Earlier this month, I wrote an article titled The Last Day Of Class, which appeared in Teacher Magazine two weeks ago. That functions as a sort of “Part One” on this topic. In order to view the whole article, you have to register for the Education Week site. It’s free, though, and only takes less than a minute. You’ll see where it says “Free Registration” just below the beginning portion of the article that you can see.
I’d strongly encourage readers to check-out that piece, where I share a few of the ideas shared by readers of this blog in a previous post. I also share some of my own and frame them in a bit of a community organizing context.
In this “Part Two” post, I’d like to more completely share reader suggestions and also include some links to good teacher evaluation forms that you might want to consider adapting for your own use. In addition to “Celebrating and Appreciating,” I also recommend in the article that teachers consider “Evaluating and Agitating” (I’m now adding “Reflecting” to that list).
This is the latest post in my “What Do You Do?” series. Previous ones have included:
The next topic in this series will be:
What Do You Do When You’ve Finished Your Lesson, But Have Five or Ten Minutes Of Classtime Left?
Feel free to leave your thoughts on that topic here.
CELEBRATING AND APPRECIATING:
One of the things I try to do is to have a simple celebration and student recognition ceremony. I’m obviously not alone in doing something like this.
On the last day of school we tear down the remnants of an 8′ x 8′ wall map of Florida that we spent the entire year constructing (we use most of the content in making a year-end book). Then, we have an awards show. Students receive the Presidential Student Service Award for having more than 50 hours of community service during the year (this year’s class has over 100 per student). The finale is an individual award for each student where I have one last opportunity to roast and celebrate them before sending them off to 5th grade. We wash that down with cake and a round of boo-hoo’s.
I teach at a very small school. We have 6 staff members and around 40 students. For the last few years we have gone to a local park and had a picnic to wrap up the year. Students enjoy bringing desserts and salads. My husband usually ends up grilling the burgers. Many of my students have children of their own and they bring them. We always have a great time!
Although it depends on what activities have been planned for the whole school, I like to have kids act out plays (some they’ve written during the year, some they’ve just enjoyed in the past). They love either acting, or watching others act, and this uses up all that pent up last-day energy.
I teach EFL college courses in Taiwan.
I try to always find a way to celebrate learning on the last day of class.
For example, in my writing classes, students read aloud selections from their favorite pieces in their portfolios. In my business English classes, students have a mock full class role-play that covers the content from the semester. In my public speaking classes we have two whole class debates.
In all situations, I find ways to give certificates or awards as well . . . most improved writer, more interesting essay, most inviting introductions, and so on. If the class is small, I find a way to give an award to every one; if the class is larger, I only award those who earned them.
On the last day, we’ll be playing Scattergories, with categories related to our content from this year. It’s a fun way to end but still ties in to some sort of actual learning. But mostly it’s just fun.
In the comments section at the Teacher Magazine article, Nancy Flanagan shared this plan:
In the last few years, the outgoing 8th graders have done a fun, raucous pops concert (I teach music) for the whole school first hour, pulling teachers out of the bleachers to be a guest conductor or vocal soloist, involving the cheerleaders, flag corps, spring season athletes, drama club skits, etc.. The musicians really are the stars, but so many kids get recognized (who weren’t part of Honors Night) that it feels pretty democratic. We begin with “America the Beautiful” (which is cool again, thanks to Ray Charles) and end with the school song and play lots of high-energy stuff of the “Louie, Louie” caliber.
EVALUATING, AGITATING, & REFLECTING:
One of the things I have students do is anonymously evaluate the class and my teaching.
Other teachers also use the day as an opportunity to invite students to evaluate.
As a high school English teacher, I always had the students “grade” me on the last day of school. Their “assignment” was to tell me what they liked most in the class and what could be improved. In addition, I asked them to rate the literature we read in the class and projects we completed: what would they recommend I use again in the future and what to cut. They had the option of leaving their names off of the evaluation if they chose to do so. Most did not and were pretty honest about their experiences in the class. It was one more way to find a way for them to write the last day of school and I really appreciated their feedback.
Siobhan Curious has students do a somewhat different type of reflection:
I teach college. I sometimes use the last class of the term as office hours, when students can submit outstanding work, ask questions about any final assignments due after the last day, or come pick stuff up.
However, I sometimes use the last class as a sort of free-form seminar. I ask students to write down a question, any question, about anything they’d like to know about English language, English literature, being a teacher, being a writer, the class… Then I put them all in a hat, and draw as many as I have time to answer, soliciting their input. Sometimes I have them do a little writing assignment for the last half hour, tying together some of the things we’ve discussed – one topic I use for this is “Why is it important/not important to study English literature in college?” Their answers often surprise me.
I also generally have students write letters to future students entering the class. Other teachers do the same:
I teach technology at a grade school. I have 2 projects I’ve done in different years. One is to write a letter to a child who will come in to that grade telling them what that grade will be like. I give them some guidelines, like your 3 favorite things, what you need to know about the teacher, something that will be a challenge. The teacher can use that at meet the teacher day, or the first day of school.
The 2nd project I’ve done is “3 Words”. Students pick 3 words to tell upcoming students about the grade. For example: Do Your Homework, Mrs. Smith Rocks, Tell the Truth. You can take a picture of the student with their words, and make it into a book or a slide show.
Feel free to contribute additional ideas in the comment section — no matter when you’re reading this post. There’s always another “last day of school.”