Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Revamping the End of the School Year to Maximize Your Instruction

Students are not robots. We can’t press a button to program their learning and expect it to be consistent day in, day out. Things happen that are beyond our control. Take the end of the school year for example. Think for two seconds about your students and how the climate of the room changes when they realize there are only two, five or even ten days of school left. Pretty chaotic, right? Thought so. Read on if you’d like to learn how to make this time more productive. 

The last weeks of school have always been a point of concern to me. I look around and realize the majority of our time is spent either finishing last minute assessments or cleaning up the classroom and preparing materials for summer storage. Every time I get into this habit I always think about how there has to be a better use of my time. There has to be something I can do that is far more academically productive, yet at the same time engages these children who are three seconds away from going into full blown summer mode. 

This past school year, I had an idea to change all of the mismanaged time. I thought long and hard then decided to turn the month of June into something new and exciting for the kids. I realized that not only was it important to keep their attention, but it was also important to provide them with quality instruction that would help them with their transition into 5th grade. I decided to take a risk and try three brand new programs that I have never done before. I wanted to select things that were not only new to me, but new to my students as well. After a lot of thinking and researching I decided to facilitate a BreakoutEDU lesson, a Mystery Skype session and also try my hand at using periscope to connect student families to our classroom. At the time, each of these programs were completely new to me. I had read about them, but had never used them first hand. 

So why on earth would I take these rambunctious kids and do something that was 100% out of our daily routine? I did this because not only was I providing my students with additional skills they will need in their future, but this was also a perfect time for me as the teacher to try out new programs for the following school year. Now let me tell you, they learned a lot… But I learned a TON! It was a perfect opportunity to get the kids focused again yet at the same time it provided me with an outlet to reflect on my practice and figure out how to make my instruction better for future classes.

Responses from parents were through the roof. They were raving about how excited their kids were for all of our new projects. A few parents even admitted that their kids were quoted saying they did not want to leave school for summer. Now I don’t know about you, but when a kid says they don’t want to leave you know you’re doing something right. 

My challenge to you is to make the end of the school year a priority for stretching your instruction. Although it may be so far away that it’s completely out of your frame of mind, make a note, set a reminder, or write on your calendar to use the last few weeks of school as an experimental month for you and your students. Start by researching tool and programs that are completely out of your comfort zone, study up on them throughout the school year and then implement them in June (or whenever your district wraps up) and see how things go. I encourage you to make time to push yourself beyond your comfortable place and become a better educator for our students. Push yourself for you, but even more than that, push yourself for them.