Leaving a Legacy: 7 Ways This Year’s Students Can Serve Next Year’s Students

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Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/97tfr7

It’s that time of year: kids are tidying their desktops, cleaning out their lockers, and deciding which pieces of their work are worth holding onto. It’s a busy time of year, and an exciting one too. As you wait for that final bell to ring, you might want to invite your students to  leave a legacy behind. Challenge them to think deeply about what it might be.

Considering our legacy can be daunting work for adults, so don’t surprised by the wide eyes or sideways glances you receive when you ask your students to do this. If they’ve been led to believe that they work for grades, to please a teacher, or to earn mastery alone, their reactions may be even stronger.

Imagine the difference you can make by asking your students to think about how they might pay their learning forward. Here are some ideas worth sharing:

Leaving a Legacy: 7 Ways Your Current Students Can Serve Your Future Students

1. Encourage them to leave their original works behind, and find a space showcase them. If they choose to do this, be sure to grab a quick “learner’s statement” from each contributor. This is a written or recorded description of the work, the process used to create it, and the learning that occurred along the way. If they’re unable to leave you the pieces they created, consider using one of these four tech tools for photo documentation. This will enable easy sharing during future lessons.

2. Invite them to return as co-teachers next year. Whether they visit in person or schedule a Skype chat with your future students, know that this year’s learners have much perspective and knowledge to share with your future crew.  Pencil them into your calendar, record their contact information, and while you’re at it, jot their parents’ information down too, just in case theirs’ changes.

3. Consider the units that were most or least successful this year, and ask your students to craft reflective blog posts about the learning that occurred during them. House all of them on your own blog, where future students can reference them as needed. If students have their own blogs, ask them to participate in a blog carnival. This way, you can link up all of their posts and share them from one page on your classroom blog.

4. Ask your students to give you feedback on specific lessons or units, and then use their feedback to craft new approaches. Share your revisions with them, and let them know how they made a difference. Credit this year’s students when you work with future students and let them know that their feedback will matter just as much.

5. If you host an annual exhibition or other celebration of learning, be sure to invite this year’s students to next year’s event. Better yet, ask them to participate as continuing learners. Perhaps their expertise will grow between now and then and they’ll have different or even better things to share.

6. Have this year’s students write next year’s students a letter, and make this your final ticket out the door. Their letters can attend to prompts you provide or topics that future students might find relevant. Keep these letters, and distribute them during the first weeks of school.

7. Coach your students to articulate the culture of your classroom. Then, have them name the values, beliefs, and attitudes of learners who successfully contribute to such cultures. Display this thinking prominently, and prepare to share it with next year’s class. As next year draws to a close, challenge your future students to contribute to this vision as well.

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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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