December is nearly here. This means we only have a few weeks left with our students before they go off for their two weeks holiday. It spells the end of the long, sometimes frustrating Autumn term, and the prospect of the Spring term, or ‘progress term’ as some of my previous head teachers referred to it.
Autumn term is often considered the ‘bedding in’ term, where we set our expectations, reinforce them, set expectations, reinforce them. It’s the term where we’re still getting to know our students, and them us. It’s also the term where we have to re-awaken their minds after six weeks of holiday. It’s a long, hard slog. However is there more we can do in this first term to improve progress? Particularly at the end of it? Should we be waiting for the Spring, ‘progress’ term?
Make the most of the festive mood
My previous school was a real mix of students from different religions, backgrounds and countries therefore the reason I have put festive, and not ‘Christmas’ is because for most of my students in my old school, Christmas was not celebrated. However that doesn’t mean you can’t still be festive. The word means being cheerful and jolly. Yes I know it has its strongest link to Christmas, but why not just use the cheerful and jolly bit.
We had a winter fair annually where each class had a DT project to complete over afternoons, or an entire day or two if you wanted (we got to choose as class teachers). Your project could be anything relating to winter, so it didn’t send you down the slightly narrow street of just doing it on Christmas. This was a great opportunity to break up the normal routine of morning subjects etc. and get the students really using their maths and English skills in particular cross curricularly. I normally did a project over a day or two. First, we’d discuss our target audience, ideas and practicalities (speaking and listening for English). Then, we’d design and work out any potential costing (art/DT and maths). Finally, we’d built the products, evaluate them and get ready for the festival (art/DT, writing for the evaluation; maths for deciding the final costs).
Two days would fly by, and the students would be using such a range of different skills and subjects without even realising it. To top that they then got to show off all their work to those who came to the fair. It was a win, win and I thank our DT coordinator for organising it every year. Is there something similar going on in your school?
Keep creative in your teaching
It’s too easy to Twinkl Christmas/festive teaching resources. Think outside the box. It’s the end of term, so students are tired and weary (teachers too). Why not use a visual stimulus for your writing, or get them outside in the winter fresh air to help influence their descriptive writing. I used to love a video stimulus for a writing project in the last few weeks of the term. A short story, festive or otherwise, which the students would watch, comment on, review and then turn into a written story. I did this three years in a row and it was always one of the best pieces of work the children did, and it was normally in the two weeks before we broke up for Christmas.
Resist the urge to put on too many movies
There is so much more you can do with students which is easy to run and prepare than just putting on a movie. Trust me they’re more likely to remember the exciting game or activity that you ran with them in the last week of term, than when you watched Star Wars in class. There are loads out there. The Pirate Game is an absolute gem on TES for upper KS2 and there are lots more – or make your own up!
Then we come to class parties (if your school allows them). Resist the urge to go and splurge £30 on supermarket basic crisps and juice drinks. Ask your students to make something that is a tradition of their family, culture or country, or just something they love to make at home. Doing that you’re getting them into the festive spirit without even being there, and you’ll be amazed how proud and delighted some of your students are when they come in with what they’ve made.
It’s a lovely time of year we’re coming into (weather aside) so let’s make the most of it. I hope my simple ideas might have inspired something in you, or your team. The short Spring term is next, then before we know it it’ll be Summer term. So let’s make the most of Autumn now.
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