Calming the Chaos

8:00 AM Sarah Koves 4 Comments

It is that time of year when things start to get a little crazy in the classroom.  My seniors have 13 days left while the rest of us (my juniors and I) have 23.

Next week is senior portfolio presentations and AP Testing, so the chaos is real people.  The juniors are finish up Huckleberry Finn, and we are talking foreign policy in civics/economics.

I am sure after presentations and AP Exams are done this week the chaos will really come on full force.  It hasn't been terrible as of yet with these big items still on the horizon.  However, I am preparing for it with a few simple ideas.

Tweet: 1st thing when planning for these last weeks of school is to ask students what they wanted.  See how @cera0316The first thing I did when starting to plan for these last weeks of school was to peak student interest by asking them what they wanted to do.  
My English 11 students are starting to think about colleges, so I offered them a choice: another novel  to read or a nonfiction text.  They chose the nonfiction text.  I got these with a Donors Choose project this past winter, and the students are so very excited to delve into them in about a week.

I think by saving the most relevant topic in writing (college applications essays) for the end of the year, and the students' choice to read this novel will help maintain their interest through those first days of June.

The other way I have used student choice to plan these last two weeks was in my civics/economics class.  I am ending the year there with a very relevant topic: personal finance.  My intention was to tailor this last unit to the students.  To better gauge what they needed and wanted one of our stations last week was to complete a Google Form by writing questions.

I listed all the topics relating to personal finance with a box for each one.  Students then went in and wrote questions they have about each topic.

I am still trying to finalize these plans for the personal finance unit, but this survey of students was incredibly helpful to me, which I hope means the unit will be helpful to them.  I want to line up a couple of speakers even to come talk to the students as well.

 My second tip is pretty basic: provide variety and choice.  I usually am out of the classroom about one day a week in the spring due to school improvement and schedule writing (two other jobs I do in my building).

I try to plan all kinds of different days for them:

- reading days to do some of the usually-outside-the-classroom-reading in class

-news days to check on current events

-free writing days where they can write what is on their minds

-Moodle online reader response questions with time to reply to other students' responses

-speakers to come and talk about the topics, so I am not the only voice the students hear

-even a few MUSTARD DAYS (Making Up Stuff That "Ain't" Really Done) [I don't do catch-up days] to help those end of the year grades.

Basically I pull every tool from my tool box this time of year.

Another think I have done is invest in mass quantities of sidewalk chalk.  My plans, now that it is warm out, including going outside and using our two big student parking lots to share our learning.  We did have some crazy snow/ice weather last week, so hopefully that is done and the weather will be nice enough to get outside in the morning classes.

As my students read I have them make annotations on sticky notes (I go through tons of them).  I think that writing advice tips from their reading in both civics/economics and English 11 will be a good starting place for sharing information in the parking lots.

Asking them to each pull two tips from their annotations to share with the sidewalk chalk will be perfect.

I got the idea from this $1 resource that I found a month or so ago and it will be my best planning book for the last four weeks of school to enjoy the weather and fun that is spring/summer.  Room 213 has some great ideas that I know I can incorporate.  I might even add it to my social studies summer school planning.

Check out more ways to Calm the Chaos at these blogs

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