by Erin Klein, Guest Columnist
So the topic this month is end of year, and there are so many different ways one could go in writing a sharing tips to prepare for year end. Do we want to talk about the students, winding down, finals, teaching “gear”, the summer, etc? There are so many topics wrapped up with end of year that I decided to simply share one of my philosophies on each.
End of the Year – Winding Down
I’m sure in many areas the weather will soon become a source of much angst and excitement for the students. As the nights become longer and the days become warmer, you can expect the attention level of students to begin to waver. Summer daydreams are beginning and in upper grade levels, some students will come to know that they’ve done enough to receive the grade they desired. So how do we keep them interested?
I’ll share a quick and easy tips to keep things interesting as the dog days begin. First, use that weather as an advantage instead of a disadvantage. Take the students on a nature walk, go outside for reading, or looking for real life math examples. Measurement, capacity, shapes, etc can all be found just as easily in nature as they can in the classroom. Secondly, let the students know that this can be a normal part of the routine, but allow them to determine the subject or lesson. Are doing math, reading ,science, etc? Give bonus points or your leftover treasure box items to the students that come up with the most clever usage of the great outdoors.
End of Year – The Students
As discussed above, the students may of course start to become a bit overexcited for summer. A great way to utilize that excitement is to have them share it out. Are they going on a great trip or looking forward to a sports season? Let’s do some writing about it. Maybe if we are caught up enough, we could do a short play with a small group acting out each others plans for the summer ahead.
End of Year – Finals
Looking back on my middle school days, I can clearly recall the dread many students held for final exams during the end of school year. My take on finals is that teachers must be very reasonable and fair about your weighting and questions included in a true final exam.
And the true final exam—those are pretty rare based on my experience. By a true final, I am talking about a cumulative exam of all subject matter for the marking period, introducing no new material that has not been tested upon.
This is often difficult to time. Many teachers simply resort to making the final unit test the final exam and weighting it as such. This is ineffective and suggests that lessons in May are more important than lessons in February, as they are weighted higher. A true final gives a student an opportunity to review upon previous assessments and make necessary improvements-after all, the goal is to learn the material. Making the last test the final exam is often an easy way to manipulate scheduling, but provides no benefit to the student.
End of Year – Your Teaching “Gear”
Have you ever came back to a classroom that is not in the same condition that you left it? I’m sure we all have. Job 1 to making sure you are happy with the room you return to is to make friends with the cleaning crews. These people will still be in your room when you are not. There will likely be HVAC personnel cleaning vents, painters, etc . in your space. Make sure you have an advocate within the group of people that will be at school in the summer.
Regarding taking things home- take only the things that you can’t lose or need to work with over the summer. Maybe your document camera, some tech tools, a couple professional books, etc. Don’t take your entire classroom. Chances are you will return to a bit of a mess anyway-and the back and forth of furniture, books, globes, etc will not help.
Finally, if you have a decision to make during the summer, make it quickly. Something as simple as changing rooms or grade levels has a domino effect on people behind you that you will not even see. IF you have an opportunity to move to a bigger or better classroom, make a decision early and get moved early. That will allow for the next person facing the same decision to act quickly, and so on. Often times decisions about changing grade levels can effect the overall employment of an another employee. Keep this in mind when your deciding if you need a bigger room or want to be next to your best friend. Your decision will affect more than you. It’s your decision to make, but you need to pull the trigger.
End of Year – The Summer
It’s so easy to get in the habit of just taking the summer and letting it fly away. Many of us are still students in our own right, some teach summer school, present, parent, or participate in any number of activities. All of these things are great, in fact, I do or have done all of them during my summers. But they all take time and energy—even sitting next to the pool drinking margaritas takes energy.
So what can I do in the summer to effect my classroom in the school year? I suppose this was probably a question would have been better to pose in the fall, but I’ll say it anyway. In your classroom throughout the year, make a small list of small projects that will make your teaching life easier. Keep in mind-I’m not advocating for teaching for free all summer, I’m just talking about things that could improve your fall and spring and reduce stress later. Level some books, make copies, or improve a lesson plan on a rainy day. Take a few minutes ever y week to get some things off your plate now while you have time that will bother you later when you don’t.
Have a great summer!
About the Author
Erin Klein is a second grade teacher in Michigan and author of the award winning edu tech blog, Kleinspiration. She is also a certified SMART Board Trainer and SMART Exemplary Educator. Erin serves as the Michigan Reading Association’s co-technology chairperson and is a member of The National Writing Project.