Sunday, April 3, 2016

5 Ways to keep students motivated the last month of school

As you enter the last month of school, the inevitable slow down happens. Students become unfocused and unmotivated. You may be feeling the same exact way as the students. By just changing a few things in your classroom, you can reinvigorate your teaching and student learning up until the very last day of school!

Here are 5 ways you can motivate students that last month of school.

Change the seating in your classroom.

You've probably changed where students sit many times this year, but have you changed where the actual desks are? Group students into larger, more collaborative groups for the end of the year. Angela Watson has some great ideas for different seating arrangements in this blog post.

The big takeaway is: shake it up a bit. Even going from 4-student rectangular groups to 6-student horseshoe groups can be a novelty to students. It sets the tone that the classroom is going to be very different, and that excites kids!

Bring in your most interesting units.

There are a few standards I have that I know with certainty are student favorites. If I can, I try to save the units around these standards until the last month. When I helped develop our writing calendar, I knew we had to have creative writing last. Creative writing is much more interesting to my students than informational writing like explanatory and opinion. Don't get me wrong, we have fun with all types of writing, but creative writing takes the cake. Doing this unit last also allows me to put together a fun book of student writing samples to give them on the last day of school.

I get great engagement with this space-themed creative writing unit!

I also work hard to make more connections between the subject areas. It's always a goal of mine to integrate all of the subject areas as a unit, but sometimes the standards on the calendar just don't match up! The flexibility of the last month of school can help you tie everything together. 

Recognize the growth of your students

You've been so busy pushing your students to the next level this year that you probably haven't had a whole lot of time to recognize student growth. Use the last month of school to have some celebrations and recognize what each student has accomplished this year. 

The last month of school is a great time to:
  • Put together portfolios so students can visually see their accomplishments.
  • Call a class meeting every day to recognize one student. I use these praise buttons (less than $8 for 48 on Amazon!) and the kids wear them so proudly.
  • Set personal & educational goals for the summer. 

Try Project-based Learning

Project-based learning is a great way to give the students a purpose the last month of school. It can also be a great way to apply the standards you've been learning this year. Project-based learning can be done in math, ELA, or science, and can also include art, woodworking, and more! 

My go-to 5th grade PBL for the last month of school is the Start a Lemonade Stand. I love talking to my kids about starting their own businesses and making money. Plus, it's over 110 degrees here the last month of school, and it's a great excuse to drink some lemonade!

Once we start this math project, I know we can also start reading my favorite read aloud book for this time of year: The Lemonade War!

Take "brain breaks"

Students are going to need a break more often the last month of school. They're burnt out and ready to be free to run around outside. 

Here are some great ideas for upper grade brain breaks:
  • Would You Rather?: Students get out their whiteboard and you give them a choice of two items. They write down one, then you can poll the students by having all the students with one answer stand up.
  • Find Someone Who: I don’t like to have to do a lot of planning with brain breaks, so I do this one a bit differently. I say something like “Find someone who had the same food item for lunch as you today” or “Find someone who has the same birthday”. They have 1 minutes to pair up, then I give them something to discuss about the lesson we are working on.
  • Dance Party: I have a folder in my bookmark that contains short clips from movies of characters dancing, and my students get to imitate them. I like to keep it fresh with the current kids movies and their interests. This is always a classic!
  • Order Line-up: I have to split my students into 2 groups for this activity since I have 28 this year! I give them a category and they have to put themselves in order. Examples: Birthday months, height, shoe size, name alphabetically. I start easy and they get harder over time as my students get better at them.
  • Talk Like A Pirate: I have students partner up, give them a topic, and they talk like a pirate for 30 seconds each. I try to relate the topic to what we’re learning, and talking like a pirate makes it a lot more fun than regular discussion!
If all else fails, take a walk around outside and just get some fresh air!

Don't forget to keep yourself motivated! Take breaks over the weekend and do something to relax. You're almost there!

This post is featured on the Teachers Pay Teacher blog. You can check it out here!