Eight Ways to Finish the School Year Strong

The last couple of months can be the most trying of the year! There are many activities happening both on and off-campus that can distract students and make it harder for them to focus during the school day. It’s important for you to be intentional in everything you do to help them stay on track and stay motivated to learn. Here are a few ideas that will help you finish the school year strong. 

  1. Structure and Expectations – To keep your classroom on an even keel, it’s important to keep routines and schedules as consistent as possible. The same goes for classroom behavior and expectations. You’ve worked hard all year to create a positive environment where students know what to expect and will continue to grow. Small group sessions should continue as long as possible to keep kids moving forward, but also to continue growing the relationships they’ve formed with you and their peers. 

  1. Make a Plan -You’ve been planning all year, and it’s really important not to “go with the flow” the last few weeks of school. Good ole Ben Franklin said it best, “if you don’t prepare, you prepare to fail”. Consider all the events on campus that will interrupt your normal schedule like awards ceremonies, class performances, etc., and plan activities that will keep your students engaged. Having a plan prevents your classroom from descending into bedlam, preventing the last few weeks from becoming one long nightmare.

  1. Be Realistic and Keep it Simple– It can be overwhelming to think of all that is left to cover in such a short amount of time. Take a breath and focus on the essential skills and make a plan for those. Now is not the time to assign big projects or long assignments that require an extensive amount of time for students to complete and for you to grade. Instruction should be targeted and robust. Assignments should be relevant and engaging, but not over the top. Does your data show that your students need a little extra attention on a particular concept? Give them a mini-lesson and reinforcing activities. 

  1. Keep Building Relationships -The days can get pretty hectic, but make sure you are still taking time to encourage and support your students. Fill their tanks with love and kindness while you can. Keep your community growing, and provide lots of opportunities for positive interactions. Keep the lines of communication open with families too. Make sure parents/guardians know what’s happening during the last few weeks of school. Let them know how glad you were to have their child in your class. Give them suggestions for ways to prepare their student(s) for the next grade.

  1. Prepare Your Students for the Next Grade – The end of the year is exciting, but it can also be filled with anxiety for students as they face the uncertainty of moving on to the next grade level. If possible, arrange for your students to visit a next grade-level classroom. Coordinate with the teacher to have the students in her class make a presentation for your students about life in their classroom. This is a win-win. The older students get a chance to be leaders and your students feel more at ease about going to the next grade level. There are so many ways to make this happen. Students in the next grade can write to your students, or a teacher from the next grade can visit. Get creative. Think ahead for next year. At the elementary level, work with a teacher from the next grade to be Reading Buddies with your students and have them visit several times a year to read with your students.

  1. Have Fun – Now is not the time to let up on fun activities. Take a science lesson outside or, if your school has a garden or nature center, take your students there to explore and document their experiences. Does your classroom drop everything and read every day? Take it outdoors or take a virtual field trip. Fill your last days with memorable activities. Don’t get caught up in the “countdown to the end” but savor every second, time will go quickly and you’ll be glad you did.

  1. Don’t Be In a Hurry to Pack It In – Don’t announce that you’ve completed your final lesson. Read the last chapter in the Social Studies textbook well before the last couple of weeks. Simply move on to the next activity/lesson. Don’t start removing posters off the walls or moving items around until the last days of school. Packing things up and taking things down says “we’re done” and things could go south quickly.

  1. Celebrate – You and your students have come a long way together and your accomplishments should be celebrated. Here are some ways to reflect and celebrate the moments you’ve shared.
  • Top Ten – have your students make a list of their Top 10 favorite things about the school year. You can model this by writing your Top 10 for all to see.
  • That’s What I Like About You – this activity gives students an opportunity to share compliments with each other and create a lasting bond. Give each student a small booklet with enough pages for each person in the class. They’ll write their name on the front cover, then each student will write their own name on a blank page inside and share a genuine compliment about the book’s owner.
  • You’ve Got Mail – write a letter or postcard to each of your students highlighting their accomplishments and wishing them a bright future. Start early so this isn’t a burden – it will mean the world to your students. This might be more challenging for junior and high school, but it will be worth it if you can make it happen. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to write in their yearbook. At the very least, reflect on class accomplishments and share your good wishes by speaking to the whole class.

The end of the year can be crazy! It’s up to you to keep things moving forward. Make a plan, be intentional and be realistic with those plans. Flex when something isn’t working. Give your students an opportunity to burn off energy and embrace the last days of school. Finish strong! 

Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.

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