Have your students told you yet how many days that are left? While it has been awhile for me, I can still feel it creeping up, sneaking up, whether we are ready or not; for many of us in the Northern hemisphere, the end of the year is near. And if your students are anything like ours, then there may be excitement in the air mixed with a special kind of exhaustion that is threatening to derail even the best-laid plans. So what can you, along with your awesome students, do to make these last few days or weeks better? Here are a few ideas.
Make it matter. And by this I mean; make it meaningful, make it count. Now is the time to dig deep, to go personal, to make it something they will remember for a long time. we end with out This I believe project, a student and teacher favorite every year and we work all the way up until the very last day. I love how we end with something that ties us even closer together as a community, rather than just have us fade out in small to-do’s.
Teach with urgency. This is not the time to slow down, instead, make every minute worth your time. We start with reading, as always, and then we teach until the bell. I want the days to go by fast, not drag on for everyone involved.
Increase student movement and talk time. I love seeing the various projects our students are engaged in throughout our building, with many of them involving more movement and also more student agency. Now is a perfect time to have students take the lead on projects if you haven’t before and also to incorporate as much choice as possible. I was lucky enough to watch a PE class where students had to sit and write about their summer fitness goals, the kicker? Every time they did a section they had to run and do other physical activities. I loved seeing how even in writing, movement was incorporated.
Make memories. Even if the students are ready to leave make sure you take the time to reminisce a little. How has this year been? What will they remember? I try to have students write letters to the incoming 7th grade to offer them tips and ideas, these letters not only give me a way to welcome the new students but also to see what made a difference to my current ones.
Take them outside. I used to shun the outside for teaching, after all, it was just so distracting. Now we look for the days where we can get outside. So far it has only been with my homeroom class for a quick walk, but the outside is calling all of my classes and I am thinking of a way to teach out there.
Survey them. This is ripe reflection time for us as we start to look forward to next year so make sure you ask all of the questions you have. While I have not finalized my end of year survey yet, last year’s told me a lot about which projects they loved, the ones they hated, and also how I could become a better teacher. These kids know us so make sure you ask for their advice, after all, we have the best professional development sitting right in our classrooms.
Make plans for the summer. I don’t think we should pretend that summer is not right around the corner, instead, we need to have some frank conversations about what their plans are and more specifically, what their reading plans are. Many of my students told me today that they did not plan on reading at all, this is the reality many of us face, and yet I still have four weeks to showcase the most incredible books I can find. Book talk with urgency and help them create long can’t-wait-to-read lists. Partner with the next year’s teachers, partner with your school librarian, partner with those at home and help them remember to read.
Reflect on their growth. I don’t think all of my students know how much they have grown, how much they can do, how much more they are now than when they began. I think the is common for most kids, after all, growing smarter is a gradual affair. So build in time for them to actual realize their growth, their successes, and also to goal set for next year.
Stay in the present. Ah so that makes nine, but this one is so important. It is so easy to get caught up in thinking about next year and even planning for next year, and yet; these are the kids we still have. We are still in the current school year, so if we don’t stay in the present, neither will our students. Love them, keep getting to know them, praise them, laugh with them, believe in them, and keep pushing them to strive for more. After all, next year, you will miss them, we always do. And just perhaps, if we are lucky enough, they will pop their heads in on that first day of school, just to say hi.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.