Last week, however, I found myself completely pull away from my computer and my iPhone was actually only being used as a phone instead of another internet source (imagine that). In fact, I've been online less and less as the month of May has progressed. I, alternatively, have turned to our personal library and immersed myself in some of my favourite books. I've always loved reading for pleasure and my fiance and I maintain a rather large personal library housing everything from historical fiction and fantasy to science fiction and celebrity biographies. Now I'm just not talking about starting a new book...
- I'm talking about spending up to 8 hours an evening reading
- I'm talking about finishing four 300+ page novels in five days
- I'm talking about ignoring my computer, ignoring my phone, ignoring
my television, ignoring everything and just reading
Does this mean that I will no longer be online? Of course not. Will I go back to my regular schedule? Yes. It is simply that time of year where I
Is any of this beginning to sound vaguely familiar? Have our students been acting differently lately? Are regular routines, that have been working great all year, now not cutting it? Perhaps our students are no longer finishing their assignments as quickly (or at all). Perhaps our students are getting distracted more easily and are displaying behaviours that you never saw a few months ago. The end of the year can be one of the most challenging times for students and teachers. We are required to finish up our curriculum, prepare students for final exams (if applicable), get all student work in, assess student learning, squeeze in time for field trips and extracurriculars.... and manage 20+ students who are beginning to tune out.
It can be easy to remain on a "default setting" and attempt to carry on like you have been all year but, as you may know, the students (and most likely yourself) need something new. In the same way I needed to move away from my routine to explore something I have always been interested in, students also need to use this time to revisit material from throughout the year and explore their interests. In Manitoba, teachers are required to assess student's most recent learning so this can also be a great opportunity for students to showcase their most recent understanding and be reassessed.
In these last few weeks of school students need to be provided with an opportunity to work on something that genuinely interests them. Allow your students to revisit their favourite lesson to explore further or perhaps research something completely new that wasn't able to be covered in class. The opportunities are truly endless and should be individualized for each student, but here are some activity suggestions to try:
- Allow students to revisit their favourite unit and create projects to
solve new/interesting questions. (ex) If you taught about the solar
system, introduce the Mars One project and have students debate
if sending four people to live alone until their death is ethical?
- Allow students to be the teacher and create a lesson for one of their
favourite topics/subjects. This can be presented to the class for review
opportunities or even to a younger grade as a mentoring activity.
- Create portfolios highlighting various work samples throughout the year.
Have students reflect on their growth, where they struggled, where they
excelled, etc. This can be hardcopy or digital.
- Have students create their own review options for their peers. Students
can usually tell you what they find most interesting so by allowing them to
create their own review options you can ensure that they will be engaged
and it can give you great ideas for further use!
- Allow students to anonymously critique the course. What did they like, what
did they not like, and (most importantly) why. By asking students "why" you are
not only asking them to critique your teaching but encouraging metacognition;
why did they like/not like that aspect?
- Plan some type of field trip (real or virtual). Sometimes during the year it can
be hard to implement field trips due to time constraints, funds, weather, etc. At
the end of the year you have a stronger sense of what budget is remaining and it
can be easier to plan cross-curricular field trips. (ex) Maybe you couldn't justify
visiting the art gallery in October just to showcase contrast in colours but by the
end of the year you can discuss contrast in colours (art), uses of geometry (math),
perspective of the artist (social studies), etc.
- Revisit favourite activities. Maybe there was an awesome hands-on activity
that you created for your unit on ecosystems that students loved. Bring back that
activity for review purposes or challenge students to create it so it is applicable
to a different subject/topic.
- Allow students to create "Coles Notes" for a specific unit or the class
as a whole. Students can put the information in their own words, including
video clips and images that they found the most helpful/interesting. This can be
a great review opportunity and some students will be really interested in knowing
they are helping out future students. (Think of the resources you'd have over a few
The important thing to remember is that you want to end the school year on a positive note. Your students want to know that you enjoyed being a part of their lives and that you are wishing them the best in the future (even if you will be seeing them again in a few short months). If you realize that what you are currently doing will not allow this, then it is time to change it up. Make it relevant to their personal lives... make it meaningful for them.... allow them to explore their interests.
What type of activities/projects do you introduce at the end of the year? I'd love to add new suggestions to this list!