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[Classroom Management] 4 Tips for Teachers to Make the Last Few Weeks of School Count

Friday, May 5, 2017 -- McKenna Wierman

The countdown to the last day of school has begun. Summer vacation is just around the corner, and with each passing day, your students are getting more and more excited for the summer camps, playdates, and free time they know are almost within reach. Unfortunately for educators, as your students’ focus shifts to the promise of summer fun, their attention spans wane.

As a teacher, it’s important to arm yourself against summer daydreaming with end-of-the-year engagement strategies and activities to make sure that your students are getting the most out of every moment they spend in the classroom before break.

Here are four tips to make the last few weeks of school count and pack your students’ brains with plenty of learning before summer vacation.

1. Mix up your teaching strategies

Pull out your magic bag of teaching tricks! The end of the school year is the perfect time to use all of the fun teaching strategies you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t gotten around to using yet. Maybe there’s a math lesson from Pinterest that uses fun edible manipulatives or a reading exercise based one of your favorite children’s books that integrates reading theater. Now is the perfect time! Students will be excited to take a new approach to learning, and you’ll feel refreshed by breaking out of your normal teaching routine.

2. Get some fresh air

What better way to beat summer vacation fever than to get outdoors? As spring is heating up and the flowers are blooming, take your class outside for a lesson or two. Plan a plant investigation during your next science lesson, or have everyone take a few props outdoors to reenact a historical event from your social studies unit. Even shared reading under a shady tree on a sunny day can be enough to overcome your students’ impatience for summer and keep them engaged and excited about learning.

3. Shake up class incentives

Whether your students are 5 or 15 years old, using small incentives in the classroom, such as candy, toys, or raffle tickets for a larger prize, can inspire even the most summer-fevered students to snap back into the school attitude and hit the books. Consider adding individual prizes, group challenges, or even class-wide rewards like a pizza party or movie afternoon to your standard incentive strategy. Group-centered activities are especially great because they’ll keep the majority of the class occupied and working toward a common goal. Not only will some spiced-up incentives be something for your students to look forward to, but they will also almost certainly keep students motivated to complete their school work.

4. Make Fridays passion-project days

One of the key things to avoid at the end of the school year is busywork. Instead of trying to fill up the last few weeks of school with endless worksheets, give your students the opportunity to explore passion projects where they will be allowed to research and prepare a presentation for the class on a subject of their choosing. From now until the end of the school year, carve out a reoccurring time for a designated “genius hour” to let students drive their own learning based on individual interests. You can expect to see engagement and motivation increase and get to know your students on a more personal level before the school year comes to a close. If possible, encourage students to use their own electronic devices for research or save their work to a cloud-based storage site like Dropbox so that they can continue working on their passion projects at home and throughout the summer.

The end of the school year is both an exciting and anxious time for students, as they look forward to summer fun but also consider the prospect of not seeing friends at school every day and being in a new classroom next year. What’s important for you as an educator is to help students stay focused on doing their very best and reflect on the progress they’ve made over the school year right up until the final bell rings.

Looking for more ideas for a successful end of the school year? Try these Safe, Fun, and Effective Ideas for the Last Week of School!