Sunday, May 8, 2016

5 Ideas to Help You (and your Students!) Survive the End of the Year

Most teachers are entering those final weeks of the year.  For some of us (like me!) that means we still have standardized testing to get through.  But, more importantly, we want the last few weeks of the year to be as memorable and filled with meaningful learning as the first weeks of the year.  That's not always so easy!

My middle schoolers are DONE with school.  I teach 8th graders so they are done with MIDDLE SCHOOL all together.  They are focused on what high school will be like, what classes they'll be taking, which of their friends will attend their high school, etc. even more than planning for summer.  Like every year, some are done working.  They're letting their 90+ grade drop into the 70's as they just.don'

This may be okay with them (and sadly, even with many of their parents), but it's NOT so okay with me.  A break from learning, sure.  A total "stop" . . . uh, NO.  So, it becomes my job to find something they still want to do that takes them to the next level of learning.  Since 8th graders are pretty savvy about "real work" and what actually interests them, this is a challenge every single year.

Does this describe your classroom too?  Here a few ideas that I've tried successfully over the years:

1.  Let them choose their project.  You know what they still need to learn, but HOW they learn it could be up to them.  Authentic learning is always great and if they feel like they have more control, they're going to be more motivated and take more ownership of the project.  Let them choose whether to do a poster, create a website, use a collage, etc.  You can set up what they need to demonstrate in their learning and then let them choose the "how" of the project.

2.  Have a competition.  Get other students who AREN'T in your class to judge.  We did this for a robotics competition and used 7th graders to judge.  My students wanted to impress these kids, so they really pulled together and worked hard.  You can use competitions for review too - think Jeopardy-style quiz games or free sites like Kahoot to get kids re-excited about learning.  Note:  be prepared for it to get a little loud!

3.  Figure out what they're wasting time on and make it a lesson.  Everyone wants to play computer games?  How about learning how to create one with a free site like Gamestar Mechanic or Sploder?  Neither of these require download and are great for all ages.  We like combining this with a competition where students rate each others' game and give constructive feedback for improvement.

4.  Try something that might be just a little too hard (aka challenging) for them.  My 8th graders have taken on some tough stuff:  AutoCAD, Adobe Photoshop, etc. and done really, really well with it.  I let them work together and help each other, provide them with tutorial links and videos and let them see what they can do without the "stress" of a grade for specifics.  I grade them instead on being on task, working collaboratively, using their resources and trying their best.

5.  Recognize that there are going to be days where no one (including you) wants to work.  The weather is nice, summer is almost here, and they've worked hard all year.  Let them work with a partner, work in a team, use their phone to research information, or just take a "brain break".  Take them outside, plan an activity where they can move around, give them some fun options if they finish early . . . in other words, use that same creativity that has made your year fun and awesome to get you and THEM through these last few weeks.

Who has other ideas to share?

1 comment:

  1. #5 Yes! We take our novels outside and read in the grass or at our tables. It makes it seem so much less like "class" but we are still working hard. :)