End of the Year Scramble

Travis Chapman

We are in the final weeks of the school year, which is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.  We are about to step into the long-awaited summer vacation, but some of our stir-crazy students have a difficult time with that wait.  It can be difficult to harness their attention toward productive activities, especially as the academic load lightens up. In this post, we’ll cover some ways to help positively engage students in directing their attention. 
If there is a lot that needs to be accomplished and students are becoming unfocused, remind them of the classroom expectations and when they can expect their next “break”, whether that’s recess, free time, passing time, lunch, etc.  As a teacher, you could enhance this by posting the daily/class schedule on the board for the students to see.  This way, you are re-emphasizing how the day needs to look, how long they have to accomplish their tasks and when they will be free to talk to their neighbors.
Often, the amount of available unstructured time increases the closer we get to the final day of class.  This could be in lack of lesson plans provided or students finishing earlier during work time.  Consider having the students academically engage with the upcoming summer vacation.  Perhaps you have them write a short first-person narrative about something they want to do.  You could have your students list how that subject, like math, will apply to their summer.  Or, have students create a timeline of what they did this school year, including tests, social activities, sporting events and holidays.  In art class, or with younger students, have them draw a picture of their favorite summer activity, using specific criteria.  This will allow students to channel their excitement into classroom learning.
One thing to consider, however, is that not all students are misbehaving and unfocused due to excitement.  Some student behavior changes because they are nervous, anxious or fearful of the change.  Summer vacation means that they won’t have the structure they are used to and need.  Maybe it means a lack of safety because of home/community situations.  Regardless of how the students are behaving, we want to make sure we are still communicating care for our students.  Find some time to positively connect with your students.  Direct them to the schedule for the day and the structure they have now.  You can also try to connect them with a full-time staff member they trust or the guidance/health office for additional support.
While they don’t have many days left in school, we can still communicate care and concern for each of our students through re-emphasizing the structure, engaging student in constructive activities and building positive connections.