It’s June, and you know that that means- The end of the school year. You’ve done so many amazing things with your students, but now what? How do we make the end of the year educational technology authentic?
The end of the year in my classroom was always a time for reflection, positivity, and gratitude. The end of the year also meant it was time for grades. In the spirit of equality, the first activity my students completed was a teacher report card. When I was in the classroom we didn’t have access to Chromebooks or iPads so I used an old school pencil and paper version. Lucky for you, John Stevens, and Matt Vaudrey, have a digital one available as a jumping-off point.
I always liked doing the report card because it helped me grow as a teacher and learn what my students thought of the class. I let my students complete this anonymously because I wanted them to be honest. In that tradition, I’ll be honest with you- There were some responses that made me cringe, but it wasn’t because of the spelling or grammar. It was because I had missed the mark. But, by opening myself to constructive criticism I was able to pivot for the following year.
The advantage of doing this digitally is all the data comes in palatable diagrams and charts based on the question types. In addition, you can save the results so you can compare your progress from year to year. I used to keep the best and worst report card by my desk the following year as a reminder of both sides of my teaching. I never wanted to make the same mistakes two years in a row.
In high school, as a student and teacher, I had a love-hate relationship with yearbook superlatives. They were always semi-stereotypical, and there were never enough for all the students. So instead of letting the popular kids have all the fun with titles that really don’t mean anything anyway (Most Likely to BLANK, etc), why not empower your students to give each other superlatives that actually mean something. You can use this template from Google Slides to make individual certificates for each student; it is customizable if you don’t like the colors or images.
Split the class into two separate groups, each with their own slide deck. Then assign each student a superlative partner from the other group. It is their job to come up with an authentic title and justification for their partner. Encourage students to move beyond the best-dressed and prettiest hair; have them come up with real compliments about their partner’s work ethic or educational growth. If you have the time, you can even have students hold an awards ceremony to present their certificates in front of the class.
The last activity I always had students do in my class was write a letter to someone that they wanted to thank from the school year. It could be anyone that they felt deserved a thank you for something big or small. I had my students start with a paper first draft of their thank you letter. Then, I had them storyboard or outline what they wanted their final project to look like. Some students wanted to turn their letters into tweets, others wanted to create videos and others involved photo walks around campus. (Just think- students creating during the last week of school instead of simply waiting it out…) When their final projects were complete, as a class we walked around campus delivering thank yous.
Hopefully, one of these ideas is useful to you as the school year winds down. They can be related back to the Common Core Standards for writing (always important) but more importantly, they remind our students to observe the world around them. Whether students are giving me constructive criticism, spreading positivity, or expressing gratitude they were practicing skills they need to build positive relationships in school and beyond.
Ariana Flewelling (@EdTechAri) is a former High School English Teacher. She currently works as a Staff Development Specialist for the Innovation and Learner Engagement division at Riverside Unified School District (RUSD). She is also a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator. Ariana is the current IACUE affiliate president. In all these capacities, she strives to help others embrace and explore the many applications of educational technology.