Tips for the Final Quarter

The home stretch is here! Whether you’re seeing a lack of engagement or behavior challenges are on the rise, this episode is packed full of quick tips to make the end of your year a little bit smoother.

Check out Ellie’s class expectation wheels here:

Check out Brittany’s class expectations and rules resource here:

You might also enjoy Episode 4 about behavior and discipline and Episode 12 about classroom economy systems.

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Ellie 0:00

Hey, Brittany, did you ever do the countdowns as the end of the school year got closer, like seven Mondays left or four Fridays left, that kind of thing?

Brittany 0:11

I would almost always start putting numbers on the board down in the corner, around spring break, representing how many days we had left. I wouldn't say a word. I would just change the number every day. And just wait for the kids to recognize it and figure it out.

Ellie 0:29

Oh, that's cool. I like that.

Brittany 0:32

One year was particularly bad. And I actually started my numbers after Thanksgiving,

Ellie 0:38

Oh boy.

Brittany 0:40

But I do love the balloon countdowns, and the kindness countdowns that I see. Those look so fun.

Ellie 0:48

Me too. Sometimes counting the days left seemed like too many days for me. So I would go with, you know, there's this many Fridays left, and you know, so it was single digits of something. Yes, and that kind of thing a little bit easier.

So welcome to the teaching Toolbox Podcast. I'm Ellie, and I'm here with Brittany.

Brittany 1:09


Ellie 1:11

Today we're going to talk about tips for the final quarter of the school year. Now some of our listeners might be in school until the middle or end of June, while others will be done in the middle of May. So we hope to catch you with some end of year types of ideas before you get there. And make sure to stay tuned to the end of the episode for a quick list of random ideas that you might not have thought of. I'd also like to quickly mention before we get started, we know that writing a review can take a while and there's not always time to do things like that. But did you know you can rate the podcast at least on Apple podcast without writing a review. If you feel like you've heard a great episode, we'd really appreciate you just rating the podcast maybe with five stars if you're feeling like it. And if you feel like writing a review, well, we'd love to hear from you. Okay, on to our tips for the final quarter,

Brittany 2:03

The end of the year can be challenging. As the weather becomes nicer in many states, and hormones are possibly kicking in leading to different types of behavior, it can be tough. Students are potentially more off task, more social, less willing to work in class, you might see a rise in passing notes, flirting, rebellious behavior. So what can we do to keep students as motivated and engaged as possible as the last month of school seem to stretch and stretch out in front of us?

Ellie 2:40

Well, one thing we can do is try to have a frank conversation about the fact that the year isn't over. And this can be a little difficult, but it's important. We need to talk to students about the fact that learning is still supposed to be happening. Grades are still going in the books and behavior expectations are the same as they've been all year.

Brittany 3:01

Yeah, I used to be the grade level leader and so was responsible for giving those no nonsense knock it off type lectures to the kids. But as you start the last quarter, it might be a great time to review and practice class expectations that were set out at the beginning of the year. Or maybe you review them again and change them up a little bit at this semester. Ellie has a great class expectations wheel that students can complete, color, and make their own if you think your students would like that.

Ellie 3:32

Or you might even let students help craft some new rules for this point in the year, things that they think should happen in order to make the rest of the year go smoothly. Within reason, of course, things that you would normally agree with as well. Brittany has an activity to help review behavior and make rules as a class. So we'll link both my and Brittany's activities in the show notes. And then as those last months pass by, you can point to those expectations and consequences that you have discussed with them.

Brittany 4:03

Back in our behavior and discipline episode, which was episode four, that one has been very popular. We discuss some ways to manage group behavior and individual behavior during the school year. Perhaps pull up that episode and take a listen. We don't want to go through all the ideas from that episode. But one of the group behavior management ideas was writing a word on the board like recess as a reward that they could earn and then erasing letters as the classes behavior warranted.

Ellie 4:33

I do like using the words on the board idea. One kind of more positive approach to that same idea might be starting them out with the first letter of the word, and then adding letters on as they're good behavior warrants and leaving the word as kind of a mystery, so they really want to find out what it says. At one point in my teaching career, I used to make the reward like a little bit longer, the word a little bit longer. Make it a phrase, because sometimes they would get the reward really fast, because it'd be like really, really good because they wanted to get it. And if it was something short like recess, they would have those letters flipped over super fast. So maybe it would make it longer like pizza party or something like that. And I would tape small pieces of construction paper to the board. Now, I suppose I would could use magnets to but I tried to tape it so they couldn't flip them over really quickly and pick up the letters. So each piece of paper had a letter written on it, and the letter faced to the board, so students couldn't see it. Thus, the need to try to peek at it. Then when the class earned a letter, they could choose which letter they wanted to flip over, they didn't have to do it in order. So they could get a hint and try to figure out the word. And then once all the letters were flipped over, they got that reward. And then if class behavior wasn't acceptable, before they had gotten that reward, the letter could get flipped back to blank. So they could, you know, lose that letter. So either way, taking letters away or earning letters, depending on what you think would work best for your class is always a great idea. And then for individual students, we have specific behavior contracts or specific interventions that might be needed. And again, we talked about that a bit in episode four, if you want to go back and check that out.

Brittany 6:17

So what else can we do to keep students engaged and motivated? We know that many of even our best behaved students get more chatty towards the end of the year. So one idea is to give students some designated time to talk, set a timer for a couple of minutes, let them get the talking out of their system. And then use your regular rewards and consequences for any students who don't get to work once that timer goes off.

