Almost there, almost there, almost there… The days are warming up and the students are starting to talk about their Summer plans. You are in the home stretch, the annual countdown of days has started to be posted on your classroom white board and ending the year on a high note is a priority. As I sat down to write this blog installment, I scrolled through Facebook one last time for the evening. I saw teachers asking for advice on how to use independent study time in the final days of the year as multi-level theatre classes are pulled each day for various grade level testing and asking for ways to revive the students through final reviews. Yes, It is that time of year again and you too may be looking for ways to review, reflect, discuss, and most important, celebrate the learning and growth your students have experienced this year.
Here are a few strategies to engage your students in a variety of reflections that not only close out the year in celebration but help you to take positive steps into even better instruction for next year:
#1. LEARNING TIMELINE:
Start first with a long piece of butcher paper that you will eventually display on the classroom or auditorium wall. Review with the students all the learning that took place during this school year or production cycle. Pick a scribe or scribes to help document, via timeline, the key activities, projects, and content from each unit of study in class or objective mastered in production. Have students create visuals to add to the timeline to help students with recall as they gather from the past school year all the learning they’ve done (for example, display a photo of a project, an image of an author, designs or production photos). Have students write statements on the timeline about how what they learned made them feel or how they see it helping them in the future. Once completed, this is not only a great way to review for final exams, but also a great introduction to the class for next year’s students when you cover the syllabus at the start of the year.
#2. TWEET ABOUT IT:
After reviewing the year or production experience, ask students to use no more than 140 characters to summarize their experience with units or the class as a whole or productions. If they have a twitter account you can encourage them to send these reflections as a tweet. They can even create a hashtag that reflects an aspect of each unit you studied in the year or production you created. Do a twitter board in the class where students can physically post their tweets and hashtags and have the whole-class share out so students can comment on the tweets and hashtags of fellow classmates.
#3. SYNERGIZE WITH SOCRATES:
Socratic seminars may be a technique you have used throughout the year or you may be trying it for the first time. They are one of my favorite ways to engage in meaningful student-led discussion — and reflection. In Socratic seminar, the goal is for students to help one another more deeply understand ideas, values, information, and concepts. Essential questions — or guiding questions — drive the discussion. Consider the following guiding questions:
- What has been some of your most important learning this year?
- What has been some of your favorite experiences and learning this year?
- What learning moment made you feel the most accomplished?
- What did you think you knew when you entered the class or production but you realized through experience, you had much more to learn?
- How might you be able to apply what you learned this year in the future?
- What activities made the most impact on your learning?
#4. LETTERS TO FUTURE STUDENTS OR YOUR FUTURE SELF:
Invite your students to write a letter to a student in next year’s class.
- What advice might you give him or her?
- What should the student do in order to be successful in this class or in auditions?
- How will what they learn help them in other classes?
- How about in life?
You keep the letters and pass them out to incoming students during the first week of school in the fall. This is a great task for seniors.
Students returning to your program can also write a letter to his or her future self. They record some memories and important learning from their experiences in your class or productions. They can also write their hopes, fears, and expectations for the next year. Keep the letters for them and give them out on the first week of class next year. Before sealing the envelope, invite students to share excerpts of their letters with each other and with the whole class.
Reflection is a great way to help your students process all they have learned in one year. These activities can bring about awareness of just how much they have accomplished and also help them make a plan for continued study. As an educator, these activities also engage you in a process that supports your continuous improvement as well as you process what they learned well and areas that need reinforcement.
In all the review, don’t forget to celebrate. Great learning happened and both you and your students have been inspired. The slow chug up the incline of the rollercoaster is well worth it when your hands are high above your head, the wind is whipping through your hair and you are screaming with joy at the drop to the end. Enjoy the final days of this year’s ride!