Summer is just around the corner. Testing season is wrapping up and we’re in the home stretch. With just a few weeks left, many of us are exhausted, low on energy and patience. And yet there is still work to be done.
At the same time, student restlessness is increasing. It’s a perfect storm as young people infected with spring fever may once more start testing behavioral limits, the way they did the first weeks of school.
Here are some strategies for channeling students’ energy - and rallying our own:
Challenge students to do independent work on topics that draw on their personal interests. With spring energy levels boosted, due to longer days and more exposure to sunlight, students tend to be more curious and motivated. Consider having students choose the topic they want to research, sparking their natural instincts to explore and stretch themselves.
Introduce special classroom projects that are hands-on, collaborative, out of the box and fun. Break out the art supplies and encourage creativity. But make sure to hold on to classroom routines and structures, which students need. Too much change and upheaval can feed their spring fever and make them a bit too goofy.
Revisit classroom norms throughout the year to encourage the practice of reflection. This will prove useful when students struggle with end-of-year changes and transitions.
When you notice student behavior is off, make time to explore what’s going on. Ask them:
- What norms have we been doing well with/gotten better at?
- What norms have been hard to follow? Why?
- What is getting in the way?
- Did anything change? What? What is the impact?
- How can we work together to maintain a positive classroom community?
Be mindful around norms when schedules change because of speakers, field trips, town halls, celebrations and other special end-of-year projects or events. For students who struggle with change, reminders are useful, but exploration, interactive modeling, and role-playing ahead of time can help develop actual behaviors and the understanding of why norms are important.
Give students time and tools to reflect on their school year. Consider doing this through a writing exercise, a restorative circle or two, a collage, (spoken word) poetry, skits, a multimedia or other kind of art project that students can share with each other.
Questions to consider for these projects include:
- What stood out for you about the year?
- What did you learn?
- What did you struggle with?
- How did you overcome your challenges?
- What made you proud?
- What, given a chance, might you have done differently?
- How did you change/grow?
- What are you taking into next year with you?
- What questions do you have about next year? Concerns?
- What advice do you have for students entering your grade next year?
Consider scaffolding the activity by a) sharing your own reflections on the year, as you model the activity, or b) inviting students in pair shares or microlabs to share their reflections on the year, before turning to their own reflection project in whatever format makes sense.
And when all else fails, take a deep breath and remember: The end of the year is in sight!