Saturday, May 6, 2017

How to survive the end of the school year (in one piece)

I think this is always the most difficult time of the school year - the home stretch between April vacation and summer vacation. At the high school level, that time is riddled with AP exams, and every teacher is scrambling to finish the curriculum for the year. Below are a few tips for making this challenging time of year productive and meaningful for students and teachers.

1. Prioritize your curriculum. For reasons unknown (and known!), we always struggle to teach everything that we need to teach by the end of the year. Therefore, it's essential to prioritize your curriculum. What do your students absolutely need to master before moving onto the next level of the language? Speak with teachers in your department, both horizontally and vertically, to determine what should be taught and what could be left out. For me, it is important that I begin teaching my Spanish 2 students the preterite tense. I slightly rearranged the order of my curriculum so that my students will have at least 6 weeks to practice the regular preterite tense before advancing to Spanish 3 next year. 

2. Refocus your students with yoga. This might sound ridiculous, but my high school students love to do yoga every once in a while. I limit the moves to the tree pose. When I see that students are either too tired and not responsive or overly energetic and all over the place, I calmly state that we are going to "find our trees." I got a few eye rolls at the start of the year when I first did this, but you would be amazed at how many students enjoy it now. All students participate - even the most athletic of the 15-year old boys who you would not imagine doing yoga in a thousand years. I usually have the students "find their trees" (or cacti :) ) and hold it for one minute while being silent. This exercise really does seem to refocus the group and bring their positive attention back to learning Spanish. I recommend trying it out in your class! Check out the brief Youtube video if you want to see how to do a tree pose properly.

3. Keep students engaged with technology. I have always been a big advocate for Plickers as a formative assessment tool, but I recently discovered Quizlet Live. Each student needs a device in order to play Quizlet live, and the classroom needs a projector (either a Smartboard or another screen). As the teacher, you log onto your Quizlet page and select a set of flashcards with which you want to work. Then, you choose the option "Quizlet Live" and students enter the code on their devices. Once all students enter the code, Quizlet creates groups of students within the classroom and students must move to sit with their group members. When the game begins, students in each group are given a multiple choice question and each group member has four distinct answers to choose from. If there are three people in the group, then the entire group will look at 12 total options. Only one student has the correct
option in front of them on their device, so students must work together to determine who has the correct option. As teams answer questions correctly, the projector shows each team's progress. Whichever team answers 12 questions correctly in a row wins that round. You can play as many rounds as you want. This is great for practicing new vocabulary or grammar. Above is an image of the projector screen. When your Quizlet flashcards are in Spanish, the team names actually convert to Spanish which is a neat feature! Even my sleepiest of students love this game and you'll be surprised to see how engaged each student is!

So there you have it - three tips to make the end of the school year bearable for teachers and students alike. Good luck - we can do this :)

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Happy teaching!

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