School is almost over for the year. If you are like most of us, your students’ plans for the school day are vastly different from yours. While you are thinking of lofty goals such as success on standardized tests and productive learning until the very last day, your students are focused on absolutely avoiding all work, playing around in class, and annoying every adult within sight. Those children you found so lovable in January are now unmotivated, bored, restless, whiny…and you are out of patience.
Since snarling threats just does not seem to be an effective deterrent for most students, it’s time to make a solid plan to make it through to the end of the year without losing your enthusiasm and sanity. Try these strategies to see if you can’t redirect those end-of-the-year impulses into more positive school experiences for your students and yourself.
Strategy One: Reduce distractions. The old image of restless students staring dreamily out of the window has much truth in it. Students of all ages are always able to entertain themselves by paying attention to distractions rather than focusing on the teacher. Some obvious sources of distractions might be windows, desks too close together, doorways, pencil sharpeners, trash cans, bees or other spring bugs in the classroom, graffiti, or—the most enticing one of all—other students.
Strategy Two: Monitor constantly. Monitoring your students is of primary importance for the smooth running of your class for a variety of reasons, not just for efficient time use. Walking around the classroom instead of sitting at your desk will allow you to help students while their problems are still manageable.
Strategy Three: Become supremely organized. If your students have to wait while you find your textbook or a handout, that is a poor use of their time. Make it a point to be so organized that you will be able to keep yourself and your students on task. Now is not the time to expect students to wait quietly while you rummage around trying to find more handouts.
Strategy Four: Have a backup plan for your backup plan. If a lesson isn’t going well, if a guest speaker cancels, or if the equipment you need to use isn’t working, you will need an alternative way to teach the material you planned to cover. And, since warm weather has a way of knocking out even the best back up plan, be sure to have another one handy. Keep in mind that since students are so easily bored this time of year, you will need to offer several small activities instead of one or two longer ones.
Strategy Five: Take a door-to-door approach. Engage students in learning from the time they enter your classroom until the time they leave. Many teachers make the mistake of thinking that students need a few minutes of free time at the start of class and at the end of class to relax. Although students do need time at both ends of class to make effective transitions, they do not need free time to do this. Free time and the end of the school year is a miserable combination destined for trouble.
Strategy Six: Assign enough work. If students finish a task, there should be another waiting for them. For example, students who sit around after a test waiting for others to finish before going on to the next activity are obviously wasting time. Always make sure that your students know what they are supposed to do after they finish their current assignment. Keep them engaged.