Now that the “heavy lifting” months of teaching are over, what DO you do with the last few weeks of school? If you are running on fumes and in need of suggestions for wrapping up your school year on a positive note, read on for my favorite ways to make the most of the remaining class time.
Like most teachers, my first year was spent treading water, and those last few weeks of school, I was unsure how to occupy my students without losing order. After several roundtable discussions, we mutually agreed that there were things that we wish we had known in September, as well as things we had learned about ourselves by the end of the year. I used that discussion as a springboard into a personal reflection unit that included several letters: student advice narratives to incoming students and a letter to myself noting positives and negatives about specific lessons and my instruction. I placed all of the letters in a large binder that I labeled with the school year. I shared it with my incoming classes in the fall. It has become one of the most powerful best practices in my teaching arsenal.
In addition to my letter binder, I have created a collection of lesson plans completed throughout the year. After each lesson, I jot down a few notes on a Post-it and stick it to the plan, noting what was successful and what I plan to change next time. It also includes related Web site links or similar lessons that can be used for differentiating the lesson for future classes. Since the binder is divided by subject area, it makes finding lessons a snap! This has greatly reduced time spent searching for that perfect lesson.
In general, I like to make an example of assignment expectations. However, this becomes increasingly difficult to do when you are short on time and teach multiple classes. After looking at all of the amazing work samples my class produced this year, I have resolved to make them benchmarks for the fall. Since I have so many varied learners in my class, each ability level will be adequately represented when I differentiate my assignments. Sharing this concept with the class gives them extra motivation during these tough last weeks, as they all want to have their assignments included in the portfolio.
One look inside my master supply cabinet sent me scrambling for ways to get rid of excess supplies. How could I possibly make room for new materials with so much stuff lying around, and where did it come from, anyways?! I was surprised at how creative students can be with the oddest things. We have been working on inventions and innovations in our science and social studies classes, and as an extension project, students were asked to make an original object out of excess supplies. Most dove for the bubble wrap and came up with some amazing ideas, such as military casts for burn victims and mechanical hands. What’s inside your cupboard just waiting to be explored?
The summer months are perfect for clearances, and back-to-school sales seem to come earlier and earlier each year. Make a list of all of the items you need now so that you won’t be overwhelmed come fall. I find that if I purchase items little by little, my budget doesn’t seem so daunting. In addition, creating an inventory of what you have now will eliminate needless spending on things you already have. Pick a few students to help you with your list. Most love being in charge of such a big responsibility, and are surprised when they find out how much classroom materials cost. What a great idea for a unit on money management!
At the end of each year, I invite the incoming class to my room for a visit. They are required to bring a few questions to be answered during a short Q&A with me after they have viewed a content lesson. In turn, I make a visit to their classroom and make observations to help with my planning for the upcoming year. Because I see them on their own turf, I am able to get a more authentic assessment than if I were to view them in another setting.
What are your plans for the next few weeks? I would love to hear all about them!