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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

End-of-the-School-Year Choreography

The crescendo of the year is here. Yesterday a young child was lamenting her long list of activities and events, and I simply replied, "It's the crescendo--embrace it!"

How do we choreograph the final weeks of the school year? What do we do to acknowledge with respect the energy that abounds.

Explicit Goals
First, it's important to recognize what's going on and be explicit about the goals. For example, today students will take another PARCC test. I'll say the following, "There's a temptation on these beautiful, sunny spring days to stare out the window instead of attending this test with care and precision, but challenge yourself to dig in, do your best, and show what you know. There will be plenty of time for play after the test."

Then I'll share the good strategy that leads to a job well done:
  • Warm up your brain by doing what you know well first.
  • Then work on the other problems
  • After that check your work.
  • Always write down calculations instead of doing them in your head so you can check your work.
  • Read carefully, attend to important words and concepts, draw models and pictures, calculate carefully, and explain your answers as if you're writing to a second or third grader--write in a step-by-step fashion.
Timeline Share
Next, it's important to keep the schedule, goals, and timeline upfront in students' minds. Tell them how one event will lead to another. For example, "You're going to do an amazing job during the play. Your family members and friends will be so proud. This will happen if you spend time practicing the songs, lines, dances, instrumental, and more--it's worth putting the time in in order to shine as a whole class. You can do it!"  Or "Just think of all the science you've learned all year, and in two weeks you'll have a chance to show what you know on the MCAS so let's review and revisit all those great science explorations from the grades before as well as our current, great science study."

Student Voice and Choice 
After that, make sure students' have a voice. Ask them, what do you need to do well right now? How can I help you?  Give students choice too. For example, yesterday we resorted the room to get ready for collaborative science explorations. At first I wanted to assign desk groups, but then it was clear they wanted to choose their own. They did a great job sorting and shifting desks into happy groups.

Play and Movement
Also, make time for play and movement. Yesterday when students entered the room after a great weekend and before a big test, the energy barometer was as high as could be, so instead of a barrage of reminders to quiet down and pay attention to test direction, I let them take a few laps around the playground to get all that energy out. Once they returned, it was much easier to start the test as everyone was ready to listen.

Stop, Watch, Listen, and Smile
Then stop and notice. For example yesterday I just stopped and listened to the students' discussions--I smiled as I listened. So often we're working to keep the momentum going that we forget to stop, watch, listen, and smile. Smiles are ever so powerful in a school setting when it comes to positive energy and effect.

Detail Focused
Finally be attuned to the intricacies of the day. At the end of the year students have all kinds of emotions and our careful attention to this makes a big difference when it comes to safe, happy endings.

Join in the Fun
Also make time to have fun with the children too. 

How do you choreograph the end of the year? How do you move from the mid spring crescendo to the sensitive, calm, and caring year's end? Our classroom choreography matters when it comes to teaching children well.