Home Stretch: Finish the End of the School Year Strong
Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published on the Teaching Channel. Read it here.
Any teacher will tell you that school doesn’t really cool down. The end of the school year is one of the busiest, most stressful times of the year. Testing, spring fever, events, final projects, grading — the home stretch is a doozy. While it can be easy for students and teachers to mentally slide into summer, here’s how to make May and June truly memorable, impactful, and manageable.
Reflect and project
Jack Mezirow, a pioneer in the field of adult learning and former professor at Columbia University’s Teacher College, said that “a defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience.” Reflection is what takes our learning experiences and cements them as lasting impressions. It’s a practice that gives students a chance to zoom out, assess their progress, and determine where they’d like to go as learners and as people.
At the end of a school year, it’s crucial to not leave dangling the hard work and efforts of the year by simply heading off into summer. Take time to provide authentic reflection activities that will help your students really think about the past year and what’s to come.
Useful end-of-the-school-year reflection resources:
- Stop, start, continue: a great way to help students break, begin, or continue habits with this simple organizer.
- Goal mapping: an opportunity to reflect upon goals they reached this year, as well as plan for the future.
- School-year-reflections mind map: a graphic, student-friendly worksheet for student reflection.
- Reflection pack: a pack of reflection station activities to use with your class for whole-class participation.
- Month-by-month reflection: Create your own month-by-month organizer that reminds students about all of the things they learned throughout the year. Incorporate opportunities for students to write or discuss each area of study and how much they’ve grown.
- Year-in-review portfolio: Have students collect their work from the year and make a portfolio to bring with them into their next grade, display in an exhibition, or leave for next year’s students.
Go list crazy
Lists are an engaging way for students to recall and reflect upon the year gone by. It’s an activity that’s sure to get students discussing memories, debating, and brainstorming together. Have students work in groups to create lists, such as Top 10 News Stories of the Year, Top 5 Pieces of Advice for Next Year’s Students, or The 10 Things You Need to Know in 11th Grade Chemistry. Need inspiration? Check out this pack of pre-made list worksheets. Or this fun 5-4-3-2-1 Countdown List that’s perfect for younger learners.
Many schools have student award events at the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your very own awards event in your classroom. Celebrate the work your students have done. Encourage students to have an Oscar moment by giving a little speech. Many students never win an award in school, so this could be a chance to personally recognize everyone for a strength they have or something they’ve accomplished in your class. Give your students a special moment that will make your class and their learning experience meaningful and memorable.
Prep students for their next steps
Whether you’re watching your seniors go off to college, or your little 3rd graders become 4th graders, the end of the year means preparing students for their next steps. Once June hits, it’s time to start guiding students for what they can expect in the next grade or in the next phase of life. One idea is to have students and teachers from the next grade up come visit next year’s incoming students. Another idea is to have students make introduction videos to send to their next teacher. Students can also write about what they’re most looking forward to, any questions they have, or things they’re nervous about. A truly special thing to do is to write each of your students a letter with advice or words of encouragement as a memento they can take with them as they advance.
Don’t give in too much to summer-itis
All 180 days (or so) that we have with our students are precious. Even when we’re tired, it’s hot out, and those relaxing days are calling, make each day count by planning stellar activities. It’s okay to sometimes go beyond the traditional lesson plan and flush the format. Take the kids outside for a nature walk, play an educational game, take a cool field trip, work on a community project, reflect together, or even have a class party. Hey, maybe even let students try their hand at teaching the class! Or teach that fun unit you’re passionate about, but haven’t had time to start yet. Until the last time your students walk out of your classroom door, they’re yours to educate. Make every moment count.
Take a breath
Teachers, you’ve almost made it. With just weeks to go, summer is nearly upon us. Enjoy these last days with your current students. Feel good about the many lessons you’ve taught, the hours you’ve spent together, and the people your students have become through their connection to you. You deserve a nice break, so work hard and rest up! Before you know it, stores will be stocking school supplies again!