5 Activities End of School

5 Activities That Helped Me Survive the End of the School Year

5 Activities End of School

This piece is cross-posted here on Getting Smart.

Snow cones, slip ’n slides, and other summer staples may be on the horizon, but surviving those last days of the school year and all that it entails can feel simultaneously like a sprint… and a marathon… and one of those crazy color covered runs… all rolled into one. So, here are a few activities from my classroom time that helped me not only survive the end of year, but maybe even provided a head start on training for next year’s race.

1. Student Organizational Gurus

Judge me if you will, but I had some students that LOVED to help me organize and create systems for everything from my rubber bands and staples to math manipulatives and our class library–all as we were under deadline to get everything packed up on those last days.

I don’t think I am stretching too much to say I saw the continued development of problem solving, spatial reasoning, and good-ole organizational skills and habits forming for my students who took on these tasks. I certainly remember the little treasures found when unpacking the following year like the handwritten student note on my rubber band collection with a little smiley—“Have a great year! We will miss you! Love, Patty”.

2. Preview Challenging Content

Vertical planning may not supersede “getting horizontal” to avoid passing out from exhaustion in the last moments of the school year, but a quick, informal meeting could set the tone for a whole new round of students.

Ask the teachers in the grade level ahead of you what students often struggle with in the first weeks of school. Give students a little preview of the content, let them explore and make connections and ask questions in a pressure free zone.

If feasible, set up a time to visit the students who are coming up to your grade level and give them an overview of what to expect and things they can do to prepare.

3. Let Your Students Share Your Class Expectations

Creating a classroom culture takes time and a lot of energy. Let your students give you a hand by creating videos, blog posts, letters, or other projects to share what will be expected of your next group of students when they arrive.

My students made quick videos in the sharing a secret tone as we called it—whispering into the camera “secrets for success in Mrs. Clark’s 4th grade bilingual classroom”. It was pretty funny and actually quite reflective for me to hear what they took away from our classroom culture. Apparently, I was a stickler for positivity with several students ending the stem, “Whatever you do” with “don’t ever ever say I can’t…”

And my students the next year? They were way more attentive to this style of sharing success secrets than any list of expectations I could have made.

4. Curate Summer Content to Continue Learning

I remember the feeling of shock and awe when I got a message from one of my students the second week of summer asking me why I wasn’t updating our class website with new activities and learning links. Oh how we sometimes underestimate our learners!

So, instead of being surprised when your students actually want to continue learning, be one step ahead and provide lists of books, websites, videos, apps, or any content you think might be relevant to them as they spend their summer days looking for ways to occupy themselves.

Students can get involved by sharing their own favorites or collaborating to develop a class crowdsourced group of resources to share.

Here are some tool options that might help:







5. Create a Portfolio of Learning

I remember being frustrated by the fact that much of the work we accomplished in that year together would be summed up on a report card with a final grade and maybe a sentence or two of accompanying comments. My room would be empty and my students would move on to a whole other world (middle school).

Wanting more reflection, more emotional closure (at least for myself if not them too),  more thinking about their learning, and hoping to inspire a new set of goals for the next year, I asked my students to put together a portfolio of their work (we had kept much of it throughout the year) accompanied by their thoughts on a couple of questions such as the following:

Portfolio Reflection Questions:

What progress do you see in your work?

How have you grown?

What was the hardest thing for you?

What work are you most proud of? What makes you say that?

What was a challenge you persevered through?

How do you think you got through that challenge?

Would that strategy work if you got stuck on something in the future?

What goals do you want to pursue next?

What steps might you need to take to meet these goals?

These Moments Matter

During those final days of school, in between the Field Day events and the zoo field trip and the student placement meetings there is only so much one’s brain can handle.  But these moments DO matter. So, may we not just survive the end of the school year, but use the last interactions with our students and colleagues to set the pace for next year’s race.

10 Spring Cleaning To Dos for Your Digital Abode: Part II

10 Spring Cleaning To Dos_II

Part II: Input–stuff related to the learning and growing you do.

