Effective Strategies to Making the Most of the End of the School Year

     It's that time of year once again. That time when we realize we have almost made it to the finish line. That time when we begin to feel the exhaustion from a year full of learning, laughing, caring, and maybe even some crying. The time when some of us are tempted to lean off the gas pedal just a bit and feel the breeze, marvel at what was and what's to come. If you haven't already guessed, I am referring to the end of the school year. That time of year when everyone is itching for their summer vacation to begin. When students and teachers alike can literally taste summer goodness, rich in its promise of late mornings and days full of pajama wearing. What a sweet, sweet vision.
     So, how do we teachers make the most of the last weeks of school? How do we make every minute count, even though state testing is complete and we have reached the end of our curriculum map for the year? How do we end the school year with a bang? While some would argue that this is the time to ease up and relax a little in the classroom, I would argue that strictly holding on to your routines is the best way to finish the school year. Allow me to explain why.
     When we begin to loosen the reins, as it were, even just a little, our students really feel this freedom. Not only do they feel this freedom, the begin to push for further loosening, and this is where behavior becomes challenging. They see us as backing away from what we had previously stood firm on, and this gives them silent permission to do the same. However, this will only result in a classroom atmosphere of challenging behavior, conflicts, and even chaos for the last days.
     Okay, so what should we do? I firmly believe that we teachers should not do anything differently than we have been doing during the school year. If you practice The Daily 5 or reading workshop, I encourage you to continue with it until the very last day. Keep your math routines the same, as well as anything other routine you have in your class that make up the threads of your classroom structure. In other words, the day-to-day structure in your classroom is business as usual. You'll thank me later.
     Keeping tight reigns on your classroom structure doesn't mean that you can't do anything fun or celebratory of having arrived at the end of the school year. Instead, I always look for ways to incorporate special activities into our normal classroom routines. For example, I usually have one to two small groups occuring while my students work on literacy. While this group time is normally set aside for guided reading, or social studies or science integration, at the end of the year I can use that structured time for end-of-the-year special activities. It allows us to do something slightly different without compromising the structure of our classroom routines.
     In closing, by continuing your class as normal, you will minimize the misbehavior that inevitably comes at the end of the year. In addition, you will make things easier on yourself. You will not have to come up with ways to get through the last days. Instead, the days are essentially already planned because you aren't changing the structure of your day. You will be making every day and, in fact, every second count. Your students will benefit from maximized learning in the classroom because there truly is something to be learned every day. Here's to making it count.