Looking Ahead to the Last Weeks of School!
Updated April 2023
As the 2022-23 school year approaches summer break for most, end-of-school resources are as relevant as ever.
Beyond Busy Work
You’ve spent the school year teaching students skills and strategies and covering the curriculum, giving your best to all your classes. Now as the year winds down, the time has come to let the students take over, writes 5th grade teacher Kathleen Palmieri. In Kids Love End-of-Year Classroom Takeovers! see how her kids share learning. And if that’s not enough, MiddleWeb blogger Cheryl Mizerny has 12 fresh ideas from her own middle school classroom!
After almost 25 springs in the classroom, Amber Chandler has three ideas that may help relieve the seasonal jitters in this MiddleWeb post. Michelle Russell, writing in her MiddleWeb blog Meaningful Math, offers Six Tips for Teachers If You’re Running on Empty.
In her collaborations with teachers, teaching coach and NBCT Elizabeth Stein has heard this a lot: “How can we motivate our students when they’ve checked out of learning?” First we have to motivate ourselves, she says. Think about these 3 keys found in her Two Teachers in the Room post.
Former teacher and neurologist Judy Willis considers Spring’s effects on the brain in “The science of spring: how a change of seasons can boost classroom learning,” noting renewed energy can help to build curiosity and the increasing hours of light can divert kids from learning. From The Guardian.
Of course teachers need to tend to their own stress as the year ends, too. Nearly 200 teachers commented on Elena Aguilar’s Edutopia post, How to Stay Charged During the Final Weeks of School. A teacher for 14 years, Aguilar is now a transformational leadership coach and author. In the post she offers specific tips, for example, introducing an engaging project while maintaining a familiar schedule, providing time for reflection for yourself as well as for your students, and more.
Aguilar concludes by outlining why students’ troubling summer expectations may cause them to act out and suggests ways to respond that help them and you as the last day nears. In another post Aguilar suggests ways to integrate the arts into the post-test weeks as a way to bring enthusiasm back into the classroom.
Teacher educator Curtis Chandler suggests ways he and others can use research-based strategies to reduce teaching stress and bolster our capacity to serve kids well. He provides lots more ways to maximize the end of school in another MiddleWeb post, Don’t Waste the Precious Weeks at School’s End.
Find moments to relax and celebrate humanity with these videos and articles collected by Amy Erin Borovoy at Edutopia.
Writing about Six Engaging End-of-Year Projects for Edutopia, UCLA Graduate School of Education instructor Rebecca Alber remembers her former high school students’ post-test malaise and suggests remedies that can work for them and younger students. She points out, “They have to feel as if they aren’t actually doing work. (Yep, you have to trick them!) And whatever you do plan, three elements are essential: choices, creativity, and constructing.” She recommends involving students in “Show What You Know,” “On-Campus Field Trips,” “Craft a New Ending” and more, all with cognitive demands attached. Commenters offer ideas for middle graders as well as those older kids.
Curtis Chandler, who combines research about effective teaching with tech tools and ideas, shares a resource-rich post aimed at encouraging students to dive into STEM-related activities during summer break: Prep Your Students Now for STEM Summer Fun.
Field Trip Fun and Learning
Imagine yourself surrounded by a busload of middle graders: a never ending nightmare or a memorable spring day filled with learning? You decide (assuming field trip funding is still a reality in your school district.) Get down-to-earth specifics for creating a day of academic fun from Amanda Wall’s MiddleWeb guest article, Learning on Field Trips. Wall, a former teacher, is now an assistant professor at Georgia Southern University concentrating on middle school education.
In a second MiddleWeb article, Middle Grades Kids Need Field Trips, principal Mike Janatovich agrees with Wall and goes on to offer a timeline for developing a field trip and a very helpful checklist.
Barbara R. Blackburn shows how Virtual Field Trips Can Spice Up Lessons in a MiddleWeb post. In addition to sharing a lesson on traveling online to The Louvre to study the history of Egypt, she provides a list of of destinations across content areas.
At Tech & Learning Ray Bendici and Diana Restifo offer a huge collection of links to national and international art, history, civics, nature, STEM, and space museums in Best Virtual Trips.
