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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Ending the Year on a High Note

From early May on my students have senioritis and spring fever. There is no preventative medication but the cure is activity and to do lists. If I want to end the year on a high note I think I need a good plan.

A good friend of mine had a mom who was also a teacher. She would make a list for each of her 5 children. When they had completed the list they could go play. This list making helped organize these rowdy kids and they all make lists to this day. So, I am thinking that an end of the year list will be a plan.

I will duplicate enough lists for each of my students to have some items in common. These will be, clean your lab drawer/desk, help stack books, clean off bulletin boards and put posters in drawers. There will be some inventory tasks that are common as well. The meat of keeping these kids active is to include some content focused tasks.
I may ask the students to write a letter to the student who will use their lab drawer next year. In this letter they should tell them what they wish they had studied harder, a few good hints for labs, some wise elder advice and a bit of encouragement. I will proof these letters and place them in the drawers for next year’s students to see on the first or second day of class.

I am a huge fan of scavenger hunts and love to use other staff members to help. The cafeteria crew and custodial crew are especially helpful. I will pick out a few applications of chemistry and then write some clues on cards. The students have to follow the clues to get the next concept and set of clues. For the cafeteria I usually use a clue about baking. Baking makes use of the characteristics of gasses to make some pretty amazing holes in the bread. Any clue about that would be good to lead them to the cafeteria. For the custodians I use a clue about drain cleaners or some other cleaning chemical. I use the chemical formula and the students have to determine what that might be used in and then try to find the school department that might have access to the compound.

The students are allowed to leave the room and go seek a clue in pairs but only for 5 minutes at a time. They have to come back and let another pair go out. I rotate 4 teams of 2 each in these 5 minute segments so that all get a chance to get out and the halls are not filled with my students all at once. Coming back later than 5 minutes (I set a timer) results in a point reduction penalty.

Lastly I believe in the power of saying thank you. Not very many of my students are avid thank you writers. I ask them to write a note of thanks to a teacher or staff member who made this year easier or challenged them. Some will select a support staff member and some select teachers. I ask to proof the notes and give lots of praise to the kids for this effort. The students deliver the notes and I hope get the idea that saying thank you in person or in writing is important in developing good relationships.

So, as the year ends give yourself a little sanity. It is always in short supply for me till the kids go home for the summer.

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