffin’s prayer video Friday. Mr. Griffin, a relatively new teacher at Chaminade, has already left his mark on the recent freshmen classes. Every class at Chaminade begins with a prayer, but Mr. Griffin’s classes take this to the next level at the end of every week. Mr. Griffin shows a short video at the beginning of class that either ties together what has been learned in class with a current event or explains the religious significance of a topic in class. After the video is over, the class joins together in prayer.

Mr. Griffin reflects on the prayer he offered at the beginning of his freshman religion class.

Many different languages are offered at Chaminade, but regardless of the language one chooses to take, there is a strong emphasis on not only the language itself, but also the culture tied to the language. One language offered at Chaminade with fascinating culture and tradition is Chinese. Chaminade’s Chinese I teacher, Mr. Shuchao Luo, will occasionally start or end class with Tai Chi, a series of gentle physical exercises or stretches. The classroom is cleared by pushing all the desks to the side, and all the students with Mr. Luo will have a Tai Chi session for about five minutes.

“Tai Chi allows you to relax and refocus. It is a great way to start, end, or take a break from your day,” explained Mr. Luo.

After a few minutes of Tai Chi to focus the mind and body, Mr. Luo mixes language and culture in his Chinese I class.

Any student enrolled in Calculus or PreCalculus will likely be familiar with Desmos, a graphing calculator app on every student’s iPad. However, referring to Desmos as just a “calculator” is an understatement. Desmos is also an interactive app that allows students to learn more about math on their own.

“I particularly like using Desmos to allow individual students to work through material, develop ideas, and reflect on what they know and what questions they have, before engaging with classmates in small-group and class-wide discussions,” explained Mr. Terence Fitzgibbon ’00.

Desmos also includes various modern improvements to the traditional hand-held graphing calculator.

Mr. Fitzgibbon furthered, “I think the single most useful feature is the ability to add sliders for the values of constants within formulas. This allows students to see dynamically in real-time how changing the values of constants within a function affects the appearance of the graph.”

Mr. Benjamin Volpe, a sophomore religion teacher, has perfected a curriculum-based classroom trivia game. Entitled “Trivia Smackdown,” this game has two stages. First, there is the preparation stage. Instead of the teacher making questions, the students are tasked with creating questions the night before. Now, you may be thinking, “Why don’t the students make straightforward and easy questions?” Well, they’re competing with other students for bonus points. The class is divided into several teams, and each team sends one person to the podium at a time while the other teams try to stump him with hard questions. If the student gets a question right, they get a point and the opportunity to answer another question, but if he answers incorrectly, he has to sit down, and one of the other teams sends up a contender.

In addition to these basic rules, each team can use three power-ups throughout the course of the game. There is the Crown, the Sword, and the Chalice. By using the crown, anything goes. The crown gives a team the ability to overrule any of Mr. Volpe’s calls. For example, if the question is ruled to be unfair because it doesn’t have a clear answer or it has multiple answers, the question becomes invalid, but if the team uses the crown, the contender must answer that question. Next, there is the sword. The sword can be used to kick another player off the stand. This is useful if a team knows that the student from an opposing team is smart and will likely answer many questions correctly. Lastly, there is the chalice. Normally, a student is only allowed to answer four questions at a time to keep the game moving and give other players a chance to compete, but using the chalice provides a person with the ability to answer as many questions as they can until they get one wrong. Each team has only one opportunity to use each of these, so they must use them wisely.

“Over the past few years, I have definitely noticed that certain students will tune in more when they know that they will get to prove their knowledge in front of the class,” concluded Mr. Volpe.

Lastly, there is Kahoot!, a game-based learning platform. Kahoot! is a beloved game among all divisions here at Chaminade. It is accessed through each student’s iPad while the teacher projects their screen for the class to see. Questions are displayed on the screen, and the answer choices are on the student’s iPads. What makes the game interesting is that each question has a timer, and the faster you answer the question, the more points you get. This raises the question in every student’s mind, “Do I go with my instinct and answer quickly with the risk of getting it wrong, or do I take my time and make sure I get the answer right while sacrificing some points?” As you may already be able to infer, Kahoot! days in class can get tense.

School is not the same without the classical classroom setting. Games and activities like these make learning exciting and intriguing. It is what helps students retain information better, especially the activities custom-made by our own teachers.