The last few weeks of the school year can be very challenging for students. As the school year nears its end, students often have to complete and submit final assignments and projects that require a significant amount of time and effort, in addition to taking standardized assessments and end-of-year exams, which create additional stress and anxiety.
At this time, students are also dealing with fatigue and mental exhaustion after a long academic year and may have a hard time keeping their motivation and focus. The many social and sports events, family commitments, and other extracurricular activities compete for students’ attention, making it hard for them to balance their responsibilities effectively.
The end of the school year also marks a transition to a new grade level, a new school, or a new educational stage in a student’s life.
For all these reasons, this is a good 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 together as a learning community.
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, and 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 charting 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!
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.
These prompts are also applicable to educators, and a reflection I would encourage all teachers to do along with their students. Educators can model what it means to be a reflective teacher, being able to identify a meaningful project or even a special moment shared with students.
While stress and exhaustion may want to take over, give yourself permission to reflect and celebrate everything that you and your students accomplished together this school year. It was possible because of your hard work and dedication!
It is by creating space to celebrate our students’ growth and our own learning that we can truly reclaim our purpose as educators and lifelong learners.