Try This - Curing Spring Fever
How can you keep kids learning when summer’s around the corner?
The weather is warming, the end of the semester is near, and your students are getting antsy for summer vacation. Keeping students (and sometimes yourself!) focused and engaged until the last school bell of the year can be a challenge.
It’s not easy to cure spring fever, but your fellow educators have a few tried and true prescriptions for success.
Give them Fresh Air
My school does not have a gymnasium or outside recess—or any kind of recess, for that matter—and our classroom is down in the basement where it gets extremely hot. I take advantage of the better weather and take my class outside for lessons.
Thei Johnson Cherry
Kindergarten teacher, The Bronx, New York
My math class made a geometry book by photographing geometric shapes around the school—inside and outside... . [Also] I offer my students an extra recess as an incentive. When it is earned, we go outside and play a rousing game of kickball. I pitch for both sides just to be fair.
Fourth-grade teacher, Springfield, Pennsylvania
Go with Gravity
Cover the hardest work near the start of the semester and plan creative activities near the end. When the students are beginning to relax, relax with them—better than trying to fight gravity. This is the time to show them you, too, know how to have fun learning.
High school English teacher, San Francisco, California
Expand Your Classroom
I teach freshman World History. When the good weather comes up, it is the perfect time for an impromptu battle simulation that takes place behind my portable classroom.
History teacher, Port Orchard, Washington
I teach first grade, and the spring weather brings so much excitement of things to come! I keep kids engaged by using the outdoors in my curriculum.
For example, the students are excited to catch ladybugs (and want to bring them in from recess), so I use ladybugs in our science study on plants or in my literature selections. The students do real “field work” by keeping records of their observations in their journals, and they write stories about ladybugs. Other hot topics include swimming and the beach, gardening, and kite flying.
Deborah Klein Harvey
First-grade teacher, Sacramento, California
End the Year with a Fun Project (like these two)
I found with my seventh-grade language arts students that having a big project that involved activity and a creative presentation worked well. A favorite was an interview with an adult age 60 or above. They learned how to write open questions, how to interview and take notes, and how to ask for clarification if needed. The prep work (including practice interviewing classmates and reporting what they learned) was all done during class time, the interviews were conducted outside of class (their only homework assignment!), the presentation visuals (usually computer slideshows) were prepared during class time, and the presentations were given during class (both listeners and presenter earned points).
Having a fun skill-intensive project to finish the year was well-received by the students because older friends and siblings spoke well of having done it themselves (after the first year), because parents were informed of the homework component and timeline (a signed form had to be returned for points and phone calls were made if it wasn't), because many of the necessary skills (particularly public speaking) had been worked on throughout the first three quarters, because it was worth so many points that they would fail the quarter if they didn't do it or did it very poorly, and because many of the points were earned during class time so I could get slackers on track in time to be successful.
NEA Classroom Management Expert, Chariton, Iowa
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After the AP test, our students create a video that parodies five works they have studied. It’s a creative collaboration completed in student-selected small groups. They write a story summary with a fully developed humorous plot and characters. Then they write a script which they stage and film, complete with settings, music, and costumes. This three-week project culminates with viewing day, when we eat popcorn and watch. It is always insightful to see which quotes, scenes, and class jokes are memorable enough to be immortalized in film.
Molly Susee and Brandi Groce
English teachers, Puyallup, Washington
Give them Choices
I keep students engaged by capitalizing on their interests. They love to do something artistic or with technology, but I don’t often slow down in my teaching of reading and writing to let them express their creativity. So at the end of the year, I offer choices. I let them pick the subject (a particular novel or topic) and offer a choice of activities. My favorite was a mini-unit called the ABCs of Mount Everest. My students became experts on everything from altitude sickness to the zopkio.
Lynn E. Flood
Seventh-grade social studies teacher Garner, North Carolina
A Time to Have Fun, A Time to Reflect
The last few weeks before vacation are a special time of year we refer to as “after the test.” Having those state assessments out of the way gives us time to do fun activities we’ve had to put aside during the weeks of test prep. I choose a book that students will find interesting, and we do a class project. For example, Crispin: The Cross of Lead is set in medieval times. One year I had a classroom full of boys who read the book and built a huge medieval fortress out of Legos.
Also, this is the time for reflection. My students complete a survey that asks them how they felt about each unit or activity. Their feedback helps me plan for next year.
Finally, I close the year by talking to each student, one by one, in front of the entire class. I tell them about my first memory of them from the beginning of the year. I tell them their strengths, what I’d like them to work on, and what I think they’ll grow up to be. This is my favorite activity of the year.
Literacy coach Efland, North Carolina
Preview Next Year
In our middle school, after the state test is over, teachers start previewing the curriculum for the upcoming grade. My sixth-graders get such a kick out of taking a seventh-grade test and realizing that they already know a lot of the material.
Seventh-grade teacher, Kingsland, Georgia
Keep Teaching Until the Very End
Never have a countdown to the last day. As soon as you do that the kids will be done! I taught middle school math and even the last day we played a math game and though the points were not significant, the kids knew it counted because whenever they asked, mostly in the beginning of the year if it counted, I said, “yes, everything counts.” We can’t just have a party all fourth quarter because it is spring.
Retired middle school math teacher, Redondo Beach, California
Editor's Note: This article was first published in May 2010 and updated in April 2014.
Ask the Expert
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SHARE AND DISCUSS
How do you cope with spring fever?
Share your best advice for keeping kids focused and learning during those last few weeks of school.