To end the year on a high note, it’s important to keep students learning until the last day of school. This is easier said than done since students, and often teachers as well, are excited about the end of the year. All this excitement can make it difficult to ensure learning is taking place.
In order to combat this, teachers must use creative strategies that will be more engaging to students than the average lesson. Many teachers already have these tricks up their sleeve—it's just a matter of putting them into action and remembering to keep the focus on learning.
Here are a few ideas for how to make sure students remain engaged as the end of the year approaches:
- Keep it competitive: Games and contests are fun for students—and they’re engaging, too. By creating a competition with a learning skill, it can keep the students focused.
- Allow for more choice: During the last month of school, most benchmark and state assessments have been completed. This doesn’t mean that students are “done” for the year, but it can make it easier to let them choose their content and how they learn about a particular topic.
- Experiment with technology: Is there an app or device you've been wanting to use all year, but haven't found the time? Because this is a “lower stakes” time of year, it’s the perfect time to figure it out.
- Stay motivated: If you’re motivated, the students will be, too. Try to do whatever it takes to make sure you stay sharp until the very end. If the teacher is excited, the students will be excited as well.
- Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate: All of the hard work that has happened throughout the year can become a celebration of learning. For all the different talents and uniqueness in the classroom, the teacher can find ways to celebrate each individual student.
Now that we have some ideas for the “big picture” of how we approach learning and students as we wind down the year, we can look at a few specific, practical examples of how we can apply these concepts. These are just a few ideas of course, and most teachers will find creative and engaging ways to teach. But if you are stuck as you consider alternatives, here are a few suggestions:
- Allow for creative ideas to flow: All of our kids have unique skills, talents, and interests. This is a great time of year to allow students to demonstrate these skills through projects. The more creative, the better. This may sound like a vague, conceptual idea—which it is. That’s the point! Allow the students to be creative and create learning in an area in which they excel.
- Reader’s theater: Look through all the stories you didn't get to in your basal reader, then have the kids pick one story and create a reader’s theater for it. Students will be motivated by the ability to choose and can play to their strengths for all the different roles required. The best readers can have the biggest parts, and some of the smaller roles can go to less confident students. Reader’s theaters are great for practicing inflection, voice, and reading fluency.
- Contests of all kinds: Spelling bees, math facts, and states and capitals are all good challenges to have students compete in. These competitions are engaging and more meaningful for students than typical spelling tests or multiplication fact tests. Practicing a few rounds before the contest can help kids to not give up or lose focus it they don’t win right away.
- Take something apart: Many schools have graveyards of old, unused electronic equipment ready to be discarded. This can be a gold mine for kids—especially at the end of the year. Keep in mind that some of these materials can be dangerous, so do your homework before the kids start digging in. But if it is safe, this is a cool experience for students to see what’s inside a VCR or floppy disk drive.
- Have the kids master the technology: Above, I mentioned the idea to have teachers try technology that they haven’t been able to get to during the year. Why not allow the students to help with this? Have them use the apps to create lessons to teach and then share how they liked it. Not only is this a practical experience for kids, it can make them feel important and “in charge.”
Keep kids learning, engaged, and motivated by keeping the learning fresh. Here’s to a great end of the year for all classrooms across the country!
Be sure to check out our Educator blog, which features EOY lesson ideas, forums, and more inspiring content from other educators. Want even more resources on how to enhance and improve your curriculum? Check out our learning guides.