Hanging on in the last days of term

Coming into the middle of week 15 of the term, I am reminded of a conversation I had several years ago with a former colleague. She had left language teaching and moved into the banking sector, where she quickly moved up into a management position. We got to talking about holiday leave, and said that although she only got 10 days per year, a big change from the 11 or so weeks she received as a high school teacher in Australia, she and her staff were satisfied with their leave entitlements. She explained that she didn’t feel so emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of the week in her new position, but that after 10-weeks of teaching she was ready to collapse. I see that through my research on teacher attrition, that school holidays are really a necessity to ward off burnout, rather than a luxury they often appear to be according to those on the outside looking in.

It is the last week of a 15-week term here, and I am tired! I am used to a ten-week term, after which I collapse into the pile of completed marking and report cards, usually to catch a cold that I’ve been warding off since week 8.  Teaching is a highly emotional and physical profession in which we give much of ourselves. It is in these last days when we are tired, and marking creeps up on us, that we are most susceptible to stress, irritability and illness.

In the last days of term, many of us don’t have a lot of time, with assessments, consultations with students, teacher evaluations, marking and reporting. We also have drained most of our energy supplies. So, to help you through these last few yards, I would like to share a small list of some activity ideas that require little or no preparation. I believe the end of term is also a great opportunity to reconnect with our students, to build on relationships we may have started developing in the beginning before time got in the way. We should remember that our students are probably also feeling the stress of the end of term, and counting down the days until they are on holiday, too. And, of course, it’s a time to celebrate the learning that has occurred throughout the term. So, here is my short list of ideas, and I invite you to share your ideas too.

Movie Time! Don’t begrudge putting on a movie or television episode for students to watch. I know many teachers who will play a movie at the end of term, and perhaps equally as many who look down their nose at those who do. As a Japanese language teacher in Australia, my classes always looked forward to watching a Studio Ghibli movie at the end of each term, presented in the target language with native speaker subtitles for my beginner students. In my position now, I would probably play a movie in the target language with target language subtitles. A well-selected movie shows language and culture in context, and can reinforce concepts learnt throughout the term. Of course, it is important to set some tasks for students to do during or after viewing, to ensure they stay awake and alert, and that some learning is also occurring. Some possible tasks for students complete include:

*Writing down words/phrases that they understand (this was a favourite of my beginner junior high students, who raced to the whiteboard to be the first to write down the Japanese words they knew)
*Answering a set of teacher-constructed comprehension questions, or better yet get students to create questions to ask their classmates afterwards
*Writing a summary or personal opinion of the movie
*Creating a family tree or relationship tree of all the characters and how they are connected

Game Time! Language games can be lots of fun, and they can be used for vocabulary building, communication, compensation strategies, etc.  You can get lots of great ideas with a quick search for your language + games, but here are a few of my favourites, due to their easy preparation, and the students’ positive reactions to them. Many of them are based on popular board games, but with a bit of tweaking you can play modified versions that don’t require a purchase.

*Celebrity head is one of my students’ favourites – for all levels. Three students stand in front of the white board and have a famous person’s name written above their head so they can’t see who it is. They then take turns to ask questions to try to reveal . For my beginner students I play a modified version where open-ended questions are allowed, but generally students have to ask yes/no questions. In the original game, participants who get a ‘yes’ response from the audience get another turn, but I allow one student one question only, giving them a chance to think of a new question before their next turn comes around. This game usually ends up with lots of laughs, and helps students review grammar relating to questioning.

*Scategories is a great game for building vocabulary. Students are given five categories, say for example ‘fruits’, ‘verbs’, ‘countries’, etc. You can use topics and parts of speech from the term for revision. They are then given a letter of the alphabet, and a limited amount of time in which to write down a word beginning with that letter, for each of the 5 topics. Points are awarded to students who produced a correct answer, with a bonus point awarded for students with a unique answer, encouraging students to think beyond the usual obvious vocabulary.

*Pictionary is another party favourite, that works well in the language classroom. I’m sure you all know the rules, but if you are stuck for categories here is a great random Pictionary word generator, that has different topics and levels of difficulty. This generator could also be used for games like Taboo, where students have to get their teammates to say a particular word using the skill of circumlocution.

Party Time! For my intermediate level Oral Communication students, we will be having a party, as a reward for their hard work over the term (not all classes get this!) and as a way for students to use their language skills in a more relaxed way. So, over some snacks and soft drinks we will be chatting in the target language, and playing a few of the games listed in the previous section.

As teachers we sometimes feel that every week we must be ‘on’ and ready to go with a whizz-bang lesson. But, taking some short-cuts when things are getting a little overwhelming is good for our own wellbeing. Having some relaxed and enjoyable time with our class, while still considering some educational benefits, is a great way to reconnect with our students and our own sanity.

The ideas presented here are just a few. Please feel free to add your own and I will update the post periodically.



*Do you feel stress toward the end of the term?
*How do you deal with the increasingly workload as the term draws to a close?
*What are your ideas for end of term activities and lessons?

Add to the discussion in the comments below,
or in our Facebook comments.


Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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