This school year is beginning to wind down. Most states have some type of standardized testing that is taking place throughout most grades beginning at 3rd grade. Teachers are doing last minute review in the hopes of giving students another chance to master a standard. But, what happens after testing? Most schools have at least one month, and many have much more before they officially end the school year. What do we do for the rest of the school year?
Many teachers like to use this time to allow their students to apply all the skills and knowledge they have acquired during the school year with fun projects. It’s less stressful for both teachers and students as well as highly engaging. Definitely a win-win. They also continue to fill in the gaps with students who need more through small groups. But what about teachers? How should we spend the remaining weeks and days of school?
In my role as a full release new teacher mentor, I work with 1st and 2nd year teachers only. It is part of my job to encourage them to try new instructional strategies all year. Many of them are hesitant for several reasons:
- No one else on their grade level is doing it.
- It’s overwhelming to manage another new structure or strategy.
- They are worried that their administrator won’t like it.
My job is to coach and encourage them to overcome their fear. As I work with them, they become more comfortable trying a new instructional strategy – especially when students are more engaged.
BUT what about the veteran teachers? Who is there to encourage them to try new things? The simple answer is no one. But that just means we need to dig deep and go for it on our own. Stretch a little. Don’t worry about what the other teachers on your grade level are doing or are not doing. The end of the year is the PERFECT time to try NEW things. Why? Because you can fail and nothing bad will happen. Plus, your students will love something new!
Reflective teachers do it all the time. Every day they come to school and use different instructional strategies and activities with their students. Some work – some don’t. Reflective teachers know this, and they keep trying. Many of them try completely new strategies without fear, but many don’t. Fear of failure will stop anyone from doing something new and different. I’m here to remind you that when you were a new teacher – you did something new EVERY day – and you succeeded! So, let’s go for it!
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
Kids talk. ALL THE TIME. If you have spent your school year complaining about how much your students talk, STOP. No amount of bribery or consequences will get them to stop talking. It’s how they learn and process their thinking. Just give them structures for talking about content and they will soar! If you have been thinking about implementing accountable talk, but don’t know how – try giving them question stems to facilitate quality discussions. Here is my Accountable Talk Partner Cards FREEBIE that will get you started. It’s a great way to scaffold your students as they begin to learn to talk about their learning.
|Four accountable talk question stems for
Reading, Writing, and Math!
Kagan structures are a great place to start when you want to get your students moving and working together. If you have been hesitant because you just don’t know what to do first, or you are worried about how your students will handle it – start with these 5 essential structures. This link will give you all you need to get started.
STUDENT DIRECTED LEARNING STRATEGIES
At this point in the year, your students are trained. They know how to get a pencil if they want it. They have mastered the beginning and ending of the day procedures. They can find text evidence and use manipulatives to help solve math word problems. But, have you truly turned over the learning responsibility to them?
One of the ways great teachers do this is with goal setting. Whether it’s content or behavior based, goal setting turns over the responsibility to the students. Students can set goals and monitor their own progress. When they see how their own actions affect the outcome – it can change their whole mindset and motivation.
Even though the school year is winding down, you can still use goal setting to help students stay focused on putting forth their best effort every day. This linkwill help you get started with goal setting and give you and your students a boost at the end of the year. Then you will be ready to start it with a new group of students in the fall.
I encourage you to try one of these ideas. You will grow as a teacher. Your current students will benefit from this new teaching strategy and it will keep them on their toes! #whatismyteacherdoing? Your future students will greatly benefit from one of these strategies. You will finish the school year excited about a new strategy that you can look forward to implementing the first week of school. Don’t let fear or exhaustion get in your way – you can do this!