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Finish the year strong! Celebrate your students’ growth

When I was a special education teacher, the last few weeks of school felt like being in a tornado. I was pulled in so many different directions that it felt somebody else was in charge of my life! My colleagues were not doing better and any small conflict would terminate in an argument or teachers snapping at each other. Everybody felt rushed, tired, often overwhelmed… and just plain done with the year! Yet, somehow we always managed to finish (most) projects, write report cards and even organize some fun activities for the students.

From an SEL perspective, the last few weeks of school are a great time to celebrate students’ accomplishments and growth during the year, academically as well as socially and emotionally. Giving students an opportunity to reflect on the math concepts they learned, the art projects they developed or the new relationships they formed during the year will give them (and you!) a sense of accomplishment and a positive perspective on everything you were able to do as a learning community.

Try the following activities from Responsive Classroom to reflect on the school year.

Group Reflections

The goal is to generate and chart the learning of the year. Students can create large charts for each subject (elementary school) or each section/topic in your content area (middle and high school).

Step 1. Individuals Think, Write, Remember. Give students 10 min to remember everything they can from one subject and have them create individual lists (it should include concepts, but also skills!).

Step 2. Pair Share. Students work with a partner and merge their lists.

Step 3.Whole Class Discussion. Create a collective list that reflects everybody’s input.

During this exercise, you will often observe students getting excited as the list becomes longer. Observe: what are your students’ best memories for a given subject? What are the activities/projects that they remember the most? Leave the chart in the classroom and encourage students to keep adding to the list during the following weeks.

In addition to chart the learning for major subjects, do the same exercise for your social and emotional learning. Did you teach students about conflict resolution? Did you discuss how to work well with a partner? Did you give them metacognitive skills to think about their learning? Those are all concepts and skills that should be remembered and displayed!

Individual Reflections

As discussed in an earlier post, reflection is an essential part of learning. Give students time to think, write or do an art project that shows something they learned this year. You could use some of these prompts:

  • Describe something you were proud of accomplishing and tell why it was important.
  • Illustrate your favorite classroom project.
  • Describe a challenging situation that you were able to resolve.
  • Describe a new friendship for you this year.
  • List your favorite books and describe what they made you think about.
  • Describe something you learned this year that will help you in the future.

caroline-rotichThe last few weeks of the school year are a challenging time for students and teachers. You are almost done, so finish the year strong by taking time to celebrate your students’ growth and reflect on the classroom’s accomplishments. Remember that students’ learning was possible because of your hard work and dedication!

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