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6 Unique Ways Teachers Can End The Year By Creating Memories

Posted by on in What If?
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SIMPLE TRUTH:

The power of a teacher is truly known when we allow a child to be truly known

 

RESEARCH TELLS US:

The end of the school year.  Yes, this is a time that evokes so many feelings for students and teachers alike.  Summer vacation is knocking at everyone's front door, and this annual knock makes those last couple weeks of learning...well, a bit chaotic.  And we may agree that when I say "learning," I use it loosely.  But we do know that these students, who we've poured so much of our lives into, will leave our classroom for good.  It's important that we maximize these last fleeting days with our students and design powerful opportunities for them to reflect on their growth, both as a person and as a learner.  This reflection can lead to affirmation and self-worth, which is important especially as a school year comes to a close.

Boosting self-worth can have real impacts on thinking and learning.  British Columbia professor, Jiaying Zhao, conducted a study that found "that surprisingly simple acts of self-affirmation [can] improve the cognitive function and behavioral outcomes of people in poverty."  The end of the year presents a potentially memorable opportunity to design activities to help support and encourage students' self-worth.  By this time of the year, each student should have the opportunity to let their talents be known and shine in the classroom.  Specific feedback should be given to reinforce these authentic examples of achievement.  Just be sure that our attempts to support and enhance student self-esteem is based on real achievement, as empty praise "...does not automatically translate into improved student behavior or academic achievement" (Sousa, 161).

Ending the year by providing intentional student affirmation can ensure a sense of closure for students.  In fact, we should begin our school year by keeping in mind the specific goals we want students to accomplish by those final days.  By that last day of school, I wanted to ensure that each of my students would be able to honestly and specifically identify areas of personal and academic growth.  And it was my job to design a learning environment throughout the year that engaged students in activities where they could use their talents in ways that led to successful outcomes.  Below are some of my favorite culminating school year activities that incorporate recognition, reflection, and reinforcement.

 

TRY THIS:

1.  Circle of Compliments: Have the class sit in a circle while each student takes a turn sitting in the middle with their head down. Have 2-3 students and the teacher share a specific compliment to the student seated in the middle. Be ready, as usually tears will flow!  Examples would be, "I noticed how you were always a thoughtful friend to everyone, even if you weren't having a great day."

2.  Here's A Toast: Give each student a cup of juice. Then allow each student to be toasted by their peers with a specific compliment. "Here's a toast to (student's name) for always being an enthusiastic leader during team projects, cheers!"

3.  Student Letters To Next Year's Class: Have students write a creative reflection on the year by sharing with next year's class about all of the fun, challenges, and activities they should expect. It can always be so insightful to have them share their advice as well!

4.  Teacher Letter To The Class: Write, laminate, and give each student a final class letter where you summarize all the incredible feats of the school year and then share one specific memory for each student.

5.  I Know That I'm (...) Because I Was Able (...): This student reflection activity allows children to recognize not just that they were successful, but more importantly, how they were successful during the past year.  The "how" is powerful, as it allows the students to better visualize and remember these experiences.

6.  I Know That You're (...) Because You Were Able (...): In a personalized teacher letter, we can encourage students by sharing not only their individual strengths, but also how those strengths looked like in class.  Tying their talents back to classroom experiences can enhance the power of this exercise.

 

What are some of your favorite ways to affirm students at the end of the academic year?  Leave your thoughts below.

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As a professor of education, Tony Kline, Ph.D. is always learning. Having taught in rural villages in Africa to urban neighborhoods in the midwest, he has been surrounded by individuals who've dedicated their lives to impacting students. Now as a professor of education who has taught on four continents, he's had the great pleasure to work with colleagues to help prepare over 1,000 current teachers who are passionately serving in today's classrooms. Tony Kline, Ph.D. is an assistant professor for the Franks School of Education at Trine University in Angola, Indiana. He has been honored by Phi Delta Kappa International as an Emerging Leader Under 40 and was the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award by Ball State University and Trine University. These thoughts and views are personal and do not represent any outside organization.

  • Guest
    C.S. Stone Tuesday, 26 April 2016

    My 8th grade advisory class and I do the circle of compliments (we call it the compliment chair) several times throughout the school year to build friendships and remind each of us that others are watching and seeing the good we do. I am going to do the "Here's a Toast" activity. It should be a powerful end to a great year.

  • Tony Kline, Ph.D. | @TonyKlinePhD
    Tony Kline, Ph.D. | @TonyKlinePhD Wednesday, 27 April 2016

    C.S, thanks for your feedback! Yes, I love that you emphasize that our actions have an impact...as others are watching. That sentiment is a great reminder for both students and teachers.

  • Guest
    Ms. Hart Thursday, 09 June 2016

    A different take on the Circle of Compliments- use a 4x6 index card and have each student write their name on it. Pass it around the circle, and each student writes down something positive about the person when they get their card. Or, have students tape a large piece of paper to each students back, and have students write positive things about the person on the person's back. This is great as it involves movement. At the end, the student's have a positive memento to take with them.

  • Guest
    Ms. Hart Thursday, 09 June 2016

    A different take on the Circle of Compliments- use a 4x6 index card and have each student write their name on it. Pass it around the circle, and each student writes down something positive about the person when they get each card. Another option is to have students tape a large piece of paper to each student's back, and have students write positive things about the person on the person's back. This is great as it involves movement. At the end, the students have a positive memento to take with them.

  • Tony Kline, Ph.D. | @TonyKlinePhD
    Tony Kline, Ph.D. | @TonyKlinePhD Friday, 10 June 2016

    Ms. Hart, it sounds like you have experience with these two ideas! I love them, thanks for sharing. I appreciate the emphasis on having something physical and tangible to takeaway and remember...and I'm sure the students do too: )

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Guest Friday, 09 December 2016