No, this is not a song from the early 90’s…. It’s my method when planning lessons for April and May. Let’s admit it, we know some of our lessons are just better than others. We know the lessons that engage the students in a special way because of the materials, content or even historical facts. I’ve made it a point for some time now, to save some of my favorite and the student’s favorite and most engaging lessons for the last month of school… Why? Because kids are antsy at the end of the year. They want to get outside, they are burnt out from testing in the classroom, they are done listening and have sometimes chosen to forget the school rules, they may be nervous about change of routine for summer, or just excited to cannon ball into the pool.
Whatever the reason for end of year distractions, at my school, slacking off is not an option as the year winds down. I have students in art class during the last hour of the last day of school. We are expected to be teaching the curriculum on this day. NOT playing a game or simply cleaning the room. Students are not allowed to help us clean our rooms or do anything of the sort. They are there to learn. I do agree with this, but I’ve had to really get some strategies under my belt to keep it interesting and engaging through that very last minute of art class.
My solution: Save Your Best Lessons for Last!
Here is how I came to this conclusion. A few years ago, I decided to pass back art and do portfolios the last weeks of school. Mass Chaos. Kids were goofing off and disengaged. Not a great way to end the school year- PLUS – I had to endure managing the portfolio pass back over and over, 6 times a day for 5 days a week and it was exhausting. I decided students would be better served if they were making art the last weeks of school. So, this year I did portfolios earlier, included a reflection sheet during and staggered the pass backs in May and April and instead chose to do art projects up until the last day. No “wind” down, just curriculum until the end.
Here are some examples of my favorite lessons to use in May and why I think they qualify for this distinction.
1. Ancient Egypt– Mummy’s tombs, a mysterious story and organs in a jar! What more would 4th graders want to learn about? This historical unit is a winner with my students and keeps them wanting more each art time as I tell the story of the discovery of King Tut.
2. Printmaking– It’s messy but kids love it. I save some of my printmaking for May.
3. Pop Art – It’s colorful and kids get to use everyday objects as part of their art. Nothing like that real world connection to engage a bunch of 5th graders who are ready for middle school.
4. Self-Portraits– More on this lesson later, but I do a lesson called Royal Portraits with 1st grade. Students draw themselves as royalty (perfect connection to the royal wedding last week, too!) Teaching 1st graders tricks for making 3D jewels is a winner every time!
5. Van Gogh– I like to save Van Gogh for my 3rd graders, Cutting off an Ear! Now they are listening!
What are some strategies you have under your belt to help kiddos stay focused on learning art until the very last bell rings on the very last day?
What are some of your most engaging lessons?