Final Lessons

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I’m like every other teacher who tries really hard to teach to that final bell on the very last day of school.  But it’s hard, really hard, especially when the high stakes tests are over and the students think school is, too. This year I tried something I haven’t done for several years, having the students teach some final lessons.  I should have done it every year!

Students met with their table groups and a copy of our standards of learning.  They had to choose a skill they thought we needed to review, a lesson we should have had but never received, or a new take on a needed strategy.  It could be a reading or writing lesson, or both, and they had to have a hook, a learning target, a connection, and a part for all the players.  We used Dr. Ed Ellis’ mantra of I do (teaching), We do (small group or partner practice) and You do (independent practice) to pace the lesson and I cautioned them to not do anything longer than 20 minutes or they would lose their audience.

They’ve been fine-tuning their lessons and their planners for the last two weeks.  Yesterday the teaching began. In the first block, the team had each person write a prompt on a colored index card.  Then everyone in the class got a card from another group and had to write for 10 minutes about what was on his/her card. It was totally silent, except for the pencils scratching across the papers.  At the end of the time, each person at the table  read their writing.  I sat with the red group and their stories were amazing. One wrote a sarcastic piece about why 7th graders don’t like to write it was hilarious). One boy who NEVER writes, except under extreme threat of failing, wrote a fairy tale that was spellbinding.  After everyone read, the teaching crew said the groups had to choose the best story of their group. Then they flashed a sign ‘PLOT TWIST’ on the board.  The table groups now had to ‘perform’ the story for the rest of the class.  It was fun, engaging, creative, and very clever. I told them I am totally stealing everything they did for next year!

One block had costumes:


Since they were reviewing THIEVES (an acronym for external text structures like title, headings, etc.) they dressed the part.

After a quick review (letters in picture above) to make sure everyone knew the parts, the ‘teachers’ sent the students off in groups of 3 for a scavenger hunt. Each clue led them to a different area and a different letter. First student to get all of the letters of THIEVES, won. The clues were priceless; Go to the place where writing starts...(Writer’s Notebook cubby) and Where does Hatchet live? (Realistic fiction part of our class library) but all of the groups got all of the answers. I don’t think any of those students will ever forget THIEVES again!

Today one block did a review of nouns, adjectives, and verbs.  (You might think they know those already but the kids had it right – they still struggle with parts of speech!) Did we do a worksheet? No! Did we skill and drill? No! We went outside and played ‘Noun, Adjective, Verb’! It goes like this:

The teaching team stands at the top of the hill outside our school.

The players line up at the bottom of the hill, shoulder to shoulder, in a straight line.

One of the ‘teachers’ calls out a word.  If it’s a noun, the students stop. If it’s an adjective, the students run. If it’s a verb, the students walk.  If the students miss, they go back to the starting line.

We could hear them calling to each other, ‘Which one is the person, place or thing?’ ‘Is red an adjective?’ ‘I think I know the verbs – stick with me!’ It was a wonderful sight.

When I started this venture, I had my doubts.  I should have learned by now to never underestimate my students.