5 tips for finishing the school year strong

When you're a teacher, finishing the school year strong is important, but it's not always easy. (Concordia University Ann Arbor)

The end of the school year has a certain energy to it.

In many regions, the weather is becoming warmer, and both students and teachers are craving some much-needed sunshine. As the semester-long fatigue sets in and your students seem a little more fidgety than usual, it’s important to plan a strong finish to the school year.

The end of the school year doesn’t have to be a let-down. Check out these five tips for finishing the school year strong.

5. Understand the needs of your students.

Naturally, you’re thinking about this throughout the entire school year. But, consider the unique needs of your students during the end of the year.

When routines are feeling routine

Are your students getting bored with the same routines? This is an opportunity to reinforce why the routine is important. For example, students often neglect to fill out their planners during this time of year. The routine has become stale and your students’ motivation is waning. However, teachers know how quickly one missing assignment can turn into several. Holding fast to this routine is essential, especially at this time of year.

But, on the other hand, there are some routines that can be reevaluated and energized. One example could be how you approach silent reading time. Maybe, your students can be trusted to choose their reading location, or you choose to take your students outside for silent reading. Shaking up the routine can help bring engagement to the important activity of reading.

When students are exhausted

Remember, too, that this time of year can be overwhelming for your students. Their calendars may be busier, and this could be true for their families, as well. There might be times when students need less homework, more reading time, or additional practice on certain objectives. If you’re teaching high school students, be mindful of their exam schedules and co-curricular activities during the spring. Balancing the reality of what your students are experiencing along with what is best for their learning isn’t always easy to figure out. That’s why it’s important to collaborate with your department/team in order to best meet the needs of your students.

4. Celebrate student growth.

How have your students grown this year? Invite your students to reflect on what they’ve learned. There are different approaches to celebrating student growth.

Student portfolios

Some teachers choose to showcase a portfolio of student work. This is most effective if it’s managed by the students. Students select a few artifacts to display that show their growth over the past year or past semester. These artifacts can be general or link to a specific learning objective.

Lists for the win

Another option is for students to create a list of what they’ve learned. Students love lists, and they enjoy being the discerning experts over their subject matter. For example, creating a list compiling “The 10 Most Important Physical Science Concepts” will inspire your students to review older physical science content from earlier in the year and demonstrate that they recall it. The list idea lends itself well to students who love creating posters and/or visual art. Some students might want to give an oral presentation sharing their list, as well.

Year-end mapping

Some teachers find value in year-end mapping with their students. Year-end mapping is a great way to leverage the positive teacher-student relationships. It also allows for personalized learning, summarizing, group learning and graphic organizing. You can have your students break into groups and cover part of the curriculum that you’ve learned. Each group would create a graphic organizer that focuses on their chosen part of the curriculum, and then the groups can each display what they’ve learned all together. This makes for an engaging display of student recall, creativity and overall learning over the past year.

3. Create a plan for continued growth.

As you reflect on student learning and growth over this past year, how can you use this to set up students for future success? If your school and/or district sends home summer work and reading lists, make sure it’s framed around growth and readiness. It’s easy to feel the pressure of achievement gaps, but that puts additional stress on students and their families. Ultimately, you want your students to continue to grow in their love of learning -- and especially reading, over the summer.

Preparing for continued growth often includes organization. Year-end assessments help you know how your students have grown and where they need support. These assessments can be very helpful to their next teacher(s). Additionally, depending on when you give these assessments, you can determine which content you need to review before the end of the year.

2. Cover the most important objectives.

With limited time remaining, it’s important that you cover the most important learning objectives. This might mean analyzing your year plan and intentionally readjusting the last quarter or so of the year. Consider what your students will need to build on next fall, and prioritize accordingly.

1. Prioritize health and wellness.

As the final days of the school year approach, it’s easy for work-life balance to get out of whack. Awards ceremonies, open houses, championship games and meets, graduations, confirmations and warmer weather all combine for a busy schedule. This doesn’t even count spring parent/teacher conferences or grading that needs to be done.

In order to finish strong, it’s important to manage what you can. Try to take care of your physical health: prioritize your sleep schedule, exercise and overall self-care. When things ramp up at school, it can be easy to come home, collapse on the couch and scroll social media until you muster up the energy to get ready for bed. Recognize when you need your quiet/alone time. But also, try to find restful activities that actually recharge you. For some, it could be watching a movie or reading. For others, it could be going for a run or just being outside.

Finishing the school year strong

Finishing the school year strong takes determination. Considering your students’ needs, as well as your own, will help you prioritize what’s most important and what can wait. With a little bit of focus and a lot of grace, you can enjoy the last few months of school.

Learn more about Concordia University Ann Arbor’s School of Education.