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I switched up the routinesThe first thing I always look at is my routines. Some are necessary for structure and sanity. Letting my students know what to expect each day minimizes behaviors and keeps things flowing in the classroom. Some routines, however, can be tweaked a bit to provide some much-needed relief and change of pace, especially during the last nine weeks. For example, if you have a variety of seating in your room, can you move things around? Try switching students with another teacher. You’d be amazed at how well they behave for someone new. Even Johnny, who constantly needs an attitude adjustment. What about “bell ringers” or “exit tickets”? If your students are groaning every time they hear one of those words, it might be time to change things up a bit! Any time I can be creative, it usually gets me excited about teaching, which turns into students that are excited about learning. For bell ringers, for example, I tried something different as the school year wound down. I made a puzzle cut out of a political cartoon and let my students put it together at their desk instead of doing bell work. They LOVED it! After the puzzles were put together we discussed the cartoon, the symbolism, audience, and author’s purpose. One student said, "Wait, are we not doing bell work today?" I told her this WAS the bell work, and she got the biggest smug smile of satisfaction on her face. Switching up the routines and adding in the unexpected can help your students get excited about learning and stay motivated.
I focused on what was absolutely necessary, and then added in the unexpected!The next thing I look at is the necessities. What do I HAVE to make sure I cover? Also, what has to be covered before testing, and what can wait until afterward? Once I know those things, I hop on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or whatever my current idea space is, and begin searching. Things I have found and used in the past are: BreakoutBoxes, Scavenger Hunts, or (my personal favorite) digital escape rooms.
I shifted the focus to student-centered learning.This is something that I now try to do very early in the year. Sure, there are times that I will lecture and teach the lesson with all eyes on me. However, once I realized it was time to hand the reins over to the students and let them take ownership of their own learning, everything changed! The last nine weeks are perfect times for project-based learning activities like Genius Hour or other passion projects! Student-centered learning often focuses on meta-cognition. Get your students thinking (and talking) about their own learning processes. One way I do this is with a four corners activity with opinion questions. (If you’re just asking a multiple choice question, students tend to follow the “smartest kid” and in the end is not effective.) My students choose an answer and head to the designated corner of the room. Then they turn and talk with the person standing beside them justifying their answer. Of course, this is effective because my students get moving and interactive! Asking an opinion question and making sure they justify their response really makes them put their meta-cognition cap on!
I found different ways to review.Put the study guides away! If I am looking for a simple knowledge review, I might just change up the medium. Instead of paper-pencil, I ask students to review via online resources like Formative. In years when I haven’t had access to devices, I give students the opportunity to create review board games then other students play them and give them feedback. It’s an amazing opportunity to see what students remember and what they don’t - both for the creators and the players!
I made learning a competition!I have also found that pretty much any competition will get students interested. Prizes can be simple little trinkets like stickers or pieces of candy, no matter what age group you teach! Using that competitiveness towards the end of the year is a great way to get everyone’s energy up, and the students will forget that they’re even learning! Easy-to-prep games like relay races, Kahoot, NearPod or Around-The-World will be adaptive enough for just about any content area. For other awesome ideas, check out Edrenaline Rush, a book about student engagement and making your class feel like an amusement park!
I brought energy and enthusiasm every day!To put things as plainly as possible, the students will pick up on whatever energy you bring to the classroom each day. So I try to be the best, most exciting, most engaging teacher possible. I change things up, especially towards the end of the year. I keep them guessing, wondering what fun activity is waiting for them in my class today.
Yes, there is a countdown of days in the back of my mind during those last two months of school. Yes, state-wide testing saps the energy and will out of almost every person in school. But if I can’t be the role model these students need, who will? I want those students to be able to say not only I SURVIVED but also I loved it! That’s when I will know I have done my best as I SURVIVED The Last Two Months Of School.
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