Whether you’ve already finished your school year, or like me you have a few weeks left with the kids, it’s always good to start planning for the end — of next year. I know we still have to get to the light at the end of this tunnel, but for most of us we’ve already set those plans in motion. Right now we’re doing our best to keep them in the seats and focused as we race to finish curriculum and prepare our students for final assessments.
However, it’s always a good idea to make some notes and plans for next year before we head off for the summer. Here’s what I do that works for me, some tips and tricks that allow me to walk across the finish line rather than drag myself across it:
1. Plan to stop “teaching” long before the kids are done. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be learning new material, but they should be the ones doing most of the work. It’s time for them to show me what they know and to practice their skills. On a typical May day in my room, you’ll see students working together in groups, discussing what they think is important in the text they are studying. Or they will be working independently as they conduct research or work on or revise their writing/project. By this point, they are well aware of my expectations and the routine of the classroom. They are quite used to gathering together to discuss the notes they’ve made on their reading, and have been given the feedback and tools they need to write and research; because I’ve worked on making them independent readers, writers and thinkers, I can wander around the room, guiding them, rather than putting on a teacher-directed show every day — which is much less tiring.
2. Use an inquiry or multi-genre project as a final assessment. By their very nature, these projects require students to think and work independently, and are an excellent way to measure their ability to think critically. These projects take a little upfront planning from you. You can check out how I use an inquiry approach on this blog post.
3. Do some backward design. If you’d like to be a facilitator rather than a “sage on the stage” at the end of your semester, you need to figure out what skills your students will need to be independent. And it’s important to reflect on this now, while it’s fresh in your mind. Spend some time thinking about what would prevent your current classes from working independently; what skills are they lacking? Make a list of what they can and can’t do; then, spend some time planning for what skills you need to develop at the beginning of the semester. If you’d like, you can download some organizers to help you with this HERE. Not sure where to start? I’ve got several blog posts that focus on how I build these skills: Getting your students to dig deeper, Now that’s a good question, Essay writing: Removing the mystery, and Close reading and student responsibility.
4. Finish with a lot of speaking assignments. That way, when you are at your most tired, you can mark on the spot, rather than take home another pile of papers. Again, you can’t do this without some planning and skill building, so you need to build in opportunities for students to learn these skills throughout the semester. Start small with low risk situations, so they can build their confidence for end of the term assessments. I have some blog posts to help you with this too: Get more engagement with a no-hands policy, Speaking and listening as part of the pre-writing process, Tweaking my socratic seminar, Speaking & listening and teaching on the fly.
5. Plan for movement. I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to this point, but for me it’s one of the most important things we can do for our students. I try to incorporate movement in every class and for me (and my students), it makes all the difference in the world for their engagement and learning. Here’s some more info on how I get my kids out of their seats: Ten simple ways to get your students moving and learning, Learning stations: one of my favourites from 2015, Gallery walks for critical thinking, Chart paper, post-its and formative assessment.
6. Take your class outside–but keep them working. It’s hot. Everyone wants to be anywhere but school (including you), but the work still needs to get done. Make some plans for ways you can go outside and keep your students focused. Here’s some ideas from me: Open the walls of your classroom.
How do you plan for the end of the year?