Three Ways To End The School Year Strong

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning psychologist and economist, suggests that we tend to make future decisions based on the “peak-end rule” — that we remember how particular events and time periods end, and that our “remembering selves” focus on the best moments among them.

Given this research, it’s particularly important for us teachers to be strategic about how we end the school year with our students – it can have an outsized influence on not only how they feel about our class, but also about how they approach school in the future, too.

Here are three ways I try to increase the odds of my English Language Learner students feeling energized about the final month of school:

Set Last-Month Goals

Setting achievable goals can be a good motivator for students. I have students complete this End-of-School-Year sheet (PDF), which has them identify four specific goals, and four specific actions they will take to accomplish them.

Students then turn these goals into posters, which we tape on the classroom wall, and paste the worksheets into their notebooks. Sometimes, they make videos of them to post on our classroom blog, or make presentations to the class. Each Friday during the final four weeks of school students reflect on the progress they’re making towards achieving them, or the problems they are facing and how they can overcome them.

Develop an overall reflection of the most important events of the year

Students create a “timeline” that not only recounts what they consider to be their most important events from throughout the year, but also “ranking” them. Students use the positive-and-negative numbers to gauge if the events were…positive or negative. They then describe event, why they rated it as they did, and illustrate it. Finally, students present their timeline.

Students in my ELL classes typically identify seven important things that happened during this school year – a particular lesson, meeting a new friend, doing a project, etc., and lay it out on a poster using this kind of timeline. You can download the instructions here (including a visual).

Create a slideshow reflecting specifically on their experiences in each class

If there is time, I sometimes have my ELL students create slideshow discussing what they learned in each of their classes – not just in my own. They need to also explain how they can apply some of what they learned in other school or outside-of-school contexts – the idea of “learning transfer.” They then present it to the class.

Here is the three-page student hand-out, including sentence starters.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. For more, check out The Best Ways To Finish The School Year Strong.

Larry Ferlazzo teaches English and Social Studies at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California. He has written nine books on education, include four on teaching English Language Learners, writes a teacher advice blog for Education Week Teacher, and has his own popular resource-sharing blog

Read all of Larry's posts on TeachingEnglish

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