Maximizing the Month of May

It’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to do during the few weeks left after all the major assessments and evaluative observations are over!  Even though it may be tempting to start winding down, it’s actually the best time to push the limits a little in your planning.  Without the stakes and stress that can come with testing and evaluation, it’s the perfect low-risk opportunity to try new things, stretch yourself, probably fail a little, and become a better teacher for next year.  Here are some ideas:

Formal differentiation.  If you haven’t done much in this area, go for it!  Especially if it’s just for a two-week unit, you have a lot to gain by doing it now and reflecting on how it went so that you’ll be more comfortable doing it throughout the year next year.  For high school science or math teachers, try flipping your class.  If you’re an English or language teacher and you’ve never done Literature Circles, now’s the time!  Doing something different will also engage the students at a time when they can be pretty squirrely.  Try these previous posts for help getting started:

A ‘College Prep’ unit.  Try a unit or project where students have to be as independent as college students as a sort of practice run to see how they do.  For example, you give them a unit calendar or project outline with due dates and assessment dates and they have to keep up with everything with no reminders from you.  They key to this working is building in a lot of reflection and discussion so that through the experience students learn and share about what they handled well and where they struggled, as well as identifying strategies they could use in the future to be more successful.  This could also be a good activity for students transitioning into high school.

Read some hard stuff.  With CCSS, one of the major shifts is that we’ll all need to crank up the reading level in our classrooms.  If you haven’t tried it yet, now’s a great time.  Find some relevant primary sources, classic poems, or powerful short stories and try tackling them with your students.  If you keep the texts short, you can adjust your approach easily for the next time if it flops.  If you’re not an ELA teacher and your school hasn’t provided resources on this yet, a good place to start is using SQ3R or asking a fellow teacher what methods they like.

Get another set of eyes on it.  If you decide to try something new, get the most out of it by either videoing your class or having an instructional leader or trusted colleague come in and watch to give you feedback.  Or team up with a colleague and observe each other regularly during this time to learn from each other.  If you decide to use video, this blog post might be helpful.

Make sure you fail, at least a little.  With whatever you try, if everything goes perfectly then you’re not pushing yourself enough to grow much from the experience.  Especially when the stakes are low at the end of the year, you can really take some chances and see how it goes.  Here’s a great post by one of my colleagues on how to fail well.

So what are you going to try?  Leave a comment if you have other ideas or to let us know what you tried and how it went!

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