As I write this, my kids have a little less than three weeks left of school yet. It’s the time of year when attention spans get shorter and countdowns start appearing on white boards in classrooms.
There’s this saying in education that I love AND despise (depending on the day):
"Don’t count down the days. Make the days count."
On some days I’ll think, “At this time of year, the best thing for everyone is just to be done.”
And on other days, I’ll think, “I only have a couple weeks left to make an impact. Let’s put the pedal to the metal and end this year with a bang!”
Looking for some ideas on how to thrive at the end of the year instead of survive? Here are some ideas and tools that can help.
PLUS, let’s make a collection of thoughts, strategies, websites, apps and suggestions in the comments at the end of the post! What gets your students excited in these final days of the school year? What are you interested in trying? What has worked well for you? Please think about that as you read, and add it in a comment below!
The “time to kill” file
At this time of year, for me, I’ve always had students with extra time on their hands. They’ll get done with final projects earlier than others. They’ll finish their final exam in a fraction of the time I expected.
Instead of saying, “You’re done, so you can just be done,” I like to refer them to my “time to kill” file. These are my go-to sites and activities that will (hopefully) be interesting to them and at least somewhat academic in nature. (Plus, it sure beats turning them loose on cell phone games!)
Each time you answer a multiple choice vocabulary question correctly, you generate enough money for the United Nations World Food Programme to buy 10 grains of rice to help reach Zero Hunger. Click here!
Homes are sorted on Dollar Street by monthly income one end showing the poorest, the other the richest and everything in between. Click on any picture to view images and learn more about families around the world. Click here!
The “end of year inspiration” file
For me, TED Talks deliver a quick, meaningful dose of inspiration. They’re these 15-minute-or-less keynote speeches by experts in different fields. The premise: the speaker gives the talk of his/her life about his/her life’s passion. Connect these talks (linked from the TED website) with class content, or just show them for the sheer sake of inspiration.
The danger of a single story (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie): In this video novelist Chimamanda Adichie shares found her authentic cultural voice. She warns us the danger of only hearing a single story about another person, or country or culture and judge them on that we risk misunderstanding.
Why believe in others (Viktor Frankl): In a clip from 1972, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl talks about the human search for meaning. For students, as they slowly evolve into adults, they’re constantly searching for who they are and how they fit in the world. This video may really speak to them.
Kids, take charge (Kiran Bir Sethi): Riverside School in India’s focuses on what it calls life’s most valuable lesson: “I can.” In a school culture where many students assume a “do only what the teacher tells me to do” mentality, this can help liberate them to think for themselves.
Do schools kill creativity? (Ken Robinson): This is the most-watched TED Talk of all time. Ken Robinson advocates for a school system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. It can create a fascinating discussion afterward on the education system and your own school.
Your body language shapes who you are (Amy Cuddy): The second-most-watched TED Talk of all time and one of my personal favorites. Amy Cuddy reveals secrets of how to get confidence even when we don’t feel confident. Plus, she discusses a traumatic time in her life and how she regained her confidence.
If those don’t resonate with you, here’s a playlist of the top 20 TED Talks of all time.
The “classroom atmosphere” file
If there’s seated work to be done — reading, reviewing, writing, etc. — too much quiet may be as distracting to some as too much noise. Adding the right kind of background noise can actually improve the classroom climate (and mitigate how distracting a dropped pencil, blown nose or other noise may become).
Depending on the kind of work, I’ve experimented with different stations on Pandora, including those focused on studying and concentration. I’ll use the Beats for Studying Radio station when I’m working by myself at home. Spotify, Apple Music and others could work as well.
For non-musical ambient noise, check out Noisli. It is a website and an extension for the Google Chrome browser. In either form, it has several white noise selections that will make the classroom less quiet but equally focused. Using white noise in the background has been known to improve memory and attention.
Noisli’s white noise options include:
- Forest (with LOTS of birds)
- Rustling leaves
- Running water
- Ocean waves
- Crackling fire
- Nighttime with crickets
- Busy coffee shop (MY favorite!)
- Train cars clacking on a track
End the school year with Epic Review Olympics (free templates!): This post has tons of ideas, review games and templates you can use to create a fun, epic review experience with your students.
10 ideas for digital end-of-semester final projects: Ideas include podcasts, websites, screencasts and more.
20 ways Google tools can make the end of the year ROCK: This post includes some of the tried and true Google tools -- and some that we don't use that often -- can help us make the most of the end of the school year.
What are the best projects to showcase student learning and wrap up a memorable school year? And what activities will keep students engaged up until that final bell?
The #ditchbook community shared tons of ideas and we put them all in a downloadable ebook for you!
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