Ending the School Year with English Learners

A MiddleWeb Blog

The end of the school year can get chaotic for teachers and for students. For different reasons too. Though we both start to feel the winding down, as educators we know that state testing is complete so lots of the pressure has been released.

For students, the summer bug hits and all they can think about is vacation, days off, hanging out with friends, sleeping in, and staying up late. Basically visions of sugar plums dance in their heads.

That’s why it’s important that at the end of the year we keep to a routine as much as possible. Educators and students alike benefit from structure. Creating classroom environments that continue routines will help students to focus on learning rather than get distracted by daydreams about summer vacation.

Don’t Fall Victim to the Countdown

Some kids are excited because they have great plans and travel, and others are anxious about school letting out because they will be lonely and might not have anything to do. Either way, every day of school counts. However – “the countdown” until summer seems to hurt that theory.

Countdowns are commonly seen on campuses and in classrooms about 30 days out from summer break and with good intentions. But countdowns till summer tend to get kids riled up and focused on what’s ahead rather than what we’re doing right now…which should be learning.

Countdowns often create an atmosphere of chaos and disorder. Don’t fall victim to the end-of-year countdown!

They tends to send the wrong message. If we want students to stay in the “game” until the end, we should avoid dangling a carrot in front of them that constantly reminds them of vacation. Instead, keep their focus on learning.

Gear UP!

About when we start hearing kids count down until summer vacation, that’s when we should start seriously planning for tighter, more focused lessons.
The end of year is actually an optimal time for us as educators to step out of our comfort zones and try new and innovative techniques with our students. Think of this time as a gift. Without the pressure of state testing, we have more freedom and autonomy to try new ideas.

Debate IT

For example, have students choose a relevant critical issue and research and debate it. You can make a list of topics and let students add to the list through brainstorming. Then let them select a topic with a partner and research. Then partners pick a side and debate the topic.

Blog IT

Get blog site ideas from Gallit Zvi and Denise Krebs in this MiddleWeb post.

Teach students to create their own blog tied to a topic they are passionate about. Share with them how blogs are used to express ideas and affect a wide audience. The autonomy of this type of project will be pleasing to students. When we enjoy what we read and write about, it comes much more naturally (for students and adults alike, right?).

Syllabus

Have students help you develop a syllabus and introduction to your course for next year’s students. Divide the class into groups and give each group a section to work on, such as classwork, homework, late work, work ethic, behavior, etc. Each group is responsible for the content of the section. Students can create on PowerPoint, paper, Word document, Google, or whatever platform you wish to have them share. The power lies in the authentic audience that students are creating for.

Evaluate

I absolutely love the end-of-year ideas that Larry Ferlazzo offers in this article. One includes having students fill out an evaluation regarding his teaching and the class. This gives great feedback to teachers regarding what worked for students and what didn’t. Students can fill out the surveys anonymously in an effort to be more honest in their responses. And you can start fine-tuning over the summer break.

Set them up for Summer

The end of the year is the perfect time to gear students up for summer learning by brainstorming ideas to stay connected. The best part of this is that it won’t even seem like learning to them. During the summer, many students digress in learning. Two to three months off from reading, writing, listening or speaking using academic language is a long time. Students begin to forget what they acquired.

So one thing we can do towards the very end of the year is start planting little seeds. Help students to organize ways to stay connected academically in a social venue. For instance, students could decide to hold a weekly Twitter chat or a slow chat using a common hashtag to discuss their summer happenings. Students may decide to communicate via Snapchat or another venue. They may even decide on some face-to-face meetings!

I heard about one teacher who had a class stuffed animal that was passed around weekly during the summer. Students took pictures of it as it went on adventures with them to the library, the museum, the water park, the mall, the grocery store, on a walk, etc. They posted pictures on Instagram with captions.

It was a fun way for the class to stay connected, to socialize and to write and comment on each other’s posts. Some kids even captioned theirs with questions like, “Can you guess where ___ is this sunny afternoon?” And classmates tried to guess the location of the mascot based on the picture.

The last month is also the perfect time to advertise summer reading. By highlighting engaging books that students may connect with, you can tempt them to read over the summer and perhaps organize some book clubs. If you’re careful about it, they will think this is their brilliant idea and love it even more.

End Strong

Just like this little mouse, we have to END the year STRONG. This short video is a commercial for cheese, but it’s also a good reminder that even when we think the end is near, we have to get up and give it our best shot!

The mouse was beat down by the trap (like we may feel by the end of the school year), but instead he used that the trap to build his strength. We can use the end of the year to our advantage too. It’s a good video to share with school-weary kids.

Happy end of the school year to you all!

Valentina Gonzalez

Valentina Gonzalez (@ValentinaESL) is a Professional Development Specialist for English Language Learners in Katy, Texas. Her 20 years as an educator includes teaching in the classroom as well as serving as an ESL specialty teacher and district program facilitator. She enjoys advocating for ELLs by blogging, presenting at local and state conferences, and sharing resources with teachers.

2 Responses

  1. Mary Langer Thompson says:

    I love these ideas. This is the time of year for teachers to use their most creative, fun units and themes.

  2. michelle russell says:

    So true about the countdown! It’s tempting to throw up a count down on the board, but it tends to send the wrong message. I also like giving the idea of getting feedback from your students to help you plan for the next year. Great suggestions!

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