Do your students know how many weeks, days, or hours of school are left? Mine do! (Here’s a secret, so do I!) Summer beckons with its lazy days, sleeping in, no bells, no papers to grade, no homework, and the change of pace of our typically super structured lives. Still, you likely have at least a few weeks left of the school year which means a lot of potential learning!
Don’t give in to the call of summer quite yet! Let us help you solve the end of year problems that plague you and have a productive end of the year with these tips.
1. Problem: It’s warm and sunny outside. All you and your students want to do is go out and enjoy the weather. It’s hard to focus indoors when the weather is perfect outside.
Solution: Go outside! Take your learning outdoors. Do your school grounds have a courtyard or a big shady tree? Read stories outdoors, take clipboards out and let students work. Try to incorporate outdoor activities as part of your curriculum. Being outdoors gives you endless possibilities for science projects and can also serve as inspiration for a writing or art project. If possible, you can start a class garden which can be used to teach math, social skills, science, work ethic and more.
2. Problem: Your students’ behavior is slipping. This is one of the most challenging aspects of the end of the year. Kids start to think that since they are close to the end school doesn’t matter anymore and to dream of their summer plans.
Solution: Consistency and routine are vital. Stick to your schedule your students will know what to expect and what is expected of them. Review procedures if necessary and are consistent on the follow through. With the particuluarly disruptive students, check out strategies here.
“Our expectations of students are critical for their success. In fact, research shows that teacher expectations have a significant impact on student achievement. Students typically live out their own expectations, so effective teachers get students to expect more of themselves.” Jensen (2013)1
3. Problem: Spring Fever! It’s hard not to get excited about summer and think ahead to the days of relaxation, sun, and fun. Spring fever hits hard this time of year. No one is immune, even teachers!
Solution: Examine your attitude about school. Resist counting down and take each day for what it is worth. Are you having to drag yourself to school each day and count down the minutes to summer vacation? Your students will pick up on that. Find some joy in each day. Give yourself something to enjoy each day and do the same for your students. Build in some fun learning activities. The end of the year is an excellent time for learning field trips and theme days. Give the kids milestones to look forward to throughout the last few weeks, so they aren’t only looking forward to the end of the year.
4. Problem: They won’t listen. If you are trying to do a lot of direct instruction at this point of the year, you may find your students are just not interested. Your class may have listened to you well in the past, but you see them having side conversations or looking out the window.
Solution: Let them talk, in a directed way of course. As mentioned above, being consistent with your consequences and expectations is important, but it’s also important to adjust to your class’s needs. Give your students opportunities for cooperative learning to get the talking out of their system. Hands-on, physically active learning opportunities keep students engaged and still learning.
Kara Wyman, of Concordia University, states,
“There’s often a ton of material to fit in when you’re running out of school year. This can turn into you doing all the talking when you’re better off involving students in a discussion or having them do something that conveys the same information through hands-on learning.”
5. Problem: Testing, testing, testing. If your class isn’t subject to end of year testing, then rejoice. If it is, then you know the stress that comes along with it then I’m sorry. As a teacher, it is hard not to dream of sunnier days when high stakes tests are in the mix.
Solution: Reward yourself, and your students, with something fun at the end of testing. Look at the sunny side; if your students are testing at least there was no lesson prep!
Finished with testing? Do something a little off the norm. Delve into a topic your students are interested in that didn’t fit in with your core curriculum. As Beth from Classroom Tested Resources states, exploring a topic that your students pick gives them ownership of their own learning and can greatly increase engagement.
Make the most of these last few weeks of the school year. Choose to sprint to the finish line, not hobble across. Soon you can kick back, relax, and enjoy your well-deserved summer vacation!
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.