Survive the end-of-the-year frenzy in your classroom…
with five great tips to help reduce the chaos and maintain the learning. It’s May here in northern California, and we have six weeks left of school. I’m already thinking about how to keep the learning moving along while harnessing the ever-increasing energy levels of students. Here are my top five tips for thriving and surviving during this last month of school:
5. Make or use games for review.
Some of my favorites include what I call Zip-around (I Have…, Who Has…). I use it for social studies, language arts, and vocabulary review. In Zip-around, one card has the answer to one question and a new question which leads to the next card. I limit the amount of times a class can play with the same card because kids come to expect which student comes before them, so three times seems to be a perfect number. Kids love to compete with other classes. In my case, I have two different classes during my day, so they compete with one another.
I also love using task cards in a variety of ways. Task cards are easy to create and even easier to find on Teachers Pay Teachers. My favorite way to use them is to put them up around a designated space. Partner up students, give them a clip board and answer sheet, and get them up and moving. Ideally, task cards are best used when reviewing subject matter.
4. Use goofy songs to help memorize lists, concepts, etc.
I have a song for memorizing prepositions (99 Bottles of Pop on the Wall), helping verbs (Happy Birthday), irregular verbs (Over the River and Through the Woods). A co-worker who teaches math has the Quadratic Equation Song (Jingle Bells). Kids love to compete with themselves and one another to see who can get the fastest time singing the song. I keep a list of the top ten fastest times on the board in front of the room. Kids often ask to compete. They consider it “fun” time, and I roll with it! If you’re not a singer, it doesn’t matter. Kids love it when their teachers admit they’re not good at something. And it’s a great lesson for them to see you trying. (Plus, there’s YouTube!) Here’s a link to my version of the Preposition Song.
3. Create simulations to encourage participation.
When we study ancient Greece, students work in groups to earn points. Points are awarded for a variety of things: time on task, completed work, collaboration, getting started quickly, answering questions correctly, etc. It’s easy to implement such a system:
- assign a recorder who keeps track of points,
- create a point record sheet,
- and every so often record the group points on a class chart for all to see.
When you decide the simulation is done, determine a winner and offer some group reward like ice cream, popcorn, movie, etc. Additionally, students choose a Greek name, dress in a toga (a bed sheet), and get to draw Fate Cards. Fate Cards are simply questions about what we’ve been studying and several random cards that either award or take away points. For example, if we’ve been reading about the geography of Greece, one fate card I put into the drawing is “What were some of the difficulties the ancient Greeks faced when traveling by land?” A random card may say something like “The gods must be crazy. Add 20 points.” Or students may have to do a task like “Create a cheer in honor of Zeus. It must be at least five lines long. Perform it for the class by Friday and earn 30 points.”
Each card is worth a certain number of points. One person from each group gets to draw a card each time you offer the opportunity. You can see how easy it is to create a point system and cards.
2. Offer simple rewards if a goal is met.
Has your class reached a goal for number of books read? 90% of the class passing the math test? Great behavior for a guest teacher? Popsicles are a great reward to celebrate. You may also consider using a weekly point system for the last few weeks. Each day if the class earns so many points for behavior, work, collaboration, quietly entering the room, etc. these transfer to “game time” on Friday. 15 minutes of game time is a huge reward!
And the number 1 tip…
1. Keep things as normal as possible.
This is the most important of the five. The more you maintain a sense or normalcy, the calmer your students will be. It took me several years to figure this out. I used to think that I had to have celebrations, field trips, and lots of unique and exciting events. I realized that I was running myself ragged. Students started to spin with excitement. If you’ve spent any time at all around a school, you know what I mean when I say “energy tornado.” Right? You can feel it! One of my favorite activities for the end-of-the-year is book clubs. Kids are absorbed in reading their novels. They know they’ll have to meet and discuss their reading, so they read with more intensity and focus. Since book clubs are a bit special (I serve tea and cookies), it feels like a reward! Check out this link to everything you’ll need to successfully run book clubs. Read this blog post for more details on setting up book clubs.
Sure, I will have one or two high-energy events, but otherwise I keep the days as normal as possible. I will also add in several reflection opportunities that are fun and unique, but they’re simple to prep and easy to implement. Here’s to a great end of your school year!