Check out the first 5 To Dos Here!

6. Change the Filter on Your Feeds

Are the people you follow today the same as when you first signed up for Twitter, Google Plus, and other social media sites? Have you grown and changed since then? If so, it may be time to filter your feeds and update who you follow.

Who posts things that are of interest and relevant to the work you do? Who are you looking to connect with? Who will push your thinking? Who will share new things? Who is just making noise?

Take a moment to go through your Facebook, Instagram, and other feeds too and customize them considering those who have earned a place in your feed. Whether for professional or personal use, filter what gets your attention and make the most of every moment.

ToolTip: Instead of following based on the number of followers or likes (#Sheeple), spend time looking at the type of content posted and how they interact with others. Carefully consider in that moment, “Is this someone I want to  bring into my digital abode?” Try a service like JustUnfollow to help speed up this daunting task.

7. Dust off Digital Friendships

After step number five, did you uncover connections you hope to maintain, or grow? Try some of the tips below to reconnect or just make someone’s day!

ToolTip: Make someone’s day!

Tweet a Treat: Starbucks Tweet a Coffee

Handwritten Notes (via a digital service): Send handwritten notes (real ones) through this Handiemail or try Felt App.

Box subscriptions: Whether they are into dogs, babies, beauty, or just about anything, there is a monthly subscription service to make them smile.

8. Freshen Up Your LinkedIn (& other online profiles)

Don’t wait until you are looking for the next endeavor to update your online resume, LinkedIn, and other online profiles.

ToolTip: Adjust your privacy & sharing settings, so your current employer doesn’t think you are preparing for an exit.

9.Redesign Learning Sources

Input matters. Inspired by task number six, think about not only the people, but also the sources from which you get information, content, and expand your thinking and knowledge.

ToolTip: Take advantage of your commute or solo exercise time with audio sources like Umano, Stitcher, andAudible. Track your literary consumption with sites like GoodReads so you can reflect on your growth, model that lifelong learning stuff to your students or kids or colleagues, and think about what’s next.

Not a fan of audio? Ok, then update your Flipboard, and/or  ScoopIt feeds with some new content to push your growth and prepare for summer reading by the pool (Is school out yet?).

10. Create Clear Space

Arguably the most important task of them all. That is… if you want to be sane enough to keep doing the work you are doing. Be present, disconnect, and schedule margin (time when there is nothing scheduled).

ToolTip: A good read on this topic— Margin.

So, as you tackle your spring cleaning list, don’t forget your digital life! Then when you have rested and disconnected for a bit, you can come back to a clean digital abode and do work that matters.

What spring cleaning todos are on your digital list? Start the conversation in the comments below!

10 Spring Cleaning To Dos_Part1

10 Spring Cleaning To Dos for Your Digital Abode: Part I

10 Spring Cleaning To Dos_Part1

Part I: Productivity–stuff related to the work you do.

 This piece is cross-posted here on Getting Smart.

It’s spring cleaning time and your digital life is no exception!

1. Update & Organize Your Passwords

With the recent Heartbleed bug fresh on our minds, there might finally be enough motivation to update those pesky passwords for the plethora of web tools, apps, and services that make up our digital day to day. So, please remove the sticky notes with your passwords taped to your computer (Yes, I’m talking to you!) and consider a shift to a digital solution that you can protect and access anywhere.

ToolTip: Evernote Encryption

Already an Evernote user? Create a new notebook specifically for your passwords. Add a layer of security through encryption. Simply highlight the password, give it a right click, and choose the “Encrypt selected text…” option. Each time you sign up for a new service or app, add the new username, password, and any other relevant account information to the passwords notebook.

Try services like Last Pass, Password Box for extra security and ease of use.

2. Tidy Calendars & ToDos

Color-coded list makers and Post-It connoisseurs, you are not alone! I carried a physical planner and a box of markers long past the days when that was actually the most effective and age-appropriate decision (my planner had stickers for various events and holidays).

I haven’t left physical lists and notes completely behind, but my move to one digital “Master List” and one “Today List”  has made a huge difference in those tasks that previously failed to find their way to my daily docket.

