Ah, it’s that magic time of the year.

Well…not as much magical as it is stressful.

Our Spring Breaks are over, grade books are closing, and our students can taste the freedom of Summer vacation rapidly approaching.

So can we.

How do we keep students motivated and finish the year strong?

Here are three things we definitely should NOT do:

  1. Use the time to catch up on late/missing work: This is not a good idea for two reasons: First, it discredits the students who worked hard to meet deadlines; and second, it values quantity of work over quality of work.
  2. Offer ‘extra credit’ assignments: Similar to mistake #1, this busy work makes learning an accumulation of points, rather than a deep reflection on experience. What’s more, those students who really need the extra boost probably won’t even do it!
  3. Watch films/movies: Ending the year with watching films/movies creates a culture of passive learning; and devalues the unique contribution your students can make to your teaching subject.

So what should we do?

The end of the year should be about three things:

Celebration, Reflection, and Legacy.

What from the year is worth celebrating? How can we best reflect? What legacy will we leave behind?

Here are five ideas from 5 innovative schools I work with that allow for all three:

Hold an Exhibition of Learning. High Tech High in San Diego has students publicly share 2-3 pieces of work from the year that they are most proud of. Provide students a space in your room to exhibit, a format to present, and have them share their learning creatively with their parents and peers from the class next door. Need to exhibit remotely? Try ‘Gather Town.’ 

Create Class Ted Talks: Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego has each student create a 3-5 minute TED talk to pass on to the next year level sharing life lessons they have gained that year, and advice for how their younger peers can thrive.

Co-Design Immersive/ Digital Textbooks: Eunsup Kang of The American International School of Hong Kong has teams of students leave a legacy by designing ‘student-friendly’ class textbooks for younger peers at the end of each year. Each team picks a subject- related concept, and designs the hands- on activities, learning materials, videos, and supplementary handouts to share with incoming peers.

Create Digital Portfolios: At The International School of Beijing students create dynamic digital portfolios to publicly archive, reflect and share their work with a wider audience at the end of each year. You can easily re-create your own in Google Sites, Slides, or WordPress/Weebly. Make the content of the portfolio similar to idea #1.

Re- Design Classroom/School: At Cambridge International School in Bratislava, all classes go off timetable for a week at the end of the year to re-design learning environments for successive year groups. Student teams choose a part of the school to re-design, and work with the marketing, facilities, and finance department to bring it to life.

Yes, the end of the year is tiring.

Yes, students are restless and rowdy.

Yes, this has been probably one of the most challenging years on record.

And YES, by focusing on celebration, reflection and legacy, we can still finish the year strong!

To your success with finishing the school year!

p.s. Have a meaningful way you like to end the year? Please hit ‘reply’ and share it with me. I would love to add it to the list!