The Cultural Calendar
Brighten spring learning with help from the calendar. In April many states and the US Executive Branch recognize Arab American Heritage Month. Find resources in this MiddleWeb post. Consider exploring Mexican culture through observing Cinco de Mayo with a visit to History.com where the introductory essay and video are helpful. For more Hispanic and Latino resources, see MiddleWeb’s collection for autumn’s National Hispanic Heritage Month. Prep for May’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with this MiddleWeb resource.
Social Studies Dates to Remember
Teachers may want to take a look at Law Day. After President Eisenhower’s 1958 proclamation of May I as Law Day, in 1961 the US Congress declared May 1 to be the nation’s day to celebrate the rule of law. The American Bar Association provides yearly themes. For 2023 it is “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration.”
A more somber American observance arrives on May 29, 2023: Memorial Day. Students can follow the development of Memorial Day, with its beginning after the Civil War when many referred to it as Decoration Day as people decorated military graves. After World War I the national day began to commemorate all military who had died for the nation.
In 2020 Congress created the National Moment of Remembrance which encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who died serving the nation.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs provides resources here. Videos as well as an overview of the day are available from History.com. Also find lesson plans at Read Write Think. The Washington Post’s Valerie Stauss compares Memorial Day to Veterans Day here.
Teachers whose school year runs into June or year round may want to celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates June 19, 1865 when Americans enslaved in Texas learned, with the arrival of federal troops, that they were free following the end of most hostilities with General Lee’s surrender in April. Read Write Think offers links and an activity to compare June 19 and July 4 using an online Venn diagram. On June 17, 2021 President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday and We Are Teachers has 17 Ideas to Celebrate Juneteenth with Kids.
Celebrate Earth Day and the Summer Solstice
The Summer Solstice provides learning opportunities for both science and social studies classes. Arriving on June 21 this year, the solstice marks the year’s longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. TimeandDate.com also offers for a look at solstice traditions in the Northern Hemisphere. EarthSky.org provides an information packed page here.
Looking for Spring Solstice and other high-interest science lessons that are quick and hands-on? Check out this NGSS-aligned set at Science Buddies – engineering, biology, physics, and chemistry (including kitchen science)!
Lots to Read
Relaxed, post-test reading takes on an organized flavor in Spring. Read Write Think provides resources to help students dive into books, especially during National Children’s Book Week May 1-7, 2023. (And Nov. 6-12!)
Over at the Nerdy Book Club, you’ll find Michele L. Haiken‘s idea about how middle schoolers can spend some time near the end of school “paying it forward” by reading to younger kids. In her case the journey to the elementary classrooms “is part of an authentic assessment in my Speech and Debate class.”
Even More Suggestions
You can prepare for the grand finale by referring to Larry Ferlazzo’s helpful suggestions for closing out the year, gleaned from his own classroom and from his readers. Also at EdWeek from Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski: Helping English-Learners End the School Year Strong, an adapted excerpt from their book, The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox: Hundreds Of Practical Ideas To Support Your Students. Larry and Katie also shared ideas from the book at MiddleWeb.
More ideas for Ending the School Year with English Learners comes from Valentina Gonzalez who writes that end of year is an optimal time for educators to step out of our comfort zones and try innovative techniques with our students. Rather than falling into “countdown mode,” she suggests thinking of this time as a gift, without the pressure of state testing.
If you sometimes feel that you would LIKE to teach students more about media literacy but just don’t have the time, the last weeks of school may be just the right window. Check out media literacy expert Frank Baker‘s many articles on the topic here at MiddleWeb, including Teach Kids to ‘Read’ the Images They See.
To engage math students as the spring testing season blows in, Michelle Russell suggests 2 Math Activities Ease the Spring Break Wait at her Meaningful Math blog here at MiddleWeb. This year Michelle’s plan to end the year with some “serious teaching” has quickly collapsed under the weight of special events. That’s okay. “It came to me eventually that I also want to enjoy the last few weeks I will have these students.” Here’s what she decided to do.
Another option: Four Writing Workshop Ideas for the Final Stretch by Elizabeth Moore at Two Writing Teachers.