Evan Wolkenstein, high school teacher at Jewish Community High School of the Bay, San Francisco, who blogs his inspired lesson plans with creative comic strips at magnetiCClassroom.com, has the following plans for his classroom to offset the “slide” that happens just before summer vacation:
- Develop a long-term project that involves: a) problem solving b) an interview c) designing a prototype, and d) sharing the prototype with people off-campus. Evan brought his students to a nursing home to show their projects, and not only did they get the benefits of presenting their work to a loving and enthralled audience, but also it opened their eyes to what elders have to give back to teenagers.
- Have students write and work on a speech, starting in January, as “anchorwork” whenever they finish their class-work on any particular day. They can deliver the speeches, one per day, in spring. Use the speeches as a springboard for 10 minutes of discussion.
- Take students outside for discussion. Don’t forget to talk about class norms before you go outside. If you will require books to be open and won’t permit laying down and closing eyes, best to clarify that before everyone runs out the door. Bring your clipboard or tablet / smartphone with ClassDojo to record their conduct. They will see you do this and know that it’s outdoor class day, not recess.
- Choose a topic and “gamify” it – provide a resource with essential questions and information. Let them design a game to test each other, and then throw a “games festival.” Winners get lollipops…and learn the material for the quiz!
- Watch a movie (or 45 minutes worth of curated clips, rather than full films), and form discussion groups. The groups generate material than can be used for the final essay or exam (in which an optional prompt might ask for an analysis or comparison/contrast between the class text and the film).
- Team up with another class or section – offer a chance for the classes to compete, showing what they have learned (or created) to a panel of judges. Watch how fast students who have relational trouble in class become loyal teammates!
Contrary to the myth, the post-spring break segment does not have to be a crucible to slog through. Rather, it’s a time to coalesce the class into a collaborative project that will have the students riding high on successful teamwork.