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Stay organized, reflect and celebrate

New York Teacher

Summer is on its way! Between end-of-year projects, trips, celebrations, assessments, report cards and all those cumulative files, you and your students probably have a lot to think about. Here are some tips to get your classroom together, review the work you’ve done this year and commemorate a job well done.

Get organized. Whether you’re heading to a new classroom next school year or staying where you are, you probably have materials to sort through and decisions to make about what you want to preserve. Cataloging your supplies can also help you reflect on things that went well during the year or on plans you want to change.

If you have classroom supplies you don’t plan to keep, consider “auctioning them off” to your students — you’d be surprised at how many students relish the opportunity to take home that calendar or anchor chart as a souvenir from the year.

Schools have different rules about how to prepare classrooms for the summer — you may be required to remove all your backing paper from your bulletin boards, for instance, or store all your book bins in closets — so make sure to find out what your responsibilities are. Your room may be used for summer school, so invest in locks for your closets for anything you want to keep secure.

Make time for reflection. Both you and your students will want to reflect on the work you’ve done together this year. Mike Loeb, a 7th-grade science teacher at the Urban Institute of Mathematics in the Bronx, suggests asking for feedback from students about some of your units, assignments and activities. “This can be invaluable information for making improvements for the future,” he says.

Loeb also recommends asking students to write letters of advice to your future students, in which they reflect on how the work they did in your class has helped them to grow. Or, you can ask students to write letters to their own future teachers. In those letters, encourage your students to introduce themselves and explain what they’ve accomplished in your class and how they hope to build on that work to reach new goals.

Celebrate! No school year would be complete without a celebration. Lauren Bakian Aaker, a 4th-grade teacher at PS 110 on the Lower East Side, combines reflection and celebration with a gallery walk during which students can review their portfolios and take stock of their learning.

As the summer inches closer, students’ restlessness naturally sets in. “I do a 10-day countdown to keep it fun but still academic,” Aaker says. “Every day we pop a balloon that has a little note about the day.” The notes contain details about that day’s celebration — everything from a day when students get to write with special colored pens to a day when students produce their own memory books to take home.

Aaker holds “read-a-thons” and “write-a-thons” in the final days of school during which students have the opportunity to work in centers that feature the different types of reading and writing they’ve learned throughout the year.

As you help your students reflect on and celebrate their year, make sure to carve out some time to reflect and celebrate yourself as well. You’ve earned it!

New Teachers