Friday, 27 May 2011 17:45

Tip #37: Finishing Strong

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With the school year winding down in areas operating under the traditional calendar, it’s critical that we take full advantage of the time we have left with our students.  As professional educators, we are not simply people who teach content standards to help children score well on standardized tests; we are passionate individuals who work hard to promote valuable character traits, social skills, and attitudes. All year we have emphasized these priorities, and the end of the year is our last opportunity to convey powerful messages, review what we have learned together, and achieve a sense of positive closure.  Rather than count down the days until summer vacation, we savor each of our remaining days and strive to maximize their value.

In my classroom, I place particular emphasis on two specific sets of habits: Habits of Mind, that help children become better thinkers, and Habits of Character, that help children become better learners and better people.  I also emphasize other important concepts, such as health & wellness, quality, and success.  During the last week or two of the school year, I purposely schedule activities and projects that touch on these emphases so that I can once again highlight their importance and discuss with my students the information and skills I hope they have gained this year.

For example, let’s focus on the concept of Health & Wellness.  During the first week of school, I have my students complete the “Human Health Hunt” activity featured in Teaching Tip #4.  This icebreaking activity introduces many important health concepts while also facilitating positive interactions among students.  A month or so later, we begin our “Health Champions” science unit, in which students learn what I call the six pillars of health: nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, safety, and stress.  When the unit ends, I continue addressing these pillars and emphasize that this content is not simply important for school, it’s important for life.  

During the last week of the school year, I like to have my students participate in the “Human Health Hunt” a second time, and I use this occasion as an opportunity to re-emphasize many of the crucial health concepts we’ve already learned.

Take a few minutes to think about your highest priorities and determine how you can meaningfully revisit them at the end of the year to achieve a sense of closure.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.