ToolTip: Task Organization

Google Tasks or iOS Reminders:

Google Tasks within Google Calendar offers an extremely simple workflow connecting tasks to your calendar and providing the option to sort by due dates, offering perspective on prioritization when needed. If you crave the satisfaction of striking something off your list with a physical writing utensil, printing task lists is available too.

Productivity guru, Greg Garner, mentioned rumors of Google Tasks getting the ax. Any.do, integrates with Google tasks, so you could try that too and make sure your Tasks don’t get swept away in any upcoming changes that might be brewing.

Tackle Bigger Projects with Trello:

For bigger projects (planning a graduation ceremony, conference, or building a product) with lots of teammates, tasks and the need for collaboration–try Trello.

Sunrise: Connect multiple Google calendars, iCal, Exchange, and Facebook events in one, clean calendar interface with Sunrise designed for iPhone & iPad.

3. Automate That Which Can Be Automated

What the Rumba has done for vacuuming can be done with many tasks in your digital abode! Web service IFTTT provides simple “recipes” to automate digital (and now some physical) tasks.

ToolTip: IFTTT Recipes

Here are four recipes to try, customize, or inspire your own!

Recipe: Automatically save my Gmail attachments to my Google Drive.

Recipe: Send me a text when I get an email from this sender (your boss, that “special” parent, the news you’ve been waiting on).

Recipe: Send me a text if it is going to rain tomorrow.

Recipe: Send me an email when a New York Times Technology article becomes popular (or you can choose different categories to follow).

Want to get your students thinking? Ask your class what IFTTT recipes might help in your classroom day-to-day or save them time! Sorry, I don’t think there is a recipe for class attendance (yet), but you could make a reminder to do attendance.

4. Clean Sweep Your Inbox

What was once intended to save time and make communication more efficient has somehow produced the opposite effect. Pursuing the coveted Inbox Zero and avoiding enslavement to our email notifications can be challenging, but not impossible. Try simple new habits such as: setting specific times to check email (and only when you actually have time to deal with it), creating fewer folders (not more; some even advocate for a single folder: ‘Read-Keep’ or just Archive), turning off notifications, and creating todos or calendar events for specific emails that may need more time and attention.

These little changes can have powerful, cumulative effects. Even switching to an alternative mode of communication such as: walking down the hall to talk face-to-face, picking up the phone for a call, or using real-time messaging tools like iMessage, Google Hangouts, or Whatsapp.

ToolTip: Unsubscribe with Unrollme

Make more space in your inbox with Unrollme, a site which helps sort and manage email subscriptions. Unsubscribe (in one place) from all unwanted Email subscriptions, “Roll up” those you want into one daily digest email, called the “Rollup”, which can be received at a time of your choosing.

Mailbox: For a speedy and clean mobile email experience try Mailbox, which makes quick work of overloaded inboxes and encourages Mailbox Zero practices. Bonus: A desktop Beta Mac OS version is coming soon.

5. Sort & Systemize Digital Artifacts (& take out the digital trash)

The people I know with immaculate houses do a little bit every day and maintain deeply ingrained habits of putting things where they belong—EVERY TIME. Try it with your digital abode by setting a routine for cleaning off your digital desktop, sorting the stuff you want to keep, and getting rid of files you don’t need. Don’t forget to empty the trash and free up space on your computer too!

Next, think about how you will handle every digital item that wants a place in your digital space. What will you do with new photos? New lesson ideas? Blog post inspiration? Links to remember? Recipes to try or keep? My personal answer for almost all of these is various Evernote Notebooks (except photos which are routed through iPhoto), but search for a system that works for you and commit to it.

Tool Tip: Did you know handwritten notes uploaded to Evernote are also searchable? Handwritten parent notes, running records, or family recipes–all searchable.

Bonus Tip: Mother’s Day is coming up too! Create something with your newly organized photos or recipes.

Photos: Make a Mixbook

Recipes: Make a Tastebook

Stay tuned for more Spring Cleaning To Dos with Part II…