You survived the onslaught of spring standardized tests. Barely, after losing a few brain cells literally staring at struggling or bored students for hours on end. (I swear proctoring is worse than actually taking an exam.)
If you teach seniors, you survived the getting-into-college weeks and even the College Decision Deadline. Spring break is a distant memory. Prom season is in full swing. You’re dreading being a chaperone simply because you don’t want to have to remind kids not to twerk or grind or freak or whatever they’re calling dancing-too-close these days. And you can’t believe you still have a month or more of school left! (Here in New Jersey, we go to the bitter end of June most years.) Here are a few tips to keep you going and to keep your students learning!
First off, how can you keep yourself going to get through the next month or so:
1. Do as much grading as you can at school and leave it there. If you’re like me, you’ll carry papers home day after day and never actually grade them at home. Just don’t bother putting them in your car. They probably won’t leave your car and you will save yourself the hassle of transporting them back and forth. I’m a morning person, so I used to come early to school to grade and do it then, instead of trying to motivate myself to do it in the evening.
2. Set aside a day each weekend, either Saturday or Sunday, to be a school-free day. Your mental health is important! Go outside. Play with your own kids. Stroll the mall or the boardwalk or your local hiking trail. Remind yourself that summer is almost here. You can do this!
3. Self-medicate with your favorite treat or beverage. It’s not time to calorie-count. My beverage of choice was Starbucks hot chocolate until I learned about how much sugar is actually in it… (you don’t want to know) I also like Lindt dark chocolate truffles (the blue ones). Chocolate, mmmmmm. Need to release some positive neurotransmitters.
For those who want to try a stronger drink (on a non-school night), here’s a recipe from my friend Vanessa Jason at Biology Roots:
3/4 oz Smirnoff Orange Vodka
3/4 oz Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz half and half
Shake, pour over ice, and garnish with an orange slide for an end of the year drink!
Now that you’re taking care of yourself (remember, put your own oxygen mask on first!), what are you going to do to keep your classes learning and moving forward? Here are a few ideas:
1. Dissections: If you can plan it that way and your class curriculum includes time and resources for it, do dissections in the last few weeks! In biology, I like to dissect fetal pigs at the end of the year. It’s after lots of students have completed enough biology to understand and appreciate the process. If you can’t order fetal pigs, go to the local Asian market and buy a fish! Or a lobster! There are definitely options for teachers without the standard ordered specimens. Virtual dissections are also available online for the faint of heart or those who object to the whole idea of dissection. Examining how body systems and tissues are organized within an organism really can bring together a lot of biology from throughout the year. Dissections fascinate students and a fewstudents who were unmotivated all year might actually perk up for this activity.
2. If you teach underclassmen, I really recommend taking extra end-of-the-year time to have them design their own experiments. Go back to the beginning of the year and review the scientific method and how to logically “do” science. Have them design and carry out simple experiments, using simple materials/supplies and what they learned throughout the year to inform their decisions! If your students are at all interested in doing a science fair project the following year, this could really give them a great jumping off point!
3. If you teach seniors, I really recommend student-directed projects and specifically, posters! Have them bring in poster board and let them work on it in class! I find it really difficult to get seniors to do work at home or sit in front of a computer to type an essay. Let’s be honest; when I was a high school senior, I even stopped doing all work at home too. And I was a pretty good student. Gluing and cutting and being creative while chatting with friends is an activity seniors might be more likely to follow through on, if it’s completed in class.
Here are a few ideas students could make a poster about:
Parasites and how they control our behavior (Look up Toxoplasma or zombie ants)
Human microbiomes and their effect on human health
Allergies and the mystery of how we develop them
Epigenetics: beyond the genome
Drug development and discovery methods
Genetic engineering: pros and cons
For each idea or topic, I require my students to connect their topic significantly to at least three of the year’s units (Biochemistry, Cells, Cell Transport, Cellular Energy, Cell Division, The Central Dogma, Genetics, Evolution, Ecology) in a meaningful way.
4. From my friend Erica Colon at Nitty Gritty Science: Some students would rather stay busy to help time fly instead of sitting watching movies all day. Take advantage of those handy helpers and give them a pass to come help you get organized so you’re not doing it at the start of the school year. Have a checklist handy of what should be at lab stations (glassware, supplies, etc) and have them take inventory so you know what you need to fix or replace. Do the same with numbered textbooks, microscopes or whatever else needs to be prepped for next fall. My friend Tara from Science in the City agrees: Keep a list of jobs that early finishers can help with such as taking down posters, sorting markers and throwing out those that don’t work!
5. From my friend Michelle Brousseau at Mrs. Brousseau’s Binder: To survive the last few days of school, let the students do the work. After preparing exams, reviews and marking, you will be tired. So have the students come up with questions for a quiz-quiz-trade on a different topic each day. And if they are getting squirrelly, I find finishing the period with a Kahoot game always keeps them engaged until the bell!
6. Also, check out resources on Teachers Pay Teachers to help you with planning and filling up the last few days with meaningful activities. There are a ton of resources available for only a few dollars that can help you get through the end of the year! They can be such timesavers! Go to teachers pay teachers and do a search, or check out my store here.
What survival tips do you have for the end of the year? Write them in the comments below!