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5 Tips to Keep Your Students Engaged at the End of the School Year
As someone who teaches several senior classes, I can personally attest to how hard it can be to feel motivated as the end of the school year approaches. Senioritis has set in around this time, and students can be cranky, disinterested, and frustrated. But there are several ways to keep things fun and interesting as the school year winds down. Here are some tips to help you and your students find a little motivation.
Reward Your Students
One year, at the beginning of the second semester, I put the following blank spaces on the board: _ _ _ _ _ /_ _ _. "What's that, Ms. B?" my students asked as soon as they walked into the room. I explained that every space stood for a letter. Each time they performed well in class—if everyone scored 80 or above on a test, handed in their homework, or fully participated in a lively discussion—I added a letter to the secret message. When they received all the letters, it spelled out P-I-Z-Z-A/H-U-T, and we had a pizza party. You'd be surprised how motivating this little exercise can be; students love being rewarded.
Turn Learning into a Game
I often say that if I could put my entire curriculum in game form, every single one of my students would be motivated to learn. For that reason, I like to do end-of-the-semester reviews in a game format. Relays, knowledge-based "bees," content-based scavenger hunts, and literature charades all work really well, and they actually help your students retain information.
Try Role-Playing and Play-Acting
Getting students up and moving is a necessity when it comes to staying motivated at the end of the school year. Role-playing and play-acting are perfect ways to do that. After my students read The Glass Menagerie, for example, I task them with being part of an "employee placement team" that has to prepare Laura, one of the main characters, for a job. Students love to role-play, and it's a great way for them to learn how to write a cover letter and resume. Similarly, after we read Macbeth, I have my students create a modern-day version of their favorite scene. They love these exercises.
Invite Former Students Back to School
Many colleges wrap up the year long before most high schools, making the end of the year a great time to bring former students in to talk to your current students about the college experience. Three former students are actually coming in soon to chat with my underclassmen about everything from the college admissions process to academic preparedness. By addressing the end goal of getting into college, my current students realize that they need to stay focused, motivated, and on task.
Host an All-School Concert
This is the perfect time for a community-building, all-school concert. Each year, my school arranges for a band to come in and perform for the students. Last year, I booked a pop-rhythm and blues band called Mo' Bounce. This year, the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars will bring their brand of world music to our school gymnasium. The entire student body dances, sings along, and has a great time letting loose together. The students realize that this is something special that doesn't happen often in other schools, and they are extremely appreciative.
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It's not easy to get through these final months, but with these tips, you can ensure that your students will stay engaged, enthused, and interested. You might even find yourself with a little extra boost of motivation.