Finish Strong and Relaxed!

Exciting but stressful! – these are common teacher sentiments at the end of the school year. There is excitement to spend the summer break recharging but it is also stressful to try and finish everything before the end of the year.
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Spending the last few classes reviewing and using the language is less stressful for both students and teachers!

Alexis Buschert

Instructional Strategist, Wayside Publishing

Exciting but stressful! – these are common teacher sentiments at the end of the school year. There is excitement to spend the summer break recharging but it is also stressful to try and finish everything before the end of the year.

This is a great time to stop and ask…What, exactly, do we need to finish? When it is so close to the end, is it important to “cover” all the things we set out to include? Or would it better serve our students to spend the remaining classes celebrating and reinforcing what was learned throughout the year and building excitement for their language learning in the next school year?

After several years, I have come to discover that the second is more important. Spending the last few classes reviewing and using the language is less stressful for both students and teachers! This is also a great way to sneak in any last-minute review for a possible final assessment.

Here are some ideas for reinforcing everything that students learned over the year while trying to keep your sanity as a teacher in the last few weeks.

Strategies to review content from the year:

Step 1: Collect all information (themes, vocabulary, structures, etc.) in one place. Divide the content into categories to make the content more organized. Ask students to gather their vocab lists, useful notes, and any reminders from the year. Teachers can pull out any word walls, chat mats, vocab slides, etc. that were the most useful to students. Consider taking pictures of everything that isn’t virtual and putting it in one place like a Padlet or Google Drive folder.

Step 2: Plan engaging, low-prep activities that focus on what was learned throughout the year while adding in some new vocabulary or structures as needed or by interest.

  • Charades: Teachers can create the prompts or students can be put into groups and asked to make the prompts organized by category. While playing charades, student groups can work on one category of prompt cards and then switch with another team.
  • Pictionary: Similar to charades, students draw the prompts. For a fun twist, bring in Play Doh and give students the option to sculpt the words and phrases!
  • Flashcards: If there are existing flashcard sets for certain categories, use those. If not, ask students to create flashcards on a digital shared document table (like a Google Doc) and print out class sets. There are several fun and low prep activities to be done with flashcards. If students know the sets well, they could play the role of the teacher and direct the activities. Check out some flashcard ideas here.
  • Jeopardy: Create categories and ask students to write the answers and questions. There are many pre-made Jeopardy PowerPoint and Google Slide templates available online. Ask each student to fill out a square on the template, then use the game with another class period so each class can play a game that another class wrote.
  • Student-created board game: Group students, assign each group a unit, and ask them to create (digital) question cards with questions and answers from those units. Compile the questions from the whole class and print them out as cards. To play, students can use a generic board game board, dice, and game pieces. Students must roll the dice and answer the questions from the cards correctly before they move spaces.
  • “Teacher for the activity”: All students choose one topic covered during the year (can align to unit themes) and one activity that was used frequently throughout the year. Ask students to prepare their activity as if they were the teacher. Give them suggestions for transitions, ways to give instructions, pairings and grouping, etc. and time to prepare with teacher support. For the last few days of school, students take turns running their activities during class.
  • Can-do review: Post can-do statements from the year on large sheets of paper around the classroom or in the hallway. Students go around and write example target language sentences for each can-do statement. Students can work individually or in small groups/pairs.
  • Class Yearbook: Ask students to create a yearbook post about themselves including an image and something about themselves. Compile the posts, either on paper or digitally, and spend a day sharing and signing yearbooks.
  • Cooking class: Choose something very simple that won’t require many tools or mess. One of my favorite days was making tortillas by hand. Students only need masa, water, and a bowl. All I needed to bring in besides ingredients was a few electric skillets. Students watched a video of a woman making tortillas by hand, they always think “that looks easy.” Then I would sit back and watch as they were quickly humbled by some dough.

Teacher self-care at the end of the year

It can be very easy to feel overwhelmed at this time of year with everything that is expected of teacher. It is important to protect your time, energy, and attention for what really matters.

  • Focus on activities that everyone enjoys: These last few days or weeks of school can be chaotic and stressful but they can also be really fun and memorable. Rely on the community that you have built with your classes throughout the year and enjoy the time together. If you aren’t having fun, chances are that students aren’t either. Be brave and switch it up to do something different!
  • Be selective about grading: Decide what absolutely must go in the gradebook before the end of the year and limit your grading work load to just that. Any other work that is done can either not be collected or can be turned in and recycled.
  • Build formative assessment into class: Read a few student responses every class period and mark it down. Talk to each student every day in the target language and keep track of a few at a time. Find manageable ways to turn regular classroom interactions into data without adding extra work.
  • Spread out final assessments: If possible, try sneaking in some assessments early so that you aren’t spending the last few days frantically grading. One of my favorite strategies for presentational speaking tasks was to allow students to “practice” their presentations in different small groups for several days in the last few weeks. This allowed me to go around and grade them then when they didn’t know it was even happening. If they were unhappy with their grade, they could have another chance. For the most part, their practice presentations were more than enough!
  • Communicate rather than cover: Are students spending their last few days with you communicating in the target language? If not, change class activities to something that is more fun or engaging, even if it is easier. Students are also stretched thin at the end of the year and can use a break.
  • Embrace the uncertainty: Not every moment needs to be planned. Sometimes a student response will lead to a class discussion or debate about something fun or silly. Go with the flow! What feels like mess and chaos may be the one of the most memorable experiences from class.
Alexis Buschert

Alexis Buschert

Alexis Buschert taught high school Spanish for 10 years in Oregon public schools. She has also taught in France as an English teaching assistant and participated in a Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminar in Ecuador. Alexis spent her time in the classroom transitioning to proficiency-based teaching and trying everything from an immersion-style deskless classroom, to teaching fully online during the pandemic.

Alexis still takes Spanish classes at home and abroad whenever possible.

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