Wild, I tell you, wild! That’s what my classroom can be like when spring arrives. The sun shines, and the seniors’ only topic of conversation is how many days are left in the school year. Trust me—they’re counting. Every year I have the talk with my classes about leaving a legacy to be proud of when they walk at graduation. I also mention that we can finish the year the hard way or the easy way—it’s their choice. Will they choose to work hard or choose to check out and risk everything for a few weeks of playing around? I’m sure that all teachers have experienced the disinterest and lethargy at the end of the year—they’ve been there, done that, and have multiple T-shirts.
But, and there is always a but, as I thought about the end of the year, I realized that I use various strategies to help my students finish strong. Really that’s my message to my students. Finish Strong! And I try to provide various activities during our last weeks together that support and promote this message.
So in the interest of supporting everyone’s survival till the final day, I’ve compiled some of my favorite end-of-the-year strategies. I hope these help you as much as they help my students and me to Finish Strong!
Finish Strong Short Video – www.simpletruths.com.movies.html
Simple Truths is a great resource for short motivational and inspirational videos that prompt the viewer to consider new ideas and realities. The Finish Strong video is #25 on the movie list and encourages the viewer to Finish Strong by moving beyond the challenges in their life. The music “Eye of the Tiger” captures your attention and the idea that it’s each person’s choice is supported with inspirational sayings and examples of famous individuals who have faced adversity, overcome the problem/situation, and achieved success. I typically follow up this video with a discussion about what challenges each individual is facing in the last few weeks of school. We then brainstorm a plan of action the student can use to Finish Strong. My students look forward to this every year, and ask about it when the second semester begins. It’s a great when the natives are restless!
Don’t miss the other great videos available on this website: Eat that Frog, and 212 ͦ the Extra Degree, to name just a few. All are free and well worth a look.
Toward the end of the year, students forget about how much they’ve learned throughout the year. It’s often fun to let them do a quick quiz on the Internet that reminds them of how much they know. Here are two of my favorites. Share or don’t share your own score. It’s up to you!
Lit 101 Quiz
www.offbeat.topics.com/quiz/16947 Contains 50 questions about pieces of literature and the authors. It’s fun to see what you know and will surprise you about what you don’t!
Another set of 40 questions about grammar usage. I learned a couple of things myself taking this one. And no I’m not going to tell you my score!
Lights, Camera, Oscars!
Most schools hold a recognition night at the end of the year. Our night is just a little different. We jazz it up by giving our students Oscars on Oscars Night. Students are recognized for academics, personal traits that make them outstanding, accomplishments in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities, etc. Each student who is nominated in a category receives a certificate, and the overall winner, determined by the faculty at a Professional Learning Team meeting, receives an Oscar statue. The stage is decorated with the Oscar statues across the front, helium balloons line the aisles, and if we’re lucky we have bright lights shining in the sky as people are arriving. It’s really cool and moves along very quickly because we have the students line up back stage before their award is presented.
Needless to say, the statues are highly coveted. And while the statues make this event special, one more addition means more than the statues. When the teachers are given their certificate to sign, we write a personal message to the student on the back to commemorate why he/she received this particular award. Yes, it takes time and effort, but the students immediately turn their certificates over when they receive them, and I’ve even had my comments posted on Facebook by a grateful parent. Former students tell me that these certificates with comments are the items they most cherish from their days in our high school and middle school.
Letters of Learning
The following are two quick letter assignments that have meaning for my students. The first is a letter to a future student with advice about what the writer has learned about being successful in our high school. Usually, these are written by the seniors and held as a gift for our freshmen when they start school the following year. The students write the letters, I review them and suggest corrections and revision for anything unsuitable, and then the students hand write them onto a piece of white paper. When the letter is finished, the students have time to decorate their letters before placing them into an envelope and sealing them. This is one way the seniors leave their legacy for upcoming classmen, and it reminds them to end the year with class and a positive attitude.
The second letter is a reflective letter. Students write to themselves with advice for the upcoming year. I use this with all ages. I follow the same review procedure I used with the letters to future students. The students decorate these as well. The difference is that the students address the letter and envelope to themselves. I hold the letters until two weeks before school starts. Then I mail them to the students with the intention they’ll receive them before the first day of school. I always enjoy students telling me that they’d forgotten about the advice they wrote, and it was a good reminder about what they want to accomplish during the new year.
Do you ever have a moment when you wish you could just open up your students’ heads and pour the information in? I’m admitting nothing! But this next tip accomplishes that very thing. In the last week or two each student receives a piece of 11 x 17 inch white paper. The class brainstorms advice about being successful in their particular class next year. Then each student chooses the advice they believe is most important and creates a poster to be hung on the wall for future students. Ta Da! The information surrounds the students the following year, the current students receive recognition for their thoughts and artwork, and my pitcher of information is poured all over the room. My new classes end up drowning in information leading to success!
These are just a few ideas to help you at the end of your school year. Good luck, have fun, and Finish Strong!