One Question Every Teacher Must Ask Before the End of April

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Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/4S8uZe

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/4S8uZe

The last few months of the school year are often the most stressful. Some teachers are overwhelmed by testing at this time of year. Others are overwhelmed by end of the year concerts, assemblies, performances, and installations. Many are overwhelmed by their emotions as well.

We get attached. It’s hard to let go, even when our students or circumstances have been challenging. Time is tight and energy is low. So if you’re unable to do anything else by the end of April, at least do this one tiny thing. I promise you won’t regret it. All you have to do is ask one question.

Every Teacher Must Ask This One Question Before the End of April

What should we be sure to learn before this year is over?

Give each of your students a small pile of sticky notes, and set them to work on their answers. Each note should house just one idea. Once everyone has produced a stack, invite them to contribute to a classroom display. This is what it looked like when writers created one on the back lawn a few years ago:

questioning

Then, create clusters of common ideas. If your experience is anything like mine was this month, you’ll be surprised by at least some of what you see. I’ve been assuming that the writers I work with are eager to learn more about peer review, but this isn’t the case.

They’re feeling very confident here, and that made me realize something important: even I’ve noticed how they’ve grown in their ability to give and receive quality feedback. Peer review is tricky, and my sensitivity to that reality might have inspired something of pinch point.

They want to know how to overcome writer’s block. Who knew?

I wouldn’t have, had I not asked them.

questioning

So, study those clusters you create, and then ask yourself how you can make that learning happen? More important, how can they make that learning happen?

Find a way, even if time is tight. Be strategic about it. If you have the time to build a project-based learning experience around your findings, do it.

If you don’t, challenge kids to investigate topics on their own, and set aside a single day to host an exhibition. Let them learn from one another.

Call on the experts. I invited a local author to speak with learners about how she overcomes writer’s block. Connect your students to real practitioners if you’re able.

At the very least, push this important study into centers that learners may choose to explore. Offer to host some after school lessons and conversations, or create a website that provides those who are interested helpful information and resources.

Whatever you do, send the kids you care about into the summer feeling satisfied about the learning they accomplished with you. Let them know that their needs are important and that you’ll go the extra mile to meet them.

Sure, it’s almost May, but learning still matters.

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.
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