When summer break is just around the bend, it’s tough to keep students engaged. But if you shake things up a bit, you can make their learning and your teaching just as memorable as it was at the beginning of the year.
Here are some ideas to try out on your students:
Change your room layout
Rearrange students’ desks into a different formation to increase participation and encourage collaboration. Putting desks into a U shape lets you easily walk around to keep students alert and to monitor progress on assignments.
Another option: Try pairing students with partners you know work well together so that the desks are grouped in twos, or in groups of four if you want them to do a collaborative end-of-the-year project.
Talk less, participate more
There’s often a ton of material to fit in when you’re running out of school year. This can turn into you doing all the talking when you’re better off involving students in a discussion or having them do something that conveys the same information through hands-on learning.
Try to find ways to decrease your talk time each day:
- Hide different passages around the room for them to find as a scavenger hunt, and then analyze in pairs.
- Assign groups to read different sections and report to the class through a rap or a game they create.
- Make copies of a text and black out sections so they have to figure out what the missing sections say based on context clues.
Any of these options means less time passively listening and more time actively working with the subject matter you want them to learn.
Choose your words wisely
Students often pick up on teachers’ attitudes toward the end of the year — and what we say matters. If you continually bring up the countdown to when the year is finally over, students will focus even more on the end and find less of a reason to stay engaged.
But if you talk about the exciting activities you and your students still get to do, then you create intrigue and encourage them to focus on what is still to come in the small time remaining. Yes, summer is a much-needed break that you’ve definitely earned, but approaching the homestretch as something to make the most of — instead of something to trudge through — can really improve the class’s mood and level of engagement.
Spice up routine tasks
Maintaining daily routines at year’s end helps students stay focused because they’re accustomed to that familiar structure each day. Upholding that basic framework also shows students that you still have high expectations of them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spice up those routines a bit to keep students on their toes:
- Instead of having students turn to their neighbor to review together before a test, have them hop to a different partner and quiz each other while trying to balance on one foot.
- Take students outside during silent reading time to enjoy the sunshine while diving into a good book.
- Get chalk and have students write poems or memorable concepts they’ve learned in a designated (and approved) area outside.
Some methods work better than others, so make sure your ideas will work with your students. You can have a lot fun finding ways to keep the final days fresh, and everything that works now gives you ideas for next year, too.
Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and an MEd from University of California-Santa Barbara. She has worked with adolescents for a decade as a middle school and high school English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, and a curriculum designer for high school and college courses. She works with 13- to 19-year-old students as a project manager of a nonprofit organization.