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A Strong Finish to the School Year

Smart ideas for keeping students engaged as summer arrives
Kids smiling on school bus

As the weather warms and summer vacation approaches, students’ excitement builds — and their patience and attention wanes. Yet just because the school year is ending doesn’t mean the learning needs to wrap up. A growing body of research supports the idea that summer is also a time where children need access to learning opportunities (formal and informal) to maintain their progress. How can teachers manage to engage students meaningfully over the last days of the school year and provide a platform for the learning journey to continue well into the summer? We reached out to our network of educators to find their solutions for capturing the anticipation of summer and directing it into meaningful classroom experiences in the last few weeks of school.

Career Connections: Nick Amendolare, Ed.M.’19, taught eighth grade science and had his students apply for fictional science jobs with real resumes and cover letters. The resumes and cover letters were then submitted to real scientists for feedback.

A Time for Integrated Projects: Third grade teacher Dyan Branstetter wrote to say that she connects language arts, visual arts, and mathematics using Demuth’s painting I Saw the Figure Number 5 in Gold with William Carlos Williams' poem The Great Figure. Students then created a book involving and inspired by the number 5.

Delve into Real World Problems: After having her class study and research current events, fifth grade language arts and social studies teacher Stephanie Fumiatti tweeted that she has her students create websites and podcasts that showcase their thinking on issues like gender stereotypes in toys and racism in schools.

Encourage Student Voice — with Students as Teachers: High School teacher Kathleen Tonn tweeted that she has her students teach a lesson that builds off of a topic that inspired them this year.

Leave Room for Reflection: Several followers wrote in on Instagram to emphasize the importance of giving students room to think about and consolidate their learning over the past year, so they’ll be well positioned to move into the summer and the next school year. One Instagram user wrote that she makes memory books with her second grade class — a project that can be made relevant across many age ranges.

Celebrate Your Classroom Community: In a piece he wrote last year, David Rawson, Ed.M'17, talked about the rewards of teaching "right up until the very end of the year." Among other strategies, he encouraged teachers to take the time to show students that the community they’ve shared is worth celebrating. “Make it clear that you value them. You might write your class a letter (or a poem, if you’re so inclined!) in which you share memorable moments, both humorous and those that have impacted your community. Acknowledge acts of kindness you have witnessed, provide shout-outs, and celebrate the collective success of the group.”

We'd love to hear from you! Share in comments — how are you preparing your students for a strong finish and a summer that includes some meaningful learning?

Usable Knowledge

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