There’s a quote from Churchill that I love, “It’s not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.” Teaching sixth graders in elementary school really feels like the beginning of an end, and now that we are entering the final month of school, it’s that much moreso. Still, it’s not just an ending for the kids, but the start of a new beginning.
I’m doing a bit for Larry Ferlazzo’s Ed Week column on the final weeks of school, and this post will expand on some of the ideas there.
My first rule is to avoid countdowns, and to really avoid doing them with the kids. There’s a countdown on the staff restroom whiteboard that’s been going since April, but I really do not like thinking about the “end of school” and summer until about 5-6 weeks from the end. Doing a countdown with the kids seems to give them license to act as though it’s all over already, so I avoid that.
The kids at this point know the end is nigh, they don’t need me reinforcing the idea. The behavior documented in my Windy Week Edition hasn’t improved much, even as the skies have settled down. My gambits to deal with this include periods of silent contemplation/meditation. I have no idea if this is therapeutic for them, but it’s stopped a lot of migraines from happening to me, as their volume level is truly excruciating at times. I’ve also added dodgeball with the teacher to let everyone get there ya-yas out. We play with carpet balls, which make injury pretty impossible, but what kid doesn’t want to have a shot at me at this point?
We’ve stopped doing our math exchange, and I now just have all my kids with me. I’m doing exploration activities. Last week was looking at probability and patterns in games, like cards, Yahtzee, etc. Next week will be fraction concepts with pattern-blocks and Legos. I may do some more work on a lesson I did earlier on distributive property and expand it to fractions. All of this is very hands on, with lots of independent-work time, but some writing, etc. I start it out structured (some fact worksheets, silent time, and a short demo from me), as they are coming in from recess and pretty wound-up.
In ELA, and social studies I’ve been emphasizing a lot of writing in the assessment. This week, I gave them only one short-response question to answer, instead of the usual two. I want to just see if they can still write after a three week break during testing season. Everyone did about as good as before, and some did better, so I’m going to offer them their choice of assessment forms (look at the bottom of this post for examples of what happened last time I did this) next Friday. Last time I “offered” this (I asked them how they preferred to be assessed), they did not read the options carefully, assumed they only had the choice of multiple-choice or writing, and picked multiple-choice. They saw what the few peers who paid attention got to do last time, so they are primed to make some interesting choices. I’m looking forward to this.
Science is all about Science Fair projects (which will be displayed at Open House on 5/29). I’m very pleased with how well the kids have done with formulating questions about their subject and not just wanting to start building. I have one kid (very good with hands-on stuff, and handy to have in class) who did this, but I’m using this as a chance to work with him on planning and writing first, and he’s paired with a kid who excels at “thinking” about things really deeply. I’m looking forward to that pair, and all the projects.