Class rituals – a beautiful lesson from Le Petit Prince

Class rituals and why they are important

Do you use class rituals? They can be something that adds a feeling of community to your class, allowing students to feel like they belong. Your class isn’t just a single chunk of time in the day – it’s a special place and time that is set aside to be a community rather than a group of individuals. You can help build this sense of community by making class rituals a part of your daily or weekly routine.

Why are class rituals important?

As a French teacher, I’ve read Le Petit Prince many times. In chapter 21, the fox tells the prince about the rituals of his life. He knows that the men in the village will chase and hunt him, but on Thursday things are different. On that day, they dance and feast in the village and the fox will be safe. It is a special day of the week, one that is different from the other days. And so the fox comes to look forward to that day each week, knowing that it will be enjoyable for him and for the men in the village.

Think of the different rituals in your own life – do you have a special weekend routine? For my family, Sunday is the day when we play hockey together in the morning. We look forward to getting the stress of the week out through exercise and it’s a nice way to spend time together. It makes that one day feel different from all of the others. Or maybe you go out for a drink or a meal on Friday night to celebrate the end of the work week. Maybe you have rituals with your children – a bedtime ritual is very common and something that parents and children look forward to.

What are my class rituals?

There are routines, and there are rituals. Routines are how things are done each day. My students know that at the beginning of each class, they come in and log in to Desmos while I play the song of the week and take attendance. It’s not something they look forward to, it’s just how class starts. But there are class rituals that are only done on certain days.

I have a block schedule, so I only see half of my classes each day. On Thursdays/Fridays, this is the day we watch the video for the song of the week. They’ve heard it on Monday through Wednesday, but this time they’ll get to look at the lyrics and watch the video. Some students don’t get into it, but others do – they really do.

The only fight I’ve ever had in my class was over the song of the week! One student wanted to hear the song, another was loud and disruptive. After the first student asked the second one to “shut up so I can hear the %@)#% song”, the second student ignored him. The first student then punched him in the face! They both sat and waited for security and we watched the rest of the video in peace.

On Friday, we have a special class ritual. I start the class with the Friday song. Sometimes it’s the Rebecca Black version – but often it’s not! I have a playlist with 48 different versions of the song. The students groan and complain, but by the end of the year they are used to it.

At some point of the year we will end up with a holiday meaning no school on Friday – at Thanksgiving, for example. I always have at least one kid ask if we could play the Friday song that day instead. I feign absolute horror and tell them that it is simply impossible to do so. The Friday song MUST be played on Friday and only on Friday. And just imagine what would happen if I didn’t play it? When I was out for Covid recently (a mild case, luckily) I made sure to post the video to the team channel so the students wouldn’t forget the class ritual.

Eventually, when I read Le Petit Prince with my students, most will have had me for more than one year. When we get to the fox chapter, I explain that we have our own class rituals and that without them, every day would feel the same. It’s an “a-ha moment” for many of them – they realize that I’ve been conditioning them all along with the Friday song, just to use it as I teach Le Petit Prince.

Hey, it’s Friday!

You may not be reading this on a Friday, but I’m publishing it on a Friday. So enjoy one of our most long-lasting class rituals!