Motivating Students During the Final Weeks of Distance Learning

As we approach the final weeks of the school year, there may be days when we have to focus our efforts in motivating our students to finish out the year. This is evermore true during the final weeks of this school year as we complete our first dose of full time distance learning. We want to try and increase participation if we can during this time as the year ends because we want our students to have an opportunity to have the best impression of school before the school year is finished. Therefore, my goal is to provide 10 activities and strategies I have used in the past (and utilizing this year) and ideas I have learned from my professional learning network on Twitter to take on these final days and weeks of school. All of these activities can be employed online in either synchronous or asynchronous online class session.

When thinking of activities, we want to make sure they have value to our students. Thus, generally at the end of the year, we want to have more novel activities that can be fun, skill building, build community, and highly participatory. The following activities and strategies reflect these underlying themes. Before moving into the list of activities and strategies, I want to note that all of these activities can be employed anytime during the school year.

  • End of the Year Virtual Field Trips – For primary and secondary schools, regardless of the students grade or age, Google Earth, Google Tours, and on various museum and zoo websites, virtual tours have been created for teachers to take their students on virtual field trips. These field trips can be done either in synchronous or asynchronous class sessions. Students find these experiences to be fun and insightful. It gets them out of their house virtually to see new environments they would not normally see.
  • Daily Check-in’s During Synchronous Sessions – At the beginning of each live class session, provide opportunities to check in with your students. This can be done through Pear Deck, Poll Everywhere, the use of chat box on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, or by simply creating an open forum for your students. Generally, before my students have the floor, I try to provide my own personal reflection as the model before they have the opportunity to share.
  • Student Choice Boards – At the end of the year, classes can be more open-ended than they are during the course of the school year. Student choice boards can be utilized on a hyperslide or hyperdoc, which then can give students an avenue to drive down to complete an activity or task. Overall, student choice boards provide students with agency to do a variety of different tasks they may want to accomplish at the end of the year.
  • Bitmoji’s – Bitmoji’s of teachers provide students with some comic relief as well as with some entertainment during anytime of the year; but, they can be great to get students in the mood for summer. Bitmoji’s can be posted on daily slides, your learning management system, within emails you send to students, and on assignments and tasks you create for students. Bitmoji can be accessed by adding the extension into your Google Chrome browser.
Dr. Rhoads Class Bitmoji
  • Give Student Opportunities to Teach the Class – Provide students with an opportunity to teach something new to their classmates. By this point in time, students will have several edtech mediums to teach the class with. This could include Flipgrid, Google Slides, Docs, a storyboard, an electronic drawing on Google Draw or Canva, or the creation of a step by step YouTube video. There are so many options! Give your students a chance to teach their classmates and teacher something new.
  • Socratic Seminars – Socratic Seminar provide students a forum to have a conversation on a topic that they have previously researched. Students conduct preliminary research and develop questions they would like to ask their classmates to help answer an overarching question on a topic they can reflect upon once the seminar is over.
  • Student Self-Assessment – At the end of the school year, we want to provide our students with an opportunity to self-reflect and assess their learning that took place over the school year. Google Forms can be a good medium for students to reflect on as it provides students with a survey-like form to complete. It also provides teachers an easy to navigate interface to look at student responses. These responses can prompt further one on one conversations with students as well as class discussions on learning trends.
  • Student Assessment of Teacher – Teachers can provide students an opportunity to assess their teacher. Feedback from students is essential data teachers can use to improve their instruction for further classes. Google Forms, Flipgrid, Pear Deck, and Poll Everywhere surveys can be used as tools to conduct the student teacher assessment. By providing students with an opportunity to assess their teacher, it may motivate students to complete the remaining tasks and assignments for the end of the year. Additionally, this activity provides an opportunity for student voice.
  • Competitive Quizzes – Students like to compete from time to time. If an exam is at the end of the year, reviewing concepts on Kahoot or Quizizz provide students an opportunity to review as well as be competitive with one another. These quizzes can be completed during synchronous or asynchronous class sessions.
  • Digital or Physical Good Bye Letters/Emails – Teachers should provide their students with a farewell message regardless of whether we are in an online or in-person instructional setting. We want to personalize the letters as much as possible. Include a short story about the entire class or about an experience you have had with the student. By doing this as a good bye gesture, students will always remember your class as well as have a positive experience at the end of the class.

With these 10 activities and strategies in mind, I hope you can create engaging and meaningful experiences for your students as you end the school year. Additionally, beyond this year as you think about next year, these activities and strategies can be used at the beginning of next school year or anytime in the future to engage students and heighten their motivation. Comment below or on Twitter to add your ideas. The more the merrier!

Published by Matthew Rhoads, Ed.D.

Innovator, EdTech Trainer and Leader, University Lecturer & Teacher Candidate Supervisor, Consultant, Author, and Podcaster

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