One thing I have learned after teaching for this many years (25 now!) is that the more routines you can maintain at the end of the year–the better. That doesn’t mean that you don’t throw a little fun into the game, but most students truly crave pattern and routine–and we need to make sure that we don’t let our own end-of-year crazies ruin that structure for our students. I thought I’d offer up a few (ok–8!) tips for keeping things “cool” as the weather heats up!
1. Check your stress at the door. I know it’s hard…you are trying to get through your curriculum, you have report cards looming, you have 18 IEP’s and 42 meetings. None of this is your students’ fault–so try to take a deep breath as you walk through your classroom door in the morning and keep that room a sanctuary for your students–and YOU!
2. Keep things as academic as you can–but toss in a little fun! As I finish our required math series (and even on some of the days before we finish), I like to throw in extra problem solving–but I like to keep it seasonal and fun! I use word problems with an “end of year” flavor to keep students interested and offer up fun challenges like my Thinker Task: Amusement Park Challenge to keep students working hard–without realizing they are! Throw in a fun STEM activity or science lab.
…and even more “Tip 2”!
3. Keep reading aloud! As the year wraps up, I actually read aloud to my students MORE often. Whether it be a great novel (I finish the year with “Wonder” and time it so that our last day of school is Auggie’s last day!), or fun picture books–students love to be read to and multiple, short bursts of read alouds can help cure the wiggles and keep students calm.
4. Connect with your students! As the days begin to wind down, some students sense the impending separation–and we sometimes even see students acting up more and more. Some call it spring fever–but I think for many students is the anxiety of the impending change and separation from the place they have spent the better part of 180 days…connecting with you and the other students in the class. Change is exciting for some students–but can be excruciating for others. Remember to keep connecting with your students in those last days. Greet each one as they walk through the door in the morning and wish them well as they leave. Ask them about their evenings and their sporting games. Tell them about YOUR evening; help them feel valued and “noticed” until the very end.
5. Throw a little controlled fun into your day! Finish math early and give them 20 minutes of game time. Do a project. Read outside on the playground equipment. Use sidewalk chalk and do math review on the pavement. Buddy up with another class for some partner reading. Do a team building activity. Working some of this “controlled fun” keeps students happy–and you sane!
6. Be sensitive to students who may be moving over the summer. Talking a lot about the activities of the next grade in your school (or–in my class–at the next school the students move to for fifth grade) can be heartbreaking for students who are moving and won’t be able to enjoy them. Instead, consider focusing on things that are more universal–like how much more independent they will be in the next grade, how they will be able to read even more exciting books, and so on. We take a “transition field trip” to visit our new school and it was VERY hard on my students who aren’t going to be attending it next year. I worked hard to try to make those two gentlemen feel special by really bragging up how ready they are for new challenges, and so on.
7. Let your students work together. Collaboration is a life skill that needs to be practiced. Let them do their math work together and try to find errors and correct them. Let them buddy read. Let them read their writing to each other and look for ways to revise and edit it. They WANT to talk–let them do it productively! Some of the same activities that work at the beginning of the year can also be great at the end of the year with students’ new skills and maturity!
8. Smile. A lot. You all deserve it.