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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The end of the school year is quickly drawing closer, and the kids are starting to stare outside longingly. Let's be honest -- teachers are staring outside as well. But there are still some great ways to infuse energy into the classroom and keep students motivated until the last day of school. Check out these awesome ideas to see how they might fit in at your school.

Get Outside

This one is simple. Take the class outside. Find a tree and have your class meet there instead of the classroom. I have found this to be one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep kids on task as we move closer to the end of the school year. I'm lucky to have a beautiful front lawn with great trees that are perfect for class discussion. I grab the book we're reading and just head down to the lawn. The students love being outside in the fresh air. Some teachers think that the front lawn is too much of a distraction for the students, but I always say that interesting conversation will trump a squirrel climbing up any tree.

If you really want to kick it up a notch, make your outdoor lesson a giant picnic and plan the event with your students. Have some bring big blankets and have others volunteer to bring drinks and snacks. All students, no matter what age, love doing something different after a long year of sitting in the classroom. Ask the students to create a theme for the picnic that matches what is currently being covered in class, with all of the dishes connected to the content in some way. There are endless possibilities when you take the students out of the classroom and really let them have some fun.

Start a Passion Project

I've been a big fan of project-based learning for many years now, and I've seen the amazing things that can happen when students are given a chance to show a class what they are capable of doing. At the end of the school year, students are often overloaded with all of the things they've been told they need to know. How about if you throw them a curveball and ask them what they want to learn?

Student-driven projects are a great way to give your class a chance to explore areas that are interesting to them. Set aside a week or two for letting kids research pieces of your content area that they want to know more about, and have them come up with a way of sharing that is not a slideshow-based presentation. Over the years, I've had students present puppet shows on a topic that interested them, as well as great pieces of art that are still hanging in my room. Students will rise to the occasion if you give them a chance to explore and share on their own terms. The end of the year is a perfect time to let kids show teachers what they've learned.

Make a Video

One of the things I love to do when things get a bit stale in my classes is make a music video. I have the kids pick a happy, uplifting song and challenge them to create a video with only 24 hours notice. It usually takes two class periods to plan and film, but the pressure makes for a fun couple of classes. Here are some examples that my students have done over the past couple of years:

I've had some people ask me how I can justify doing a video in my English class. It's quite simple. Music is poetry -- my class talks about the lyrics, what they mean, and how to visually represent them in a video. Also, this video project is a quick two-day lesson that allows my students to be silly and blow off some steam. As teachers, we need to remember that our students have so much more going on than just our class. We need to afford them an opportunity to cut loose and have some fun. For me, giving my students a fun activity for expressing themselves before the start of final exams is a great way to clear their heads and get them ready for the end of the school year.

This time of year can be tough on students and teachers because the classroom can fall into a rut. These are just a few suggestions for changing things up in your classroom and ending the school year on an upswing. Doesn't that sound better than staring at the clock and calendar as you wait for the last day of school?

If you have any fun, creative ideas about changing things up at the end of the school year, please leave them in the comments section below.

Comments (2)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Angie's picture

I know that in HS, after state testing, the students have a hard time seeing the value of education. We tend to do current events research and they seem to find interest in that or college research.

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