4 Rainy Day Classroom Activities of the Past

by Guy E. White on 16 December, 2014

Are rainy day movie extravaganzas gone forever?

The 1980’s were a simpler time, where students and teachers were not held accountable to a mile high list of standards. A lack of emphasis on benchmarks was not always a good thing, but it made for some amazing rainy days.

Rainy days in the third grade were the stuff of adventure novels: boarding the bus outside my house in ankle deep water, scooting carefully along the concrete of the school hallways to avoid slipping disasters, and joining in epic cafeteria activities in lieu of the missed recess time. Did I mention that we had three or more recess periods each day that year?

I’m a bit disconnected from the elementary school environment, so I’m going to have to rely upon your comments below to tell me if my nostalgia is founded on something long-lost, or something (for you) that might be quite everyday.


For me, I think the days are long gone of rainy day classroom activities. Not only are we being called to higher and tighter standards and benchmarks in the classroom—but the artful, social aspects of learning have also changed. Here are some rainy day activities that I don’t see much of anymore:

Rainy Day Activity of the Past #1 – Movie Watching

Remember those days of walking from the cold, wet outdoors into the warm, dark classroom lit solely by the humming projector light?

From the Never-ending Story to The Electric Grandmother to the Princess Bride, rainy days brought me some of the most iconic films of my youth.

From these films, I learned about imagination, chivalry, honor, amongst a host of vocabulary and ideals that I still use to this day.

Watching films like these was not a waste of time; they were an opportunity for my friends and me to consume art together and let it be the basis for our play later on. There are still films in the classroom now, but there’s a big difference between educational films and ones we watch just for the fun of it.

Rainy Day Activity of the Past #2 – Turkey and Gravy

Okay, it’s not so much of an “activity” as an “experience.” For at least a year of my youth, the rain would inspire the cafeteria staff to create a comforting, hot meal that, for me, was the highlight of the school lunch experience.

I remember sitting with my classmates in the warm cafeteria, with a piping hot Styrofoam tray full of potatoee goodness.

I suspect that gravy, turkey, and mashed potato mix are not accepted nutritional meals under the most recent government regulations. So I can’t imagine that many kids get to enjoy this brand of stick-to-your-ribs, rainy day experience any longer.

So sad!

Rainy Day Activity of the Past #3 – Heads Up Seven Up

In this rainy day activity, I learned my poker face. Seven people are chosen. All but the seven put their heads down on their desks, hiding their eyes, holding their thumbs up in the air. The seven choose seven thumbs. If the thumbs could guess who got them, they got to take their place.

By far, this is probably one of the most recognizable of rainy day traditions. How did your class play?

Rainy Day Activity of the Past #4 – Free Play / Free Learning

One of the gifts that one of my elementary teachers gave me was the chance to “free learn” or explore the classroom, doing anything as long as I was learning in some way. We were encouraged to form small groups, play a game, do research, draw, create, imagine, anything.

In private or alternative school environments for young children, free play is a common exercise. These schools cite the importance of children building personal interests and social bonds that are not solely managed by the instructor.

Today, I often wonder if too much structure is being placed upon students at an early age. What do you think about this subject?

Thanks for walking down this short road of nostalgia here with me on this rainy day. In what activities did you partake as a student on rainy days?

Image Copyright © 2014 Lightstock, LLC and is licensed by Triumphant Heart International, Inc. and is used with permission. Photo is for illustrative purposes only. Any person depicted in the photo, if any, is a model.