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Teaching Opinion

7 Tips for Finishing Out the Calendar Year Strong

By Starr Sackstein — December 22, 2015 2 min read
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With two school days left in the calendar year, it’s easy to want to put on the autopilot.

Spirits are high and focus is at a premium.

The kids are ready for a break, and let’s face it, so are we.

There is a palpable energy at this time of year that can easily derail meaningful learning experiences, but we mustn’t allow the usual urge to default to a movie to take over.

This is an excellent time for review, reflection and celebration. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the hard work of students by displaying work and sharing it and offering multiple opportunities for students to think about their learning.

Here are some suggestions to make sure the first half of the year ends productively:

  • Make sure lessons are planned meaningfully with active lessons that engage students. It’s probably not a good time to start new material, but it is a good time for connecting material that has already been taught. Consider stations or diving deeper into material that has already been learned to expand on the learning and provide more opportunities for mastery.
  • If projects have newly come in, plan a gallery walk or some kind of celebration where kids can share their hard work and prepare thoughtful feedback. For example, my students have finished satire movies. We spend the last few days of classes screening the movies and sharing feedback about what we’ve watched. Sharing the excitement of seeing each other’s amazing work, and also offering opportunities to be accountable for what they see.
  • Collaboration opportunities are good too. Allow students the chance to select something they’ve learned this year that they would like to go more deeply in and set up areas in the room for kids to be working on different work. This can also be a good time to pair up older students with younger ones to share a positive experience like tutoring or creating something new together.
  • Add some planned reflection time where students can write, record or draw their reflections in a meaningful way. As them to brainstorm favorite moments or highs and lows of the year so far. Steer them away from talking about grades or tests and more toward specific material/skills they have learned and can apply moving forward.
  • Consider some goal setting as they wrap up the reflections. What would they like to continue working on after they have looked closely at portfolio work or set up conference time to start working on strategies for the goals they are creating.
  • Create a wall display of student thoughts about learning that allows them to take ownership of what the room looks like.
  • If students blog, consider allowing time to work on blogs and share posts to provide feedback to each other about what they writing and reading.

There are many opportunities for us to take our work seriously and make sure students are learning as they need to be. As we wrap up the year, remember to involve students in the decisions that impact them most. Remember to tell them how much they have improved and always encourage them to keep on pushing.

Try to make the most of these remaining days, although they may feel long at times, they will pass quickly.

How are you making the most of your last few days of this calendar year? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.