Ellie 6:45

That sounds good. You could also try to use activities that allow students to talk, collaborate and discuss, I used to often use collaborative problem solving in my math classes throughout the year. So students were accustomed to having the chance to talk in math class, it was kind of normal. So these types of activities would continue and give them that opportunity to get some of that energy out through class discussion.

Brittany 7:10

I agree, we would tend to do more group projects as the year went on. Most of the year, our students were treated pretty strictly, they had to walk silently, in straight lines, everywhere they went, they have assigned seats in every single classroom. So if they behaved well, throughout the first three quarters, then sixth graders would earn the advantage of getting to have those conditions relaxed during the fourth quarter. So we would let them know that they had earned our trust and respect. And we would allow them to walk in small groups, we would allow them to talk quietly in the halls, and we would seat them with one friend. So sometimes we'd have to pull back on those things if they would start to get too loud, or we'd see them running in the halls. But most of the time, the students handled their new freedoms pretty well.

Ellie 8:03

That sounds pretty similar to I remember, during the maybe not the whole quarter, but the last month or six weeks of the year, we let them choose their groups to sit with or choose a friend or two that they wanted to be with so that they could earn, you know that and then maintain that by behaving the way that they needed to. So that works well. As we also mentioned in Episode 12, about classroom economy systems, we often will have the discipline system and field trip system together, they we could also add group incentives like pizza parties or game days to the class store as the year went on. And those would require the majority of the class to join their money together. And that would initiate teamwork, communication, and more.

Brittany 8:49

Another way to help inspire end of your motivation is to give out End of Year Awards. Whether they're based on character, academics, improvement, attendance, or attitude, celebrating students and their achievements is a great way to keep kids motivated, especially if they know that that's been looked at.

Ellie 9:10

Yes, absolutely. You can also keep kids motivated during class by including more hands on activities to help keep them engaged like in math class, introducing surface area by having students measure several different sized boxes and try to come up with formulas for how to calculate surface area. So instead of just direct instruction, more hands on activities where they can potentially explore and discover some concepts.

Brittany 9:37

Give students opportunities for activities that actually require talking or moving. Maybe individual or group projects, Project Choice boards so they can choose the project, group presentations about topics, let them be the teachers if the content will allow.

Ellie 9:54

I always like doing that. And that some of them really get into that they really get into how they want to explain something and they'll make their own PowerPoint presentations. And, you know, they really get excited about that kind of thing. Yes, yeah, I usually had students create tessellations. Toward the end of the school year, we did the MC Escher types of tessellations that were much more detailed than using triangles and hexagons, those type those regular shapes. And we would start out with the regular shapes. But then when they made their bigger project, it was the Escher type of tessellation. And then they had to decorate or design the inside of each shape as similarly as possible. So this did take a bit of time. And they were allowed to talk while they were working on that, but they were usually so very focused on getting the details right in the tessellations, that the conversations typically stayed pretty quiet. And then as we got closer to the end of the year, we would create memory wheels. To recap the year, students would share those, and we'd save them for back to school and post them for new students to see.


We did something a little similar, although we had the kids write letters to incoming sixth graders about what the school year was going to be like for them. And then we save those and put them on the students desk for the first day of school the next year.


Oh, I love that. That's awesome.


So before we go, we have a few more ideas for the final quarter that didn't fit in anywhere else. These are some of the more random and quirky things to get you by those last nine ish weeks, you could send home a note to parents about the need for deodorant.


Oh, yeah, that that's a good one. You can collect photos and videos from students and parents and make a short video of your class to help remember the year and perhaps a parent volunteer could take that on and help you out with that.


You could double down and send home a note about the trials and tribulations of growing up and the support that students really need.


You could have a fabulously fun Friday, each week or every other week, hold the kids back in a detention room who have missed work. And let those who are all caught up, go have extra recess or play a large organized game like capture the flag or something like that.


You could get yourself a treat to on Fridays to celebrate making it through a week, Starbucks Sonic target, they're calling your name.


I like that one treats are fun. You can give the students more responsibility, maybe stop checking their planners every day, or skip roll call and have them take attendance for you.


We all save those big assignments or projects for last quarter. But remember to have fun with them too. If you do a speech on a country of the world, work in a fun food challenge too.


Makes me hungry, create a paper or digital memory wall for students to share all that they remember from the year,


order T shirts for the class was parent contributions. Of course, don't do that all by yourself, and where are them on field day and field trips to help unite and bond your class even further. If you can get in the habit, this is a great thing to do at the beginning of the school year. So the students have them all year long.


We did that most years and we would have students, you know, create the designs. And then we vote on the designs and that kind of thing. And I actually still have some of my T shirts from 25 years ago or more. They're sitting in my drawer. I never got rid of them.


I would have the students sign the design.


Oh yeah.


And so their little, you know, their little sixth grade signature was in there.


That's awesome. And then our last quick tip for you is to clean up and pack up the room slowly as you're approaching the end of the year. So you're not doing everything for packing up in the last couple days.


I'm sure you have some great ideas for this time of year as well. If you have other tips and suggestions for the last quarter of the year that you'd like to share, please let us know in the comments on IG or Facebook.


We hope this episode gave you a few new ideas you can add to this aspect of your teaching toolbox. We'll see you next time.



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