I know many of you are starting to celebrate–another school year is in the book!
For many of us, we have days or even weeks left–and it’s hard to keep students motivated and focused and LEARNING until the very end. I have a few tips today to help you keep your students–AND YOU–ready for a successful ending! I know the paperwork for us is crazy–but that isn’t our students’ fault! Keep your stress under control, your “to do” lists handy, and check out these tips!
1. Keep students busy doing meaningful work!
It’s easy to forget that students crave routine…and when you throw in end-of-year field trips, assemblies, treats, assessments, and more–it’s easy to let it all fall apart. The more we can keep students doing quality, rigorous work, the better! I know that I am always looking for that last minute data to help with report cards as well–but there is no reason it can’t be made a little more fun as well!
I needed a few last reading grades, so I gave this easy to give demand prompt. The students had a BLAST describing their “dream” classroom and I got what I needed for report cards! (This and other prompts are available in THIS RESOURCE)
I also use this time of year to do TONS of problem-solving…whether it’s “themed” word problems like
or review problems with all the content from the year, keeping math going strong is super important…even if you have “finished” the curriculum. Even consider having your students write some of their own! Tell them that if they write some good ones, you can use them with next year’s class!
Speaking of next year’s class…I love to do this project with my students–and it gives me a perfect bulletin board for BACK to school as well! I’ve killed two birds with one stone…there are a number of options included and the letters and everything you need are right there!
I also keep up with our daily independent reading and writing times and make sure my science and social studies activities are meaningful yet fun. We do “BizWorld” at the end of the year–and if you haven’t heard of it, it is well worth checking out. It’s an amazing simulation. I have blogged about it in the past…just click HERE if you want to see a few blog posts about it.
Now don’t get me wrong…I sprinkle some “just for fun” stuff in there as well–especially in the final day or two. Here are some of my favorites!
2. Take more frequent breaks and keep activities shorter.
I don’t think this is rocket science–but just accept that the students are going to have a harder time focusing! Instead of planning a 60-minute math lesson, plan three twenty minute ones! Get them moving and transitioning and give them fewer opportunities to get off track. For example, we are working on adding and subtracting decimals. Instead of pages of practice on Tuesday, we are warming up with a summer word problem…
then we are getting out our whiteboards for some practice problems…
then I am introducing the swimming pool problem (involves adding money) for them to work on over the next few days…
then we are going to do the book work in partners.
The same is true for all other subjects…keep switching things up!
3. Choose a powerful read aloud.
One thing I started to do a few years ago is picking a very compelling read aloud book that I deliberately map out to finish on the very last day of school. For the last few years, that book has been “Wonder” for me…it’s an amazing book and it talks about transitions and growing up–and my fourth graders leave me to go to a new school and it’s so fitting. I’ve also read “No Talking” at the end of the year and “Out of My Mind”–both excellent “school” books that keep them interested and begging you to read more.
After we finish reading at the end of that last day, it leads into a perfect discussion about our year, their hopes for the next year, and so on. It’s a great bonding time as we finish our year together.
4. Keep their bodies moving.
In addition to taking more frequent breaks, make sure that you are giving their bodies time to move and wiggle. Whether you build in more time for things like GoNoodle (a favorite of mine!), can get them outside for some learning, or just have them out of their desks for centers, partner work, or projects–this can really help keep students engaged and on task. Sometimes even moving the learning to a new place–a hallway, the cafeteria, or any extra spaces can be a great break. We have an odd space by our elevator that is the perfect place for a quick task card exchange, concept sort, or partner editing! Even doing a simple science lab instead of reading out of textbooks can be so much more fun and meaningful at this time of year. Big number division is more fun on the playground with sidewalk chalk! Build angles with your bodies on the playground!
5. Keep yourself calm and maintain your classroom as a learning environment.
One thing I have noticed over the years is that despite our desire to wrap things up, students are acutely aware of these transitions as well. When we start taking down bulletin board, boxing things up, and changing routines–they can’t help but feel like it’s all over. If you need to box things up, keep them out of sight. Taking down bulletin boards really doesn’t take that long–save it for the very end. When students feel their classroom is “gone”, they don’t feel the need to be students anymore!
The more we can keep ourselves centered, calm, and happy in the last weeks, the more likely our students are to rise to the occasion! Stress leads to stress…so plan ahead, take a few deep breaths, and do more than survive–THRIVE in those last weeks!
To say “thanks” for all your support over the year, I have marked every product listed in this post on sale for the next two weeks. Just click any image to take you to the link. I hope you find a tip or a resource that can help you enjoy the last days with this group of students…remember–you made a difference for them!
I wrote a different end-of-year blog post a year ago–if you want to check out that one, just click the image below!
Rather pin this post for later? No problem!