It’s June which means we are officially in the last half term of the academic year. Teachers can be heard counting down the weeks and days until the summer break as they frantically work on report writing, collecting final evidence for data deadlines and moderation, supporting pupil transition, preparing for end of year special events and much more.
With so much going on it can be difficult to make the most of the time left with your class and enjoy the last few weeks. It’s all too easy to keep looking ahead, until you reach the last day and become an emotional wreck when it finally hits that this is your last day with your class. It could also be your last day within your school or teaching altogether, so there is a lot on your mind.
Because there is so much happening, your pupils seem to forget how to complete basic skills that they had previously mastered, their tears and tantrums may increase along with lack of concentration and any ability to focus on anything other than how hot (or not) it is, how many days of school are left and how things will change next year.
For some pupils this time of year is really exciting. They look forward to time off school and new beginnings. For others it’s really overwhelming. They know that the end of the year means a new one will begin, and that means change is afoot.
Unfortunately, for some pupils, school is the only place they feel safe or comfortable, so six weeks off for them can feel like an eternity. We also have those pupils at the start of each year academic year who ‘can’t remember’ anything that they did in the summer holidays because actually they didn’t have opportunities to go see family and friends, spend time outdoors or go on holidays like their peers did. The holidays can be a very isolating time for some of our pupils and that’s something that can easily be forgotten, particularly when pupils are asked to talk or write about their summer holidays.
To help you make the most of the last half term and to support your pupils during a time of change, here are some top tips to help you not only survive but thrive.
- Outdoor learning
Make the most of the weather by introducing more outdoor learning opportunities. At this time of the year, lots of your pupils will be eager to get out in the sunshine so why not use that to your advantage? I’ve always loved an outdoor reading workshop. Guided reading under a nice shady tree just feels so peaceful.
- Explore change and transition
Make time to cover this. Don’t just rely on your school’s set transition activities. Have some talking time with your class and incorporate these topics in to PSHE lessons. Give pupils opportunities to ask questions or share worries. It’s also a good idea to have a place (e.g. a small box in classroom) where pupils can leave notes and questions if they would rather not share their concerns with the class
- Reflection and revision
It’s very easy to wind down a little too much in the last few weeks and set pointless tick the box tasks. Instead, make the most of the time you have to reflect on the year. Revise those topics that pupils struggled with. This will actually save you time because you can tweak old planning but be far more constructive than just setting tasks to keep pupils busy. Some reflection time will also help improve your practice next year.
- Be inclusive
Consider those pupils who won’t be jetting off on holiday or going on day trips to parks and the seaside. Don’t assume that all your pupils are excited about the holidays and have lots of plans. If pupils tell you what they are doing, great, then you can ask about it. If they ask you what you are up to, great, then tell them. Just avoid asking your pupils their plans without any prior knowledge, as it is not nice for the pupil who doesn’t want the class to know that they will be spending most of the holiday in their room alone.
- Leave gaps
Try not to completely fill your timetable each day. Leave some room, so there is time to talk about change and transition, time to revise topics pupils are unsure of or just so you aren’t so squeezed for time when a last-minute event comes up. Leaving gaps is also helpful because of my next point about taking breaks.
- Take breaks
When it is hot your class cannot concentrate for as long as usual and neither can you. Build in breaks to help with this. These stopping points could be as simple as giving your pupils a few minutes to calmly sit and drink water . Break up the time a bit to get better results from your pupils and you.
- Be sun safe
Granted we can’t put sun cream on our pupils, but we can remind parents to do so. We can also remind our pupils to wear sun hats, drink water and spend some time in the shade. Model good sun safety by keeping on top of your own water intake, spending some time in the shade if you’re on break duty etc. Ensure your pupils (and you!) have access to drinking water at all times.
- Have a Plan B
Have some different activities up your sleeve for when pupils need a change. If Mathematics is leaving them too frazzled, why not do your Art this morning and come back to Mathematics in the afternoon? Maybe you could take a break from writing stories by practicing lines for a school production. Being flexible over the summer term will really help with the end of term stress that can occur when pupils aren’t able to or don’t want to give their best.
- Make time for parents
Not only can your pupils be anxious about change but parents can too, especially if their child is moving to a new school. Try to find time at the start and the end of the day to chat with parents so they have the opportunity to talk to you about their concerns.
- Make your assessment evidence work for you
With data deadlines looming consider how to make your evidence work for you. If you can get one piece to demonstrate many skills, even better, as that’s less for you to gather. Use technology to support you where possible to save time. Ask for advice from other teachers as they may have a good method that can help you.
- Peer support
Where possible involve pupils from the year above as part of transition. This could be something like inviting year three pupils from your local junior school to read with your year two pupils, year one pupils could make a video for EYFS pupils about what it is like to be in year one, or you could plan a joint sporting event or such like with a local secondary school to support your year six pupils. Opportunities to see what older peers experience firsthand and to talk to them about their experiences is a really great way for pupils to feel more prepared for their transition.
- Have fun
I don’t mean abandon all learning. Just keep the learning and experiences fun and exciting where possible. Once July comes around, it will fly by so make the most of the time you have left.