Update 4/8/16: I'm now on Teachers Pay Teachers! Please visit my store for an updated free version of Vacation Tic-Tac-Toe!
I often have very mixed feelings about students who take time off from school to go on vacation. On the one hand, we barely have enough class time to cover the required curriculum, and I work very hard to provide meaningful, engaging lessons that simply cannot be replaced by books and worksheets. On the other hand, though, I truly appreciate and understand the value of traveling even short distances when it comes to enriching a child's education. I wish I could travel with some of my students who have never been to the beach or on an airplane to build their background knowledge, marvel at the science that's all around, or simply discuss how we budget money on trips or at restaurants. Those are the types of experiences that I believe make learning most fun and valuable, and I know some of my students rarely get that.
So, I always feel very torn when I get a note from parents explaining that their student will be out all next week for a trip to Disney World or a visit with Grandma, and could I please send home all work that the student will miss. My first reaction is usually one of exasperation; don't these parents understand how much learning comes from the discussions and hands on experiences in the classroom that can't be packed up and sent home? I usually send home what I can (this has been one of the main uses for my textbooks!), and keep a huge list of make up work and notes for the when the student returns, and then it's a pain in the butt trying to actually keep track of everything.
I've decided that this year I will embrace these family trips as opportunities to encourage parents and students to find the educational value in their travels. Vacation Tic-Tac-Toe is a menu of activities for students to choose from while they are away from school. If they satisfactorily complete three in a row, I will exempt them from most of the work they miss while they are out (and I'll be flexible about allowing them to make up graded assignments and assessments in class).
I'm thinking that I'll pack several "vacation bags" before school starts so that I have them ready to give to a student if I get a last minute note. Inside a large ziploc baggie will be most of the supplies students should need to complete these activities, including: a copy of the menu, lined paper, blank paper, graph paper, pencils, colored pencils or crayons, and a small pencil sharpener. I'll be sure to post pictures when I assemble these.
I hope that these alternative assignments will allow students to enjoy their time off, make their trips more meaningful, provide a way for them to share their experiences with the class when they return, and alleviate some of the hassle of make up work for me!
I'm happy to share the original work file if anyone would like it! :)