It's that time of the year. Countdown calendars are posted on classroom doors, summer camp sign-ups are underway, and testing season is complete!
But wait, that countdown on the door still says 10 days! There is no way we can do "my favorite memory of the year writing" for the next two weeks. It was a common problem for me early in my teaching career, and I am sure I am not the only one who scratched his head when trying to figure out how to maintain order and keep my sanity before that final bell rang on the final day. Here are ideas that you can do in those final days of the year to be productive and engaging:
1) Preview the next grade: Give a "teaser" for what the students will encounter next year. Talk to the teacher in the next grade level and find out what they start the year off with and give the students a sneak peek about what they will see in the fall.
2) Self-selected study: Students select a topic that interests them, from music to sports to hobbies, the students choose a specific topic and create an array of products that demonstrate their deeper learning on the topic. I ended up doing this in my fifth grade classes for several years and had some amazing presentations! My favorite ever was Hunter bringing in his dirt bike and giving us all lessons on how it works.
3) Community service project: Collectively choose a service project that the class would like to do. Discuss what is realistic, meaningful, and impactful in a short period of time. Assign groups to different roles and tasks with timelines attached. Some ideas may include collecting items for a food bank, hosting a community yard sale, or cleaning up an area of town.
4) Put on a performance: Perhaps there was a book or topic that truly engaged the class this year. Come back to that topic by writing and putting on a performance of that story. Invite the parents to come watch the final product.
5) Keep on teaching: Inevitably, there will be topics or content that you simply just ran out of time to teach before the tests came. Use the remaining time in the year to keep on teaching like nothing changed! For those of you thinking my students are already checked out, think first "are you checked out?"
6) Memory projects: It is fun to reminisce about the year. There are a number of fun things you can do to remember the year: scrap books, ABC book about the year, video commercials or testimonials. You can also do something more artsy like designing tshirts or a class mosaic. I have been to a number of schools where the teachers are allowed to take ceiling tiles down and paint them with memories of the class.
7) Superlatives: True superlatives are typically reserved for senior year of high school, but you can create fun class or grade level superlatives that are appropriate for the grade. We used to have fifth grade superlatives like "most responsible," "best friend," "kindest," "most athletic," "most studious," and so on. We did them as a grade level, so we had nominations from each of the five classes and then created one ballot for everything.
8) Play with technology: If your school is fortunate to have an array of technology that perhaps did not fit into your day-to-day teaching, this is a great time to test out platforms or devices that you could learn more about and then use next year.
Whatever you decide to do, remember, it is all about the presentation. Students will acclimate with the culture of the classroom. If you present the final days as an opportunity to still learn and be engaged, they will follow suit.
Enjoy the final moments with your students and leave them with an ending to remember!