Teaching Opinion

#FinishStrong or Go Down Trying

By Starr Sackstein — June 06, 2017 2 min read
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The first week of school is extremely important in setting the tone, but ending strong is equally as important. Depending on the age level you teach, in my case high school, leaving students with a sense of excitement and urgency about learning can make or break their feelings for upcoming learning as well.

With four days of learning left in school before New York state exams begin, teachers are challenged to make classes more than just review days from a test packet. We want to ensure that all students are wrapping up successful years but are also continuing to enrich the experience.

So how can we keep kids coming to school and ramp up excitement for future learning?

Consider the following:

  • Plan a celebration of learning that isn’t just a party, but an opportunity for kids to journey backward and reflect about their growth this year. Give them opportunities to look at older work and recognize that they can do more now than they could before.
  • Portfolio presentations are a great way for students to talk about learning and set goals for the summer and next year. They can even write a letter to themselves about things they learned this year that they want to continue working on or areas that they feel they are ready to expand to.
  • Teach kids about different learning opportunities that happen every day outside of school. Provide them with lists of free programs and/or museums or experiences that they can participate in over the summer.
  • Encourage students to blog about something they care about and get them started before school ends. Give them resources for research or perhaps excellent fan fiction sites for their favorite books. Students do love to write or vlog.
  • Teach kids about how they can use social media apps like Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat to create memories and write captions that capture the moments they are snapping photos and videos of.
  • Have students share their favorite books from the year that they read on their own. Ask each student to do a short presentation and then put together a google doc where they each share their top picks. Encourage students to read independently without a reading log.
  • Remind students that movies are texts too, so if they want to see movies, they should try to connect what they see to other learning they have done. What does the movie remind them of? Was there a book associated with it? Do they want to read the book now too?
  • Another great activity to foster relationships in classes is to have students share what they learned from each other. One simple way to do this is to ask each child to place a blank sheet of paper on his or her back and then have the students write little notes about learning on them to be shared at the end. Students love to hear what classmates appreciate and respect about each other.

One final effort I like to make is to write each of my students a short note by hand or by email depending on the time. I like to thank each student for what they’ve taught me over the course of the year and let them know I appreciated their contribution.

Since school is really about relationships, finishing strong is as much about the content as it is about the personal growth. Let’s focus on the positive and try to move forward in our learning experiences from each opportunity presented.

What great activities or suggestions do you have to finish strong this 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.