Early in my career I couldn’t wait for May, not because I had survived another year and was one step closer to my tenure, although that was definitely an added bonus, but because I could finally have fun!  No, I am not talking about “fun” as in staying up late during the week and sleeping in because it was summer and I didn’t have to work in the morning; I’m talking the fun that I felt I could have in my classroom now that my end of the year benchmarking and standardized tests were done for the year.

We had so much fun in May, whether it was utilizing our photography skills and writing our own mysteries inspired by “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick”, creating wax museum that derived from a research project where students read a biography about someone who inspired them, or finally getting around to some of the art projects I had “forgot” about during the year, May was a magical time in my classroom.

It wasn’t until I became a mom that I changed my practices.  I would hate for my daughter to be in a classroom where her teacher only implemented “fun” sporadically, at best.  A classroom should be a place of learning, laughter, collaboration, & creativity. I took a thorough look into my May Day activities and aligned them to the scope/sequence within my curriculum.  Not only would I still be able to implement these activities, but they would be more meaningful and make a lasting impact on my students if I did them throughout the year, not just after my high-stake tests were completed!

What I didn’t realize then, because the term hadn’t been coined yet (yes, I have been teaching for a while), was this change in my practice was the beginning of my implementation of project based learning!  Clearly I had a way to go before I modeled a true project base model into my classroom (see future blog) – but I was no longer waiting until May to focus on the 4Cs!

I know I am not the only educator that feels/felt that the end of the year is/was the only time we can let our hair down and enjoy the precious time with our students.  Just a few weeks ago I was talking to a colleague whose current role is an instructional coach, she mentioned that she was busier working with teachers the past month than she had been all year.  This surprised me initially so I inquired further, she said that now that testing was over her co-workers were interested in using technology to have their students create end of the year projects.  My heart sank when I heard this, I had such hope that the the “mold” of education and been broken, that we had done away with the traditional prep for the test mindset. I feel no blame or anger when I hear this, pure sadness, yes of course for our students, but also for our teachers who feel they have to wait until May to feel the joy of teaching, the reason they went into the profession in the first place.

Yes, it is May, enjoy the end of the year with your students, but as you are packing up your classroom for the year I ask that you keep a project or two out to implement throughout the year next year, not only will you still reach all your learning objectives, but you and your students will have more fun and make more memories while doing so!

Can’t think of any ways to wrap up 2018-2019?  Need a few ideas of how to keep the fun going into next school year?  Here are 3 of my favorite activities to do with students, at any age, that are cross curricular and fun!

  1. Create your own mystery unit! – You won’t believe the math, reading/writing, and problem solving that can take place in a classroom mystery! Make each student their own case file and work as a team to solve the classroom mystery.  You will be amazed at the creativity and collaboration throughout this fun investigation!
  2. Adapt a courtyard or start your own classroom garden! – Obviously you will address some science standards, but once you start measuring the height of your plants, keeping a water gauge, journaling your observations, reading countless texts about gardening (my favorite is “Tops and Bottoms” by  Janet Stevens) you now have a year-long, meaningful classroom project that might even spark a passion in some of your students!
  3. Lets go camping!  Obviously, I don’t really suggest going on a camping trip with your students.  But how many of your kiddos know how to put up a tent? Pack for a day of hiking?  These life skills don’t teach themselves! Not only will your students LOVE a day outside to explore nature, they will learn to work together, problem solve and acquire life skills that they can use in their future to make memories with their families.

These were just a few of the many hands-on activities I, regrettably, saved until May to do with my students.  So take a deep breath, enjoy these last few days with your students and transform your school year by implementing these amazing cross-curricular, hands on, learning opportunities throughout the upcoming school year!

Need more ideas or a colleague to help plan/bounce ideas off of?  Feel free to email or give me a call at any time, I would love to support you as you bring the “fun” back into learning!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning

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