Excessive daydreaming, extreme laziness, and failure to turn in homework…it must be the last weeks of school. It seems everyone has a case of summer-itis. But don’t despair. We have the cure for this “mysterious” condition, and the good news is that it comes with plenty of inspiration for teachers, too.
What is summer-itis?
Summer-itis is the lack of motivation at the end of the school year. Similar to senioritis, summer-itis causes students to lose focus and interest in school as they anticipate what’s to come. While it’s difficult to compete with thoughts of summer fun, there are ways to energize and refocus your students. Whether you’re a first-year or veteran teacher, here are some idea starters.
How to combat it.
Take your lessons outside.
Chances are that the weather is beautiful. It’s the perfect time to hold class outside. The fresh air and sunshine will naturally bring out the enthusiasm but you can do so much more than simply bring the books outside. Go on a noun, verb, adjective scavenger hunt. Do math with sidewalk chalk. Try an outdoor science experiment. Explore, measure, journal, and interact with the outdoor environment. The possibilities are endless.
Go on a virtual field trip.
No matter what subjects you teach, there is a virtual field trip (or two or three) for your class. Best of all, there are no permission slips needed! Virtually “walk” through museums, visit a national park, or take your students to Mars. Make sure that the field trip is designed for the ages and stages of your students to get the most meaning from it. Think and talk about the topic ahead of time so that students have context, and then plan follow-up activities so that they may process what they learned.
Play a game.
What better way to review the curriculum from the year than with a game? From knowledge bees to Jeopardy to literature charades and content-based scavenger hunts, there’s a game for every subject. Ask students to create their own questions to make your job easier. Challenge them to create a game to teach concepts to next year’s class. You can find lots of resources for both online and in-person review games.
Increase the incentives.
You and your students both need a little more inspiration. Identify end-of-year goals and set up high-stakes rewards: extra recess, movie time, a pizza party, etc. Try this Wheel of Fortune style incentive: write the secret reward in blank spaces on the board. The class will earn a letter each time they reach a milestone. When they complete everything, they’ll see the reward, such as P-I-Z-Z-A-P-A-R-T-Y. You’d be surprised to see how much this motivates students.
Rearrange the room. Add a touch of home.
A change in environment makes the classroom seem new. Rearrange the desks or just the seating. Move your desk to a new location. Create a nook for reading. Add a home-like touch with curtains, plants, or other décor. Set the tone for calmness or a focus of study with a classroom transformation. Incorporate relaxing music. It may seem simple but these small changes can be effective in getting students to refocus for the last few weeks.
Lean into social and emotional learning.
You taught the main skills in your curriculum area. The end of the year is the perfect time to focus on social and emotional learning. Teach soft skills, from organization and communication to teamwork, gratitude, and kindness. In addition to lessons on these topics, consider a class community service project that can incorporate it all.
Showcase your students.
Give your students a chance to shine in front of the class. Ask for volunteers to teach lessons about a favorite hobby or topic. Give them a framework from which to plan, and work with them on how to create an engaging presentation, whether it’s a PowerPoint, poster, song or demonstration. Also work with the rest of the class on how to respond thoughtfully to the presentation, with questions and positive feedback.
Invite former students.
Colleges end their semester weeks before elementary and high schools, which is a great opportunity to bring your former students in for a visit and Q&A. For younger grades, partner with a teacher in the next grade to have students visit your classroom. These are opportunities for students to learn what’s to come and incentives for them to work toward their future.
In between end-of-the-year assemblies, field day, and more, it may be hard to stick to your routines. However, it’s more important than ever. Familiar routines will help students to know and follow expectations. Be consistent with discipline. Letting small things slide can quickly unravel into behavior that is out of control.
It’s the final mile in a year-long marathon. You want to finish strong, but not at the expense of your health and well-being. Prioritize, because you can’t do it all. Practice self-care so that you can be there for your students, enthusiastically through the last day. Then, get ready to celebrate, because after weeks of summer-itis, summer is finally here!
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