As the school calendar grows short, the weather turns warm, and the testing bubbles are completely filled in, teachers all over the country embark on the epic task of keeping students engaged. To help you in this battle, we have rounded up tips and tricks for the end of the school year from some of our favorite veteran teachers:
I love to have my 9th graders write tips for success for the rising class. This helps validate all that they've learned throughout the year - everything from the basic, organizational stuff ("Put your name on your paper!") to more in-depth analytical skills ("Keep an eye out for foreshadowing!"). They create these tips in the form of a poster, and then I have my back-to-school decorations ready to go!
Attendance may be erratic in May/June due to end-of-the-year testing. Also vacation dreams interrupt attention spans. Because of these factors, an individual novel study is a realistic option. Students’ choose the text that they will study and create a daily reading/writing calendar that recognizes their scheduled exams. After they select a novel and obtain teacher and parent approval, they complete a variety of required activities during their reading. A few ideas are: a general novel packet with four aspects- 20 book notes, a plot diagram, 10-15 quotes and a short essay on theme; an essay (500-750 words) that develops each student’s topic, an individual project such as a CD of music that chronologically fits various scenes, a graphic novel based on the book, or a character Facebook page. A group project such as Threads is also an option. Here, four students discuss their individual novels, and then create a chart that reveals 20 connections the four books shared. Teachers may also consider other activities that address students’ visual, auditory and/or kinesthetic learning styles. This plan keeps students on-task and challenged by substantive activities during the hectic final weeks of the term.
By high school, most SLPs aren’t scurrying to arrange Summer carry-over. But for SLPs working with students with complex communication needs, who use augmentative communication (AAC), keeping kids communicating all summer long is crucial. My #1 tip for these SLPs is to do a final back-up of AAC systems before students come to the end of the school year. If your students are able to take high tech systems home, you want to make sure their data is safe, just in case something happens to it over the summer. This will save lots of time and heartache come Back to School time! If your students are unable to take their high tech systems home over the summer, make sure to create a paper-based back-up for them to use while they’re out of school. This will keep them communicating over the summer with familiar-looking picture displays. Make sure the back-up book is organized with the same structure and vocabulary organization and location as the tech system. You don’t want the student to suddenly hit a steep learning curve when he’s also lost his voice. Be careful about just printing out the pages from the high tech system without adding a way for the student to navigate, such as tabs. Don’t revert to basic choice boards or PECS in the interim. This will take away valuable communication opportunities throughout the summer.
I save a full length drama for our focus in fourth quarter. I find that assigning parts to students can keep many of them involved in the reading in a fun, fast paced way. On especially warm days when student attention is waning, I bring them up to the front of the room to act out the scene or take the whole class outside for some some basic, but energetic theater warm up activities before returning to the plot of our classic play.
Get crafty! Middle School students don't generally have the opportunity to be in art classes in many of our schools today. And at the end of the year when students' brains are shutting down, arts and crafts can be a saving grace! Since we will be reading "Love That Dog" by Sharon Creech in my ELA class soon, I am envisioning a pop-up card that visually depicts a poem (without words) from the book. Or maybe we can create found poems made from words cut out of magazines related to the theme. We could also choose to paint - perhaps creating painted rocks to convey the mood or tone of the book. Maybe we'll have a menu and choose from all three ideas! Whatever we choose to do, I will surely be playing some classical music in the background for the full creative experience.
On the days leading up to the end of the school year, students have usually completely shut down their studious brains and fully engaged their frolicsome personalities. On such days, giving students free time is about as much fun for the teacher as having a root canal. Some teachers need activities to keep students engaged during seemingly endless class periods, and others need good activities for students to work on after they finish semester exams. Activities that are short and entertaining are the key to success.
At the end of the school year, warm, sunny days offer fierce competition for our students’ attention. I like to engage students by providing them with creative assignments and choices. After exploring poetry writing stations or trying a variety of short story prompts, students choose one to focus on and ultimately turn in. Kids are much more motivated and engaged when they have the freedom to work on something they like.