Special Days: Reflections, Considerations, And A New Approach

Special days. I’ve never been a fan of them. Some people may think that this makes me a Holiday Humbug or a Grown-Up Grinch (I do love alliteration), and I’m probably a bit of both. I think though that it took a closer look at the Kindergarten Program Document for me to understand why I dislike them so much: when we’re planning these special days, are we following the lead of the child or our own lead? How do these days align with the thinking and learning happening in the classroom, and how might they further extend this learning?

While my teaching partner, Paula, and I share many similar thoughts around special days, this school year is also very different than past ones. We are all in our third month of teaching and learning at home, and there’s something to be said for developing class and school communities. One of the harder things about synchronous learning is classroom management. You no longer have the same proximity to students. A look, a gentle touch on the shoulder, and/or even a few different participation options (e.g., participating from a chair at the side or a space over in the corner) are more challenging — and sometimes even, impossible — to coordinate in an online forum. While both Paula and I have worked hard at further developing relationships with kids in our Distance Learning Classroom knowing that relationships are at the heart of classroom management — even building these connections is different online. Paula and I realize that special days are often more dysregulating for students, as they vary with the routine that the kids know. We’re now caught in that tug-of-war between desiring to raise class and school spirit and wanting to support a degree of normal in a sea of abnormal. 

Even though we offer various asynchronous learning opportunities for kids, our daily synchronous online classroom has provided numerous teaching and learning opportunities for our students since April 6th. Now then, we’re faced with a dilemma, especially as we enter the last month of school. While warmer weather, multiple months at home, and the summer looming, makes a decrease in attendance a distinct possibility, Paula and I want to try to end the school year on a high note. We wondered if considering a few special days might help. Along with this consideration though, are some other important ones.

Student Privacy

Our Privacy Officer has published some important memos for educators and families, especially when it comes to synchronous learning. We’ve been reading and thinking about these points, and kept returning to this one on Personal Privacy.

If we want children to think about where they’re learning and what others are viewing, then I think we also have to contemplate clothing choice. Learning is now more on display for others than ever before, so what we’re wearing, where we’re sitting, and how we’re behaving are largely wrapped up in learning environment considerations for both adults and kids. Pajama Days often happened in school classrooms, but are they the best choice for our online classroom?


Know more, do better. This phrase is one that I’ve contemplated a lot recently. While I might never have been gung-ho on special days, I will admit — unfortunately so — that I never really considered the message that we’re sending to kids and families when choosing certain special days. Mrs. Ford, a teacher that I communicate with on Twitter, had me rethinking things. She questioned the use of “Crazy Hair/Crazy Hat Day,” Her tweet later made me think about these two fantastic books that I read recently. 

There are a lot of important considerations here that link to bigger topics, including anti-black racism, self-esteem, bullying, and body image. If Paula and I are considering a special day, we want to be cognizant about what messages we’re sending to families based on our decisions.


As I mentioned earlier in the post, special days can be very dysregulating. There’s a reason that we’ve kept the same schedule every day since April 6th. Even in our school classroom, our schedule was always consistent. The routine provided a sense of calm for us and for kids. It was the predictability that we all needed. Even on special days that we couldn’t avoid, like Valentine’s Day for example, we still tried to insert the special within a bubble of normal. This allowed us to support kids in adjusting to something new. If we are going to embrace a special day, we want to do so in a way that we don’t dysregulate our students and increase stress for our families. 

What is possible then? I love this list of ideas that Mrs. Ford shared on Twitter. 

The open-endedness of many of these options also means that they can connect with classroom learning, be embedded within regular classroom routines (even online classrooms), and provide positive experiences for both students and families. While we haven’t tried these special days yet, we have tried a few of our own.

Our Cooking Show Day

Our first Cooking Show was on Thursday morning.

We loved that this special day could include learning opportunities throughout the week (discussed towards the end of this linked class blog post), and even led later to the creation of a Class Recipe Book. Then the learning opportunities could continue past the date of the Cooking Show.

Our Class Cooking Show

We’ve made a small tweak for this upcoming week, and are connecting cooking with reflection, relationships, and consideration for others. 

Fun Fitness Fridays

A special thank you to our amazing Phys-Ed teacher, Mrs. Kott, for making this special day possible. Every Friday, she joins us in our online classroom for a little phys-ed from home. Not only do her 15-20 minutes fitness classes get everyone moving together, but they also,

  • involve families and siblings, and the connection that comes from having everyone moving together,
  • integrate language skills (from letter-sounds to new vocabulary) and math skills (including counting) with physical activity,
  • and allow for the development of listening comprehension (with an invitation to move freely based on the oral descriptions that she shares). 

