Here are some suggestions from Choice Literacy contributors for the best ways to close out the year, with everything from personal organizing tips to family events.
Heather Rader, Instructional Coach in Washington State:
For my “Teachers as Writers” class, we are closing out the year by publishing a short teacher anthology. Since September we’ve been meeting once a month to write, share our writing, and give feedback to each other. It’s long been my belief that teachers who believe they are writers communicate that identity to their students.
I’ve asked each member of the group to send me one page or less of something they’ve written this year. I’ve received a poem about writer’s block, a piece of creative nonfiction about hair named “Sheila” with a mind of its own, and an essay about childhood cruelty that directed the writer’s path to special education. I will cover and bind these beautiful pieces and present them to the teacher-writers at our last class. What artifacts might you publish from your colleagues to commemorate the year?
Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan, Founders of Teachers for Teachers:
When we think about closing out the school year, we often plan activities that help our students notice and celebrate their growth as learners. However, we also think it is important to provide teachers time to reflect on their professional growth, as well as to celebrate all that they have accomplished over the course of the year.
The teachers in one district worked diligently to implement a consistent reader’s workshop model in all K-5 classrooms, and we wanted to celebrate the changes in teaching practices that were taking place. We decided to reserve the last after-school professional development session to acknowledge the hard work of the professionals. As we began planning this professional development session, we had three goals:
1. Highlight and honor the changes in instructional practices.
2. Provide time for teachers to reflect on their learning and to share new insights they had gained.
3. Enjoy each other’s company and eat some yummy dessert.
Flooding the Room with Pictures
Since teachers don’t often get a chance to visit each other’s classrooms, we took pictures of each teacher during reader’s workshop in their classrooms. We took a variety of pictures: teachers conferring with students, students selecting new books to read, teachers collaborating to plan a new lesson, and teachers thinking aloud during whole-class focus lessons, as well as newly organized classroom libraries and anchor charts that were created during reader’s workshop. As teachers entered this final professional development session, a slide show of their hard work was playing on all of the walls. This visual helped the staff see firsthand all the changes in instructional practices that were happening throughout the district.
Time for Reflection
1. One thing I’m sure about when it comes to teaching reading/writing is . . . What makes you certain? What could make you change your mind?
2. Another thing I’m sure about when it comes to teaching reading/writing is . . . What makes you certain? What could make you change your mind?
3. One thing I once believed about teaching reading/writing was . . . What made you certain? What made you change your mind?
4. One thing I’m starting to question about teaching reading/writing is . . . What makes you question your beliefs? What might make you change your mind?
Once teachers completed their writing, they were asked to share one of the ideas with their colleagues. As teachers chatted in grade-level teams, it became apparent how much everyone had learned and discovered about teaching reading and writing.
And of course, we always end the year with a giant cake to share with colleagues, because we all need something delicious to simply enjoy!
Melanie Quinn, Instructional Coach in Washington State:
We are hoping to have a reading event at our school to close out the year with families. Our children have made great progress this year with reading, and now we are afraid of the summer slump. Ten extra minutes of reading per day can exponentially increase the number of words a child reads in a year. This research finding really brought home to all our teachers the importance of reading, and helped us develop a sense of urgency about getting the message out to our families.
Our school is a full Title I school, and the majority of children do not have access to books in their homes. Our first thought was to provide them with books, but economically we just don’t have the resources. We also want to empower our parents. Here is our plan: We are going to have a Reading Night and offer some sort of food component—it really helps with our turnout. While teachers are reading to children in classrooms, my principal is going to share with parents to emphasize how important reading is for their child this summer. We are inviting local public librarians to be on hand to sign parents and children up for library cards right on the spot. We are hoping that by initially bringing the library to the parents in a nonthreatening way, we can get our students into the public libraries over the summer.
Passing on student work samples from one teacher to another can be just an extra thing to add to the ‘”to-do” list for teachers at the busy end of year. Often this ritual ends with frustration, as some teachers are ready to pass along their items before the school doors close for the summer, whereas others want to wait until the peace and quiet of those after-school-closes days has settled in.
Why not consider making sharing student information part of the fall tradition? Coming back to the first staff meeting of the fall with portfolios in hand, and not only setting aside time to share the paper legacy of each child, but giving teachers a chance to talk to each other about individual children, sets the tone for a year of honoring students.
A big advantage to sharing student information in the fall rather than during the rush of the end of the year? Summer has a way of tempering challenging times with students, and may give everyone some much needed distance and perspective.
Jennifer Jones, Instructional Coach in Wisconsin:
It may only be May, but I have already begun crafting my to-do list for fall. This year we have rolled out a number of key curriculum items, which include an updated math curriculum, comprehension rubrics for all of the comprehension strategies, a new word study curriculum, and other work around the Common Core. As we rolled these items out, we delivered the message to teachers that they were expected to use this year to dabble, experiment, and collaborate to work out some of the kinks. It will be critical that at the start of next school year I revisit each of these curricular items to make sure all of the teachers in the building are feeling confident with them.
The other key piece to wrapping up the year is a final data review. Our district assessment window for spring assessment closes on May 13. This allows for ample time to review all of our end-of-year data and craft a plan of attack for next year. The plan is preliminary, but we have found it effective if teachers know at the end of the school year which students may have intervention needs in fall, or other needs they can think about and plan for during the summer break.