Help kids reflect on a year nearly done and get a great start on the upcoming one

With one month left (give or take), kids are in the Big Countdown to summer. As weather warms up and the school year winds down, being eager and antsy is inevitable. But there is still work to be done, plus, it’s an important time for looking both back and forward.

A 2018 post to the Teaching Channel website by Jennifer Gunn, “Home Stretch: Finish the End of the School Year Strong,” suggests that teachers agree that “the end of the school year is one of the busiest, most stressful times of the year.”

While the website is geared toward teachers, much of the info could be adopted for home use. For example, it suggests that while “many schools have student award events at the end of the year” that doesn’t mean individual classrooms can’t host their own awards that celebrate the work students have done and that would apply to moms and dads too. It encourages “an Oscar moment by giving a little speech” in recognition of a strength or accomplishment.

What is your child proudest of this year? Even if it doesn’t produce an Oscar moment it could lead to a really good discussion.

Gunn also writes that “Once June hits, it’s time to start guiding students and preparing them for what they can expect in the next grade or in the next phase of life.”

On a similar note, George Couros, educator and author of The Innovator’s Mindset, in a blog post titled “4 Reflection Questions for the End of the School Year,” also from last year, asks questions for teachers to reflect on at year’s end but three of them also have value for discussing with kids: “What did I do well this year?,” “Where do I need to grow?,” and What things will I challenge myself with next year? (Revisit the answers over the summer and again before school starts!)

Reflecting on our experiences helps produce meaning from them and also adds to and reinforces learning. Founded as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the ASCD® website, in a chapter excerpt from a book titled, Learning and Leading through Habits of Mind, by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, notes that “Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning,” adding that “Reflection involves linking a current experience to previous learnings (a process called scaffolding).”

Even relatively informal reflection can be really valuable. The ASCD site says, “To be reflective means to mentally wander through where we have been and to try to make some sense out of it.”

Ask kids what they can do to finish up the school year in the strongest position possible and what their goals are for improvement next year.

Say, for example, you or your child recognizes that math could have gone better. That provides a starting point for discussing what can be done and also why doing something about it is important, e.g., math really does apply to lots of daily, real-world situations. A subject-specific workbook such as this 64-page Math Basics 3 is a great way to help master third-grade math skills.

Or consider a multi-level set: Math Workbook Collection Grades 3-5. This set of five math workbooks presents and reinforces skills that your third-, fourth-, or fifth-grader needs to practice the most. Use them to introduce, review, and/or maintain skills.

Big Third Grade Workbook can help your third-grader review not just math but multiple subjects from this year or prepare your second-grader for stepping up to the next level with confidence. Just doing a few pages a day can help strengthen skills.

Gunn also suggests that this school-year wrap-up might also be a good time for a nature walk, an educational game, a “cool field trip,” or involvement in a community project—again, all possibilities for either a class or a family. In addition, these types of activities, though packed through and through with learning opportunities, because of their novelty and clear “fun” angle, are also good times to work in harder questions and subjects with a lighter touch.

A little reflection, combined with some planning, can help polish skills and help kids shine in their last few days of this year and well into the next one.