Editor’s Note: Read more end of year activities from Teaching Channel blogger Lily Jones.
As much as I love the summer, the end of the school year has always been tough for me. The classroom can become a family of sorts — complete with all the good times and challenging times that come with being a family. Although I always look forward to getting to know a new group of learners, it’s important to me to honor our classroom community and all the memories we’ve made at the end of the school year. Here are some of my favorite ideas:
1. Photo Slide Show:
Each year, I take lots of photographs of students. I make sure to keep my camera close during student work times, field trips, recess, performances, and report card conferences. Then, I compile the photos into a slide show with songs about endings (“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson Five was always in there). I typically showed the slide show during one of our final days of school and gave each student two to three pictures of themselves from the slide show. Students, no matter how old, love seeing themselves on the screen!
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou
In a 2013 study, the Civil Rights Project estimated that more than two million students were suspended during the 2009-2010 academic year.
That means if you are reading this blog, one of your students probably has been or will be suspended from school. Whether the suspension relates to your classroom or an issue beyond it, you’ll have to decide how to relate to the student involved.
How will the student be welcomed back into your class? How will your relationship with that student move forward in a productive, positive way?
Before they Go
There are legitimate reasons for students to miss school due to a suspension, but try to keep your student as connected to learning as possible.
Work with your students’ families to make sure they have work to complete for each day they will be out. If possible, try to find a sibling or friend who will bring work back and forth. This will help support a feeling of connection and continuity. Consider including a note of encouragement to let the student know that his or her presence will be missed in the classroom.
One of the greatest things about this school year was seeing what teachers at our school have been doing with Twitter in the classroom. As an instructional coach, I have observed and also participated in new opportunities for our students to know each other and communicate their learning.
Autumn Laidler, a third and fourth grade science teacher at the National Teachers Academy, played a critical role in introducing Twitter to our colleagues. In February, Autumn and other Chicago Public School educators hosted PLAYDATE at our school. PLAYDATE was just that—a space for teachers to play with technology, share ideas, and network. Participants had a wide range of experience: from Twitter newbies to teachers who were already thinking about how to use Twitter to communicate with families.
Inspired by PLAYDATE, a team of our teachers created Twitter Tuesday. On Tuesdays, teachers and their classes discussed a predetermined topic of interest to the entire school community, then teachers tweeted on students’ behalf with the hash tag #NTAlearns. On a cold day in February, our first topic was “What do you like about being an NTA student?”
Recently, I have been spending quality time with the Common Core Standards. My current obsessions are text complexity, close reading, and the speaking and listening standards. Starting at first grade, students are expected to know and be able to do the following during small- and whole-group discussions: follow participation rules, build on others’ comments, and ask clarifying questions.
Many teachers rely on Turn and Talks or Think-Pair-Shares. These are great methods, but how can you build on them to prepare students for the demands of more complicated conversations?
Ever felt like your classroom was the arena for a tug of war between you and your students? Chances are that, looking back on that time, you can see that you were focusing on correcting individual students’ behavior, while not doing much to acknowledge students who were meeting expectations.
How do teachers get “unstuck” when we find ourselves in such positions? How do we improve the classroom environment?