Making the Most of the Last Week
Believe it or not, there are only three weeks of classes left in the spring semester. Many of us are feeling increasingly frantic, trying to pack too much into the last days of the term. But before you succumb to the impulse to rush through masses of material, it’s important to pause and prioritize.
It’s very unlikely that students will gain much from concepts we introduce in the last week of class. They’re saturated already, and at that point they’ll have no opportunities to use or apply new ideas. So if you’ve fallen behind your course calendar, it’s important to decide which remaining material is most crucial, and focus on that, letting go of the rest.
Rather than trying to squeeze new content into the last week or last day, it’s more useful to set aside that time for a closing activity. Good closing activities can accomplish a number of goals: They can strengthen students’ memories and learning; they can help students perceive how much they’ve learned (which may help course evaluations); and they can attend to the social and emotional aspects of learning.
You can help your students consolidate their learning, and enhance the chances that they’ll be able to transfer the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired this spring, if you give them an occasion to reflect on what they’ve learned and consider how they’ll use it in the future. They need to see how they’ve grown and transformed. When we pause and allow them to take pride in that development, and appreciate the community they’ve formed in our classrooms, we’re helping them to make meaning of their experiences. The last class meeting can serve the same emotional function as a commencement ceremony for the course.
In order to devise an effective wrap-up activity, we actually have to do the reflection first: What were the goals of the course? What did students spend the most time thinking about or working on? What should they take away? With your answers in mind, you can design or adopt any of a wide variety of activities (suggestions here, here, and here). Some aspects of your reflection might be useful to share with students. What did you learn, teaching this course? What has it meant to you? We don’t always take time to congratulate our students on their learning, or the challenges they’ve tackled on the way. If you let them know you’re proud of them, and that they should be proud of themselves, you’re helping them to value the learning they’ve done in your course.
If you’d like support designing an activity that will create some closure for your course and help students synthesize what they’ve learned, we‘re happy to consult with you over the phone (644-6641) or in person.