Teachers and students alike struggle to keep their motivation high during the end of the school year season. It only takes a few people to alter the energy in a classroom and that can help or hinder the mindset of all learners.
Many teachers send out an S.O.S. in the spring to their colleagues, asking for tips and tricks to “just make it through” to the end of the year. Students’ brains are tapped out (especially if you are in a testing grade) and curriculum has usually been covered by this point causing student energy to rise by the minute while teachers immediately feel their instructional creativity dwindling.
What is a teacher to do?
Have no fear! Below are 8 strategies for keeping the hype throughout the school year so that your creativity remains, students’ brains recharge, and motivation becomes contagious for all:
- Focus on a Strong Finish
Many teachers have the best of intentions when they start a countdown clock for the end of the year or arrival of summer break. This mentality takes the focus off of the important work being done in the classroom during the final weeks of the school year. Instead of focusing on what inevitably is coming (and keep the excitement at bay), help students set goals to finish out the year strong. Discuss the importance of putting in all you’ve got during the final lap and sprinting over the finish line into victory. Help students take that analogy and apply it to their academics- turning in all assignments, going above and beyond requirements, putting in your best effort regardless of interest level, etc. It is in the best interest of all learners to remain present in the moment and finish the year strong.
- Invest in Relationships
During the school year, the curriculum pacing is super tight and leaves little time to deviate from the intended plan given by the district. As the end of the year approaches however, you’ll find an extra few minutes throughout your day where you can slow instruction down and invest in your students personally. Building relationships helps develop a connection with students that not only increases everyone’s happiness but also increases student motivation to keep working hard. Soak up every free moment to get to know your students as people and not just learners.
- Make Each Day Unique
It can feel like a repetitive cycle of coming to work, begging students to pay attention and urging students to turn in their work as the year winds down. To add some fun and give students something to look forward to each day, create your own classroom theme days (ie. crazy sock day, walk backwards day, pencils only day, etc.). Ask students for input on fun themes, take a class vote to whittle down the list into however many days remain, and implement your own unique theme days. Students will be sure to show up to class (on time!) with a smile on their face and a ‘ready to learn’ attitude.
- Take Risks & Try New Things
Now that the pressure is off for academic performance, teachers can take more instructional risks and try new things in the classroom. Gather ideas on Pinterest and through your social media networks for new strategies, activities, and learning approaches to try. The pressure to perform excellence on the first try is low at the end of the school year, so experimenting with your craft is ideal during this time. When you try new things, film yourself, reflect in a journal, or get a colleague to observe you for feedback so that when next year arrives, you can put this new tool into your tool belt immediately without the mistakes that come along with trying it for the first time.
- Put Students in the Teacher’s Seat
Students love to be empowered in the classroom. Any time that you can hand over the reigns and allow students to take charge, they perk up with excitement. This translates into better behavior and increased motivation to complete assignments. Brainstorm classroom tasks that you can pass the ownership on to students, a little at a time. You might want to rotate students that can perform these special tasks so that everyone gets a turn or that the reward remains motivating as students know their turn could be up next. This also frees you up to see your instruction from the viewpoint of students, which can provide a wealth of insight into next year’s planning.
- Invite Community Members & Visitors into the Classroom
Add some spark to your instruction by inviting guests into the classroom. Reach out to community members, students’ families, staff personnel etc. to see if anyone is interested in coming in to share their talent with the class. Some ideas for involvement could include guest readers, job fairs, project mentors, etc. New faces in the classroom will bring a new excitement into the learning experience for all students.
- Sponsor a Younger Class
Take the focus off yourselves and invest in younger students. Poll your colleagues for who might be interested in getting sponsored by your students. The goal is to build relationships, help younger students transition into the next grade level’s responsibilities, and pay it forward to bettering the school community. Older students can visit the sponsored class once a week to help complete assignments, play with students at recess, or drop off goodies to motivate little ones to keep working hard until the end of the school year. When you are helping someone else, your mind is no longer on your situation and the last few days of school will fly by!
- Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Your energy and perspective is contagious. If you walk into the classroom disheveled, your head hung low, teaching in a monotone voice, and have a lack of excitement in your instructional delivery, students are going to mimic that same vibe right back at you. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, find at least one thing to look forward to each day and let that put a spring in your step so that students can see your joy and join in the fun. The last days of school can be the most memorable, if you allow each moment to be savored instead of dreaded. Smile, laugh and let loose!
Give these 8 tips a try and see a dramatic change in not only your attitude towards the end of the school season, but also your students. Their emotional and academic output will be off the charts!
What strategies would you add to this list for keeping the hype throughout the school year?