Teaching on the Last Day

I love teaching on the last day of school.

Sure, the summer is right around the corner. My grading is (mostly) complete. Together my students and I celebrate our accomplishments. But there is one thing I love most on this final day of school.

Students choose their lesson on the last day of school.

Teaching on the Last Day

Earlier in my teaching career, I struggled with what to do in my classes on the last day of school. My first year, I just allowed my classes to socialize and catch up.

That didn’t go very well…for anyone involved.

For the next few years, I started giving my students a survey, so they could provide me with feedback on how the year went. This practice was insightful and helpful to improving my teaching, but it failed to match the energy of the last day of school.

Then, three years ago, I stumbled upon an idea – let the students choose what they want to learn.

Choice on the Last Day

Over the last three years, students have chosen what lesson they will receive on the last day of school. Sometimes, students choose similar lessons from year to year. I’ve taught multiple lessons on the last day of school on Conspiracy Theories and Area 51. The most popular lesson I have taught has been on Ghosts and the Paranormal.

I have also taught some unique, mature, and silly lessons! Last year, a few sixth graders somehow convinced one class to vote for “Banana Ducks”. Having no idea what to teach, I created a full history of the Banana Duck, including fake primary sources and biological information. I also provided a few obvious errors in the presentation to see if students would catch it. A moral came with the ending of the lesson – always double check sources!

I had a dynamic 8th grade class want to know about the history of memes. That class happened to be the last class of the day. As the clock ticked down and summer was just minutes away, students were filming the lesson as they learned what a meme actually is, the history of memes from before the internet, and some of my own personal favorites (like the morbidly funny Karate Kyle).

The most memorable lesson I gave was two years ago, in a class that still holds the title for most challenging. After some discussion and voting, they decided they wanted to learn about Amniotic Band Syndrome. I was blown away by the maturity of their choice. Despite a full year struggle with inappropriate behavior and many strained relationships, we ended the year on one of the most fulfilling lessons I have ever had the pleasure to teach.

Implementing Choice Learning

Implementing this for your last day of school is not a walk in the park, but it is easier than it seems.

The first year I committed to this, I had quite a few lessons to design. It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun! There were no requirements, no standards, and I got to teach how I wanted. I was able to explore some of my passions that connected to what the students had voted for. It was purely joyful education.

The hard work my first year paid off when I realized in my second year, students ended up voting on similar lessons! There was much less work my second year, and my third year I only had to design one or two new lessons. This year I have 21 total lessons to pick from, with more time to spend on new ones.

You Should Try It

Maybe you’re not confident in your plans for the last day of school. Maybe you’re looking for something better. Or maybe you’re just burned out from the school year. Regardless of the reason, if you are not excited about teaching on the last day of school, I highly suggest you try this idea out.

It was a fair amount of work my first year, but that work has really paid off for me. I now have a number of ready-to-go lessons on diverse and interesting topics. Most importantly, I go into the last day of school energized for a whole different reason than many others – I love teaching on the last day!

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