by Anna Gratz Cockerille
In classrooms across the country, a sense of celebration is building. The feelings of joy and pride that come at the culmination of an entire year of daily hard work and dedication are unmistakable. This is is a time for a slight loosening of the reins, a time to reflect upon how far you and your students have come. It’s a time to enjoy the ease of routines you worked so hard to put into place, to watch students putting into practice the skills you’ve helped them to hone over and over.
To be sure, along with this spirit of celebration comes the sense that the work is done. Many students seem to move into summer mode weeks (or months) before the summer is actually upon them. As teachers, our job, then, is to infuse the spirit of celebration with a sense of purpose, a sense that there is work left to be done in order for each student to truly become the best selves they are capable of being before the year ends.
One way to keep students working with purpose until the very end of the school year—while also maintaining the joy that comes with this time—is to focus them on a culminating celebration, perhaps one that combines both reading and writing. A culminating celebration should be a grand affair, one that feels different from other celebrations held throughout the year. School-wide celebrations are exciting for all and not as difficult to organize as one might imagine. Here are a few examples:
- Hold a school-wide small group share session. Place students into small groups with approximately one student per grade. Invite each student to read a piece of writing (or a snippet from a larger piece). Ask students to give each other compliments based on all they have learned during the year about good writing. One of the older students can record a few of the compliments for each writer to have as a keepsake.
- Create a school-wide gallery walk. Ask each student to prepare a snapshot of some of their greatest learning this year, perhaps by choosing a few of their best writing samples, or their best writing about their reading, or some images they create based on their favorite books. Have them organize a display on their desks to showcase their learning. Invite classes to tour each other’s rooms and to leave compliments on each others’ displays as they go.
- Host a school-wide open-mic afternoon. Open up the mike for brave students who choose to read snippets of their writing or to share some of their best thinking from their reading. Teachers are welcome to join as well!
- Create a school-wide living poem. Ask each student in the school to choose their favorite line from their writing (or their favorite line from a book they read this year). Lead students in saying their lines, one after the other, during a school-wide assembly.
Getting ready for any of these celebrations would require the kind of reflection, focus, and preparation that will keep students engaged right up to the end of the school year.
Tomorrow evening, Reading and Writing Project Staff Developer Brianna Friedman-Parlitsis will lead a chat on ways to keep the learning going right up until the end and to end the year on a high note. Join her and the TCRWP community to share ways to finish out the year with a sense of accomplishment and joy, while still keeping engagement and learning high.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30 eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @BriannaFriedman tomorrow evening to chat about ending the year on a high note.
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Anna Cockerille is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer based in New York City. She has taught in K–8 classrooms all over the world in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Auckland, New Zealand. Anna has been a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP) and an adjunct instructor for the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. She writes at Two Writing Teachers.
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