I am teaching phonics, covering a lesson where I just need to give information in a lecture format. There isn’t a learning activity to go with this piece of the lesson. The children are sitting quietly, but do not appear to be interested. In fact, I am getting bored myself! It is time for a Rabbit Trap!
I might stop in the middle of my lecture (we can finish it later) and announce, “Stand up! Take two giant steps to the north. Jump five times. Point to something that has a blend in its name.” We can then discuss the blends in ‘step’, ‘jump’, and whatever they are pointing to. Now we can continue with the lesson—we have been revived.
Rabbit traps? What are rabbit traps? Rabbit traps are those activities or experiences that capture the attention of the students and engage them in learning (Dr. Jean, 2014). As Professor Wood Smethurst says, “If you want to catch a rabbit, you have to have a rabbit trap” (qtd. in Dr. Jean, 2014). We need a variety of rabbit traps to catch the variety of students. Different “rabbit traps” will attract different students.
So what can we use as rabbit traps? We can play learning games, such as “Around the World” or board races. We might play a quick game of “Simon Says.” Songs with actions, motions, or movement are rabbit traps. We can sing songs for phonics or math. We could sing the days of the week. We might do rhymes or action poems. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” is a good song for subtraction. “Hickory, Dickory Dock” is nice for telling time. Puppets, objects, props, and manipulatives are rabbit traps. A puppet can check the handwriting pages. Actual items such as starfish, shells, rocks, old coins, arrowheads, or a stuffed animal will capture attention. Use props, such as a colorful piece of cloth for Joseph’s coat, furry fabric for Esau’s skin, goldfish crackers and bagel chips for the five loaves and two fish, or Nilla Wafers for manna.
A mystery object (something the children must guess what it is) or an object hidden in a bag can be a rabbit trap. Interesting sounds (find online, or make your own) can grab the attention. Turning off the lights, whispering, or doing something unexpected, such as suddenly saying, “Stand up!” or asking for some quick exercises can be rabbit traps. Another rabbit trap is hiding surprise cards within the pack of flashcards. These may be cards with quick brain breaks, such as “You may get a drink”, “Shake hands with a neighbor,” or an unrelated item, as a reading word in the middle of the math flashcards.
Rabbit traps help the teacher, too. These traps keep me engaged and are fun to plan to surprise the students and help them stay motivated.
Real rabbits have been feasting on my dad’s green beans. It is annoying to find sections of the rows that are eaten nearly to the ground. It is difficult to trap a real rabbit: Why would they want to go after the bait in a live trap when they have a whole garden to enjoy? One must plan carefully what kind of bait to use in the live trap. Just so, it may be difficult to “trap” the attention of the students at times. We need to know our students well so we can use good rabbit traps. We can plan for those “rabbit traps” to snare their attention and keep them motivated and learning.