Friday, May 25, 2012

Year 2: Week 35 – How To End The Year

Teachers talk a lot about how to start the school year. Great care and time needs to be put into setting up procedures and standards for students early in the year. If you don’t do this as a teacher, you will end up paying for it for the rest of the  year. While I agree that this beginning of the year set-up for critical is students at all levels, I don’t feel there’s enough focus on how to best end the school year.

Growing up, the one thing I remember from the end of the school year was watching movies, A LOT of movies. Now as a kid that was fun but in reflection it kind of seems a little ridiculous. I guess some of that was part of a reward for earning something or having some good socialization time but is watching a movie really the best way to help make a school year meaningful?

If you think of the school year as a lesson plan, with the beginning being the hook, and the ending being a concluding activity that ties together what has happened in the class, how it will be extended in the future, and how this applies outside of life, then the end of the year holds incredible importance.

Look, I’m not saying that you can’t have fun at the end of the year and watch a movie. I watched the entirety of Start Wars: Episode IV with my seventh grade band last year.  Did it have a point? Well, it was partially a reward for a good concert and I did lecture about the leitmotifs while watching the film, so I don’t think it was a complete waste. Also I don’t feel so bad about that because we did spend time in class reflecting on the year and doing self-assessment exercises.

So what am I planning to do with my students for the coming last two weeks of school? A couple critical components:

Reflections – In my general music classes, I’m have students rate their favorite songs and activities to get them thinking about the scope of the year and give me some curricular feedback. I’m bringing back some older activities so that they can see how their skills have advanced. For all my students  are doing self-assessments rating them on how well they worked, what they learned and how well they accomplished goals they set earlier in the year.

Culminating Experiences – It’s important for students to have something that they are working towards, a special experience, a payoff.  For my band kids it was their Spring Concert. For my 3rd graders its, finally putting together the different parts of a song we’ve been working on for a couple weeks.  My 5th graders end the year with a sing along of their favorite songs from the year.

Having Some Fun – I will always argue that the most fun and satisfaction students can have in school are being actively engaged in meaningful educational experiences. Yes, watching a movie is fun, but that’s not merely as much fun as doing a folk dance as a class or learning a pop song by ear and creating an arrangement. Kids have the entire summer to watch a movie, so why not create a unique and exciting experience to end the year? In music class the most fun you can have is through creating great music. The kids will always vote for a movie, but trust me they will have more fun composing a song hitting playground equipment with drum sticks, which was my 8th grade bands final class project.

Look, I know you’re tired, you have grades to do, a classroom to clean and the kids are crazy this time of year. But keep at it, push through and give your kids something more than a movie to remember their last weeks with you. We work too hard for our kids the rest of the year to just throw it all away at the end.

Finish strong, have fun and make it meaningful.

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