Images from a 2013 City Room post showing New York City teachers at the end of a school day.
How does the end of the school year feel to you? To your students? Below, many ideas for making the most of the time you have left — and inspiring your students to continue learning over the summer.
How are you marking the end of the academic year? Tell us using our new commenting system.
Goal-Setting in the Final Weeks of School
Setting achievable goals can be a good motivator for anyone. As I’ve written elsewhere, one way to help students focus more on learning during the final weeks of school is by asking them to complete this simple End-of-School-Year sheet (PDF), which has them identify four specific goals, and four specific actions they will take to accomplish them.
Students then made posters, which we taped on the classroom wall, and pasted the worksheets into their notebooks. In addition, students used one of my favorite free apps, Shadow Puppet, to create a video using their posters and to practice their speaking. Here is some of their work:
Each Monday, students review their goal sheet and pick one action they will take during the week to accomplish a goal, completing this sentence:
This week, I will _____________________________.
Then, on Friday, we review the goal sheet again and they write:
This week, I did/did not _____________________________.
If they did not follow through, they write one more sentence:
I did not do it because _____________________________.
I can do better next week by_____________________________.
Images From the End of the Year
Steal an idea from Aliza Eliazarov and invite students to do what she did in the slide show at the top of this post: document the end of the year in photos.
What do May and June look and feel like from a teacher’s point of view? A student’s? A principal’s? A parent’s? Other members of the school community? Invite students to experiment with capturing images they can pool to create a “Goodbye 2014-15” slide show.
Virtual Field Trips
Many teachers plan field trips for the final days of the school year, but if you haven’t already scheduled one, the paperwork involved might mean it’s out of the question.
Luckily, however, your students can always go on a virtual field trip.
Google has some of the most impressive resources for these kinds of trips. You can visit historic sites through the World Wonders Project and international museums with the Google Cultural Institute, and read Times articles about the Cultural Institute hereand here. In addition, you can visit famous places through a gallery at Google’s Street View feature (The Times has written about Google’s underwater tours).
Or, as this article recommends, try GeoGuessr, a site that “turns Street View into an incredibly engrossing game.”
There are also many, many other options for these kinds of free virtual trips, many of which I’ve collected on my own blog here.
A Letter to Incoming Students
Asking your students to write a letter to your incoming students next year can be a good reflective activity for your present class and function as a nice introduction to your next one. I ask students to write about:
- The three most important things they think students will learn in the class and why they think they are important.
- Three things new students should keep in mind in order to be successful in the class.
- What students should do if they are having problems in the class.
- And, in case the student is new to our school, information every student should know.
As in all new learning activities, a teacher model can be very helpful.
Summer Learning Plans
When students finish, you can explain that the same “slide” holds true for learning English. There are many free online sites where teachers can easily create virtual classrooms and track student progress. I make arrangements with my students’ teachers for the fall semester to offer them extra credit for the English work they do during the summer.
Here’s a list of my, and my students’, favorite sites. It’s best if you can make arrangements to bring students to the computer lab for two to four periods before the end of school so that each student has a chance to register for and get comfortable using the sites.
- Duolingo is just about everybody’s favorite language-learning app, and this year it created the ability for teachers to create online classrooms.
- USA Learns is for beginners and intermediate E.L.L.s, and has reading, speaking and listening activities. Teachers set up the class, and students then enroll themselves.
- ThinkCerca’s free version offers many high-interest short texts, with audio support, followed by comprehension questions.
- SAS Curriculum Pathways is an incredible resource, with scores of high-interest interactives. Instead of creating a virtual classroom, though, you get a classroom login, and students then email their completed work to you.
- Edueto is a new site to me that looks as if it has the potential to be one of the best.
- Quill, No Red Ink and Virtual Grammar Lab are some sites that emphasize … grammar.
Finally, even if your students are just beginning E.L.L.s, they are more than welcome to join in The Learning Network’s Sixth Annual New York Times Summer Reading Contest. They can choose a photo, video, infographic, article or anything else they like to enter any or every week it runs.
Expose Students to Other Classes
At many schools, including mine, E.L.L.s take extra periods of English in an attempt to strengthen their language skills and learn academic English. They therefore have often missed out on the opportunity to take school electives.
At the end of the year, I make arrangements with teachers of elective subjects for our class to visit them. Often, the teachers sends us a list of 10 to 15 vocabulary words that it would be helpful for my students to learn before their visit. On the day of the visit, the teacher and students will have a series of class activities set for us, the visitors, to do. The next day, back in our classroom, we’ll write and talk about what we did – using the Language Experience Approach.
For example, we might go to a music class where students will teach my E.L.L.s about their instruments and let them try playing them. Our music teacher calls it a “petting zoo” for instruments like the trombone, drums and keyboards. Afterward, the music students will put on a short performance for our class.
Our art teacher might have his students prepared to teach our E.L.L.s to create origami, while a visual arts class might demonstrate how they can create digital media. A language class might teach my E.L.L. students a few words in a new language.
The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman had on his blackboard the day he died the sentence “What I Cannot Create, I Do Not Understand.” Teaching our ELLs provides mainstream students with an opportunity to teach and recreate what they know, which, plenty of research shows, can increase student achievement. And at the end of a long school year, any change in routine is energizing for everyone.
Still More Year-End Activities
A previous Learning Network post for English Language Learners discusses several other end-of-year activities, including:
- Student-created portfolios highlighting their best work of the year.
- Student-generated projects.
- Anonymous student evaluations of the class.
- Letters that students write to their future selves.
What do you do? Post a comment and let us know.