Tips for Teachers: Finishing the Semester Strong

December 14, 2016

At schools across the country, students are expecting visits from relatives and friends, wondering what new gadget they might be getting, and trying to impress peers and family at winter music performances – all while keeping a focus on exams, group projects, and assignments. You’re trying to help students end this semester strong during this very busy time of the year. So what is a teacher to do? Check out these tips to keep your students settled and focused until the very last day before their winter break:

  1. Prioritize your time with students. You know you only have a matter of days before winter break, and students’ attention begins to wane. This is where reviewing your pacing guides, curriculum plans, and goals for the semester are really important. Where are your students relative to your semester goals for them? Consider where you really need to spend your time with students to help them achieve their learning goals. You can’t cram it all in, so prioritize the most important lessons you want to teach them, and provide ample time for them to engage thoughtfully in their learning.
  2. Be intentional. Be purposeful in the decisions you make around instruction and the activities you ask students to engage in. It can be easy to pile on too many tasks for students in hopes of teaching more content before the winter break, but this is a time where students can be highly distracted and overwhelmed – by projects, final exams, and all the excitement that this time of year brings. Stay focused and be thoughtful in your instruction.
  3. Focus on community. Winter and the holidays can be both an exciting and difficult time for students. They may be excited by the prospect of family time, winter activities, gift giving (and receiving), and celebrations. But for other students, this is a stressful time of year if their families are struggling financially, or missing family members. So don’t forget to create opportunities to make kids feel like their classroom community is a special place where they have people who they can trust and an environment that is supportive of their mental and emotional states.
  4. Be clear of your expectations for your students this time of year. From providing study guides for final exams or project outlines for semester projects, over-communicate what students need to be working on and why. And remember, if you are a middle or high school teacher, your students are being pulled in numerous different directions among all of their classes, so it may be difficult for them to keep track of all their responsibilities. Communicating clearly and regularly to your students will help them be their best!
  5. Take time for yourself. This is a busy time of year for you too, so don’t forget about your own needs. From helping students prepare for end-of-semester projects and exams, to completing report cards and other progress monitoring activities, you are busy in your work life, and likely your home life too. Take time to have lunch with a friend, read a book, or enjoy a run outdoors – whatever it is that helps you relax and stay focused. Your students need you to be a calming force in the chaos before the winter break, so take care of yourself!

The last few weeks before the winter holiday can be a special time for students, teachers, and their school community. By taking a thoughtful, intentional approach to closing out this semester, you may find it to be a joyful and productive time in the school year.