Final grades are being tabulated, rooms are being prepped for a deep cleaning, and the summer take home bag must be packed. You sit and stare at all of your materials trying to decide what to tackle over the extended break this year. You start loading items into a bag, a box, or a crate (or all three!) with lofty ideas for revitalizing your activities and teaching practices for the upcoming group of students. After multiple trips to unload the bounty of materials you deemed essential for summer planning, you've created a display in the corner of your at-home workspace that mocks your grand intentions. We've all done it, started the summer with too much on our plate. That's why you need to take a little time in these hectic final days and hone in on one thing you'd like to implement or improve for the start of next school year. Take the time to relax and recharge and let your summer strategy be a focus on THE ONE.
I found that my most rejuvenating summers were the breaks where I didn't try to reinvent the wheel. Taking 21 hours in workshops and correspondence courses to get my +30 was not a rejuvenating choice. Spending a summer fine tuning a multi-genre research project, on the other hand, led to an awesome unit! Creating color-coded book spine tabs by genre, numbering, writing and adhering cards with pockets, and cataloging over 500 books from my classroom library was another What was I thinking? project. Compiling daily warm-ups to establish routine and get students focused was a great use of another summer that didn't cause me to burn out. Choose one big idea, and go for it! As teachers, having a tangible summer strategy in place will keep you from feeling disappointed with the many things you may not accomplish and invigorated by THE ONE you do as the new school year approaches.
Not sure what that choice should be? Here are some ideas to help you select THE ONE that will make an impact and revive your repertoire:
Incorporate Active Learning
Transform your classroom into an active learning center rather than an always listening center. Take that lecture you once regarded as riveting and find ways to incorporate activities and/or discussions to cover the same material. Once you discover new ways to involve students in the curriculum, it will be easier to adapt your practices and further enlighten your students through active learning. They will reap the benefits of this strategy, as evidenced in the article Empirical Zeal: Active Learning Leads to Higher Grades and Fewer Failing Students in Science, Math, and Engineering1 on Wired.
Implement Professional Development
Take home the materials from that in-service or workshop you attended this year that caught your interest but seemed too overwhelming at the time to implement. Figure out how to make it your own and incorporate it into your plans, OR find a workshop, seminar, or correspondence course that speaks to an idea or topic you'd like to incorporate into the classroom.
Explore an app or program you've heard so many good things about but haven't had time to preview before sharing with your students. With sites like Free Technology for Teachers2, finding tutorials to help you work through the kinks should be a breeze. Try your hand at app smashing to encourage students to master a top notch finished product with a little help and guidance from EdTechTeacher3.
Captivated by all the DIY activities on Pinterest? Hit some neighborhood garage sales and flea markets for inexpensive supplies to craft some hands-on manipulatives or centers. Turn a used bin of Legos into any of these fun activities to support math, literacy, and other basic skills4. This is a win/win for those of us who love shopping and crafting!
Conquer Classroom Management
Frustrated with student behavior during that long stretch after spring break? The time to lay the foundation for a great spring is the first day students enter your classroom. Reassess your management style, and find strategies to help you create a safe, supportive, and educationally challenging environment. The Friday Check-in5 that went viral on momastery.com is one example of a great strategy to keep you in tune with your students and maintain connectivity and comfort. Devise a clear plan and use it consistently.
A plentitude of other options are possible. The most important thing is to choose a summer strategy that speaks to you and will have you eagerly awaiting that first day with your new group of students. What will THE ONE be for you? Use this summer to relax, recharge, and recapture your love of teaching with THE ONE!
Additional Resources & Works Cited
1. Empirical Zeal article: Active Learning Leads to Higher Grades and Fewer Failing Students in Science, Math, and Engineering in Wired Magazine
3. Unleashing Creativity: Greg Kulowiec App Smashing
4. Pinterest Lego Manipulatives
5. Friday Check-in on Momastery