First Step - Finishing touches

19th June 2009 at 01:00
Mentally, you may be clocking off from school, but resist the temptation to allow your classes to switch off too

Many pupils will now be in wind-down mode. Scottish schools break up shortly, and in England and Wales Years 11 and 13 have broken up after their exams. For those who remain, how do you maintain your momentum and theirs? Are there ways you can capitalise on the pre-holiday feeling but keep the learning going?

Although you may be coming to the end of a scheme of work, and there will be a certain amount of fatigue after the long summer term, try to avoid writing off the last few weeks of term. If pupils are allowed to drift, they are likely to play up.

Look at this time as a golden opportunity to try something new. Chris Wheeler, a teacher at Ashton-on-Mersey School in Sale, Cheshire, is more creative than usual at this time of year. He sometimes bases a scheme of work around a film that will resonate with the pupils, such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or Rabbit Proof Fence.

He also plays the "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" song featuring Baz Luhrmann to Year 10 pupils, who "all of a sudden think of themselves as top dogs". He then gets them to write advice to the incoming Year 7s about how to get along at school, based on the song.

"They could pretend that they are writing a letter to themselves five years ago," he says. "Certain groups could produce advice posters and present them to each other."

Anna, an English teacher who wants to remain anonymous, also tries something different just before the summer holidays. An X Factor-style competition always goes down well with her Year 7 pupils.

"We listen to and explore the language and themes of pop songs," she says. "In small groups they then write a song and perform it in front of me and their head of year to see who wins."

She plans to do a mini-Shakespeare project with Year 9 pupils to prepare them for The Tempest next term. "We are looking at Romeo Juliet then doing all sorts of little activities, including a puppet theatre, making masks and drama," she says.

Some schools will organise school trips during the last fortnight or so. Others will have a cross-curricular activity week to inject energy and purpose to the end of term. A Dragons' Den type project, for example, could touch upon different skills, including design and technology, business and enterprise and literacy and numeracy, while still capitalising on that more laid back end-of-term feel. Pitching their ideas to the class or school will also help focus the mind.

Even if your school doesn't offer whole-school activities, try to avoid the lure of first sitting pupils in front of a DVD. "I made the mistake of showing videos at the end of the Christmas term," says one NQT. "Some had seen the movie and some didn't want to watch it. They ended up messing about."

Instead, give them - and yourself - something meaningful to do. Now that the exam groups are out of the way, there should be a bit more slack in the timetable, says Mr Wheeler. Use this to plan ahead career wise.

The Student Associates Scheme and the Teach First programme offer new teachers the chance to gain valuable opportunities to mentor student teachers. Then if a responsibility post arises next year, you can claim some managerial experience.

"You could volunteer to organise their timetables, give the initial tour of the school or talk to them about your experiences," Mr Wheeler says. If you can put on hold the end-of-term fatigue for just a couple more weeks, you and your pupils will reap the dividends. Then you can bask in the knowledge that you deserve your six-week break

Next week: Your final assessment


- Keep pupils busy with engaging projects.

- Avoid mindless DVDs.

- Plan your career progression now.

- Start your reports early. They may take longer than you think.

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