May 1st is Monday. I have laid out my last six weeks of school in calendar printables and I am marking off the days that I actually have instruction. How many days am I actually teaching you ask? ELEVEN. Yes, you heard right. I am only teaching eleven days in the month of May. When June comes that is something different, June is a different beast at the end of the year. I like to take my time to look at May at a glance. On my calendar I currently have:
- Poetry unit for my general ed. classes
- Novel unit for my advanced ed. classes
- A graphic novel author visit
- A poetry author visit (Shoutout to Nikki Grimes!)
- M-Step State Testing
- NWEA Map Reading Testing
- Common Growth Assessment with performance task and argumentative essay
- One Day of Professional Development (Substitute Teacher in My Class)
- Memorial Day-No School
- Library days to fit in choice reading time
And that is my month of May. From the onset, it could be particularly easy to become overwhelmed or stressed. We are nearing that time when the kids are done, the teachers are done, and even the posters on my walls are done (that double sided tape lasts until May...not June). So I am being cognizant of some strategies that will help get through the month of May without breaking into a million pieces.
Strategy 1: Make a flexible plan ahead of time.
I am planning my second to last two units right now for both of my preps. My goal is to have units of study in this month that can change at the last minute. Poetry and a novel unit are great for that. Poetry is short (most times) and to the point. Students can take information and pick it up easily if something is missed in class. We are going to be reading two poetry books together, and my goal for students is that they can jump right in and I can adjust if needed depending on the chaos of the day. Similarly, the novel can also be used to the same effect. I can assign more or less reading depending on the day. I don't have many days with students, so a novel is perfect for advanced this month because they spend most of their time reading outside of class. We can spend those 11 days talking about the book during class time.
Points of flexibility:
- Amount of material covered in one class period
- Using the amount of time in class to the best of students' abilities
- Being able to vary homework given-sometimes less, sometimes more
Strategy 2: Make the process easier for testing students.
This is part of that mindset piece for students. Physically, I am still bringing the positive energy each day. Mentally, I am reminding myself that this isn't easy for them either. Rita Pearson said, "Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they can become the best they can possibly be." Be their champion in the month of May. Set the mantra: Today I will be their champion.
Ways to be their champion:
- Offer kind words
- Print out after test taking activities to do after the test so they don't have to sit there bored. I always offer choice reading, but sometimes kids just want a break (I love the anti-stress coloring sheets)
- Remind them of the strategies they will need
- Bring in snacks or treats one day
- Give personal notes to students encouraging them to do their best
- Be prepared with testing directions/protocols so students feel YOUR confidence
Strategy 3: No movies after testing? No biggie.
We normally have 2-3 hours left in the day after testing. The first year they rolled out M-Step I watched my then 7th graders take the test from 8:00am to 1:00pm. Never again. Knowing that my students will have this much time, it throws off my pacing. Some classes I will see, some classes I will not see. I want to make sure that I am still providing instruction in some way, but I am limiting the amount of stress for students. Movies? Not an option.
This year, my interdisciplinary team is doing an all-team read. I am fortunate enough to share the same students with my core team; however, even if you did not have this luxury you could offer this as an option. We are going to be reading Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes to 1.) provide an activity for students that still focuses on academics 2.) Gives students a chance to breathe from regular classroom activities and 3.) hype them up for her author visit!
Other great activities to offer:
- Technology available? There are TONS of electronic options to encourage kids academically and also give them a break. I love BrainPOP, StoryBird, and KhanAcademy.
- Do a genre remix project with them.
- Do creative writing...use fun story prompts.
- I love inquiry projects. Let students explore to some extent and exercise their own autonomy.
- Go outside and read if weather permits. They. love. this.
Strategy 4: No countdown.
As hard as it is to hear, no countdown. Now, let me make this clear: I am counting the days down. I may be counting the minutes and even the seconds on some days. It is May and I am a teacher and I am tired. Period. However, I don't want to let them know that. I want to cherish these last six weeks with them because these are the last six weeks with them. They move on. You move on. Life goes on. I would like to take these days and make them count. I could count them down; I could announce daily: Just 28 days left! But, what good is that going to do? Who wants to be in a classroom that does not want them anymore? Nobody. No countdown.