Fun Fitness Fridays With Mrs. Kott

These two special days have been so well-received, that we continue to build on them week after week. I also wonder if merging “the special” with “the routine” helps support Self-Reg for both parents and kids.

This week, we also have a new special day option thanks to Paula.

A different learning space for our daily online classroom along with a slightly different conversation might also help with setting-up our learning for the week. Broadcasting from a local park could also inspire kids and families to later on explore this outdoor space together.

As I consider this final special day addition, I’m reminded of the fact that even a small change can make things special for kids, and revive an interest in learning, sharing, and engaging together. What have special days looked like in your Distance Learning classrooms and schools? How might some of these same considerations apply when we head back to school? Hopefully educators, administrators, and family members can chime in with their opinions, as we strive to create learning environments that work for everyone. Here’s to another great week of learning!


4 thoughts on “Special Days: Reflections, Considerations, And A New Approach

  1. Hi Aviva,
    I’m with you on the struggle with trying to make “special” days special, but also with some meaning. It’s something I wrestled with before the school building closure and have still been playing with for the last three months as I have tried to do that in an online format too.
    I wonder if it comes down to purpose. In June, (maybe anytime in the school year), I think we try to organize or offer special days as a means of making positive memories about the school year. Positive memories of community. Kind of a “what will you remember about grade ___ twenty years from now?” sort of thing.
    If that’s the case; if that’s the purpose you are trying to fulfill, why not look to your students for their suggestions and voices? Ask them what have been their favourite memories of this year? Are there ways you can relive/revisit/extend those memories as a way to end off the school year? Are there special memories of K that they wish they had had this year? Are there ways to make those memories virtually?
    While our students get excited with any novel, fun and silly special days we may provide, it may surprise you what they most loved in the school year. Could it be as simple as 10 days of revisiting our favourite books/creations/songs from the school year? (You definitely have enough documentation to help anchor their memories!)
    Looking at special days or events through this lens may be a way to hear about what students are missing right now and what they need to help them end the school year with a peaceful content instead of the discontent of unfinished business.
    Just a thought. What do you think?

    • Thanks for your comment, Kristi! I’m going to share this comment with Paula, as I think you might be onto something here. We tried to have some discussion about some favourite memories of school the past couple of weeks, but we didn’t necessarily go past the discussion. While these conversations do play into some of our upcoming provocations, maybe a deeper discussion with kids (and some of their insights) will help us. This could be a great way to end the year, and re-explore some highlights in our new environments at home. Thanks for giving me something to think about. I wonder if other educators have tried this, and what some of their kids discussed. I would be curious to know if some of the memories that we think about most are also the ones that stick out for our students.


  2. I’ve been thinking about a response for a 2 days. 🙂
    Reasons I don’t like special days:
    1)They are so dysregulating! I agree with you on this. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s unavoidable (Christmas). I try to scaffold everyone’s experience by giving lots of notice about changes, and by making sure there is a lot of time to get back to “calm” before we try to move forward – I’m thinking about things like a really special assembly.
    2) I am increasingly aware that we are always leaving someone out. Food at parties leaves out the special diet kids. Christian-rooted holidays leave out non-Christian students – which I can counter balance by celebrating (maybe I’d rather say recognizing?) lots of different holidays from around the world. But there are families that don’t believe in recognizing any celebrations and I don’t want them to be left out or made to feel different either.
    Reasons I like celebrations:
    1) It’s a good opportunity to teach children how to manage their excitement. Excitement is inevitable and they should know how to anticipate something without losing their marbles.
    2) They can be very community-building! Track and field day, field trips, special assemblies…they are an important part of making fun memories of elementary school.

    My assigned distant-learning planning partner and I have an ABC countdown to the end of school. We’ve got something special every day. Friday was “O is for Obstacle Course” and we hoped to get photos of obstacle courses kids built. (We didn’t.) We did “F is for Fort” day and had lots of photos of blanket forts. Tuesday is “Q/R is for Quiet Reading” and we are having a big video conference to enjoy some read alouds together. I think these are special! On “Y is for Yoga” day we have a local yoga studio doing a group yoga class for us online. I am really excited about this.

    I think the special days are still important. Lots of kids from my partner’s class will be in my class next year so I am glad to already be making memories with them. But if I never have another pyjama day again that will be just fine!

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I could really connect to a lot of what you said here. Your alphabet special days made me think of Kristi’s comment on making memories. This seems to be your focus for these days too. Paula and I were chatting about having our students think of some special days for the last week of school. We’d love to look at a way to extend the learning from earlier in the year, revisit some favourite memories, and make some new ones. Maybe staying focused on relationships also helps with determining and supporting these special days. Thanks for giving me more to think about!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *