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?
Room 213 says
What's your best tip or trick for getting to the end of the year still smiling?
Dana Smith says
I like to have the kids teach a lesson. They choose something they are interested in and teach their class about it. They enjoy sharing a little bit of themselves.
Aubrie Olsen says
I love the tip of finishing with speaking assignments. I always do some sort of presentation activity for the end to keep grading simple since our grades are due the last day of school. It is a great way to keep the kids engaged until the end, but not kill the teacher!
gently mad in cairo says
Thanks for these awesome suggestions! My favorite tip is to finish with speaking assignments! It's too late for me to do that this year, as I have a writing assignment planned the week before their finals. Blech 🙁 Never again!
Kelly Paul says
I loved your post! I just finished with my 3rd graders this past Thursday! I wish this post had come about 2 months ago, haha. I definitely needed your tip about finishing with speaking assignments. I was collecting written work until the end & ended up not having anything from the last week & a half, b/c I had no time to grade before report cards! What pass your favorite method of engaging other students while kiddos present? Thanks again for the tips!
Monica W. says
I ended my year with a research project and it turned out great with the help of your revision stations! I'm new to middle school teaching and am now singing the praises of stations post-primary school! By giving the kids guided independence, I could see them taking more pride in their work! I'm planning to implement more station work next year and re-writing my curriculum.
Kelly Wade says
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly Wade says
I love doing STEM projects, so I have several that I still need my class to do. I also do an "Around the World" project where students research and report on different countries around the world. Then my students look at sand from these different countries under the microscope. It opens a whole new world to my class because the sand is so beautiful!!
I like the recommendation to reflect on why students are unable to be independent by the end of the year. While finishing Taming of the Shrew, my students are answering the question "Can a person's environment change who they truly are?" We are looking at Katharina to answer this theme question.
Thank you for the suggestions! I just had my classes complete "The Big Pitch" project. It's similar to the show Shark Tank and the students have to create their own business plan or invention and present it to the class. It had them working as a team, researching, and creating a plan with visuals. It went extremely well and their presentations were great!
Meredith Bidlen says
At the conclusion of our novel unit, my juniors and seniors in the career-technical high school where I teach create a product that connects to their lab program. Once completed, they present it to the class. This allows me to end the year with my sanity in tact!
SoonToBe Mrs. Mathews says
My seniors end the year with a TED talk about something that matters to them. It's always a good project that lets them reminisce about all they have accomplished the last four years as well something to think about as they head off into the real world. I waited too late in the year to adapt it down to my 8th graders and come up with something to get them talking but I will definitely plan for it next time around.
Bre Ryan says
I like the idea of having my students move around in the classroom while working on lessons in general, but I especially like the idea of incorporating movement and activity at the end of the year when they are antsy and anxious to get outside. Besides, it's proven that our brains are stimulated when we are active, so students will learn better with added activity!
Jennifer Willes says
Love the reminder to let them to do the work this time of year. It's easy to try filling every minute with review, but using the concepts themselves really shows what they can and cannot do by now. Thanks!
Lyndsey Gresehover says
I love the tip about letting students do most of the work. This is exactly what they need, and it will be more engaging for them, as well. Thanks so much for sharing!
Clearly Myself says
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eileen Akroush says
I always save a novel for the end of the year. The kids love to read them and they enjoy being put in groups to discuss them. We spend time discussing the chapters they read independently or with groups.
Eileen Akroush says
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bearz mom says
I taught k-2 for the first 17 years of my career. I moved and got a job teaching fifth grade reading year before last along with helping out in 3rd and 7th. Last year I taught all fifth grade history and ELA. So, each year since I've been there I[ve had to learn something new. It looks like this coming year I will be teaching all ELA again but in 6th-7th. Hopefully that will be my last move. I want to have engaging activities that the students will enjoy and not really realize they are working. However, I also need easy because I will be learning 2 new curriculums. I've had both classes before in fifth grade and one of the biggest challenges is that they do not like to read at all. I tried choice reading. I tried literacy circles. I tried helping them to find something that sparked their interest, but still they hate to read. Some are good readers, but they still don't like it. I am interested in incorporating more technology , like online literacy circles. I tried BLOGs last year and some of my kids really enjoyed it, but I ran out of things to ask them and have them post about.I also like the idea I hear some of you talking about regarding stations with older kids. Where can I get more info on these things? Any other suggestions or ideas? Thanks
Bearz mom says
oh one more thing I forgot to mention. I will only have each group for 1 hour a day. 2 6th grade groups and 2 7th grade groups.
Room 213 says
HI, Bearz Mom! Sounds like you've had a busy career! I hope it's your last move too. I think reader's and writer's workshop are great ways to engage kids. I have a number of blog posts about reader's workshop already (http://reallearningroom213.blogspot.ca/2015/08/readers-workshop-assessment.html) and will be writing about writer's workshop in the coming months. My students LOVE stations–I have quite a few posts on that too (http://reallearningroom213.blogspot.ca/2016/06/learning-stations-in-secondary-classroom.html). I've had a lot of success with blogs and have a free product on TpT to help with that: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Blogging-with-Your-Students-1115395. I hope some of that helps! I try to provide lots of useable tips on this blog, so if you spend some time reading through it you might get more ideas. You can also check out my store on TpT to find some products that may help. (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Room-213) All the best!