While many instructors and facilitators put a lot of thought into how to start their programs with students, we don't always put in the same work to close things. Yet closing rituals give us a fantastic opportunity to help students solidify their learning and deal with some of the emotions that come with endings.
In this week's Try It Tuesday, we're going to explore ways to end well.
Class Day EndingsWe can start practicing our endings by adding some ritual closings to each class day. Students need closure to absorb what they've learned and think about how it applies. Good endings can also help them address any lingering emotions and ideas that have come up during the class. Here are some ideas for daily endings:
- The One-Sentence Journal--at the end of each day, have students write a single sentence about what they've learned or their biggest take-away from that day's class.
- 3-2-1--Pass out notecards and have students record 3 things they learned, 2 questions they have, and 1 thing they want the teacher to know before the next day.
- Gallery Walk--Post some questions on flip chart paper around the room and then have students move to each question to respond. This is a good way to get some movement into your classroom.
- What's Inside?--Ahead of time, prepare envelops that have a question, problem, or concept related to that day's work. To close the class, pass out the envelopes to students or teams of students and then have them respond to what's inside their envelopes.
- Share Something Positive--Find a positive quote or passage that you can read to end the day. This is something you could engage students in as well--have them bring in their favorite quote and share it with the group.
- Ask a Positive Question--In our post on Promoting Happiness, we talked about different ways to bring more positivity into the classroom. Some of the questions we listed there would be great closers, including:
- What are you most proud of today?
- What inspired you today?
- Who in our class do you want to thank today and why do you want to thank them?
Many of us have graduation ceremonies as a way to close our programs. These are a nice way to acknowledge students' achievements, but they don't always have the emotional "oomph" that can really be meaningful for students. Closings are about recognizing that our time together has ended and transitioning to what's next. They allow us to say goodbye in a way that's emotionally meaningful.
Here are some additional ideas you may want to try out:
- Make an Advice Wall--A week or two prior to the end of the program, talk with your students about giving each other the legacy of their best wisdom, tips and advice for how to succeed once they graduate. What words of advice do they want to share with each other? Set up space in a hallway or your classroom where they can post their ideas. Encourage them to share quotes, pictures, drawings, etc. A day or two before graduation, type up everyone's ideas into a single document and make a gift of it to your students at graduation. If they've included pictures and images, you can take pictures and include these in the document.
- Have an Appreciation Day--A day or two prior to graduating, set aside some "Appreciation Time." Invite students to think about and share with the group what they've appreciated about their classmates. Invite them to be specific and sincere. This works even better if you kick it off, maybe by telling each individual students in your group about what you admire or appreciate about them.
- Set up a Class Photo Booth--Have students design a fun backdrop in a corner of your classroom or in some part of your building and then use their phones to take pictures. Be sure to do at least one group shot, but also invite students to do individual photos and fun shots with others, like "Dynamic Duo" or "Always Had the Best Jokes." Use images to celebrate the unique personalities of the group and to commemorate your time together. These can be compiled into a booklet for students and shared online.
- Make and Share Gift Stones--From a craft store, get a supply of flat stones and some sharpie markers and cheap craft paints. Spend an hour or two with students decorating the stones and writing a favorite word, quote, etc. that summarizes what they learned from or related to the other students in the group. Then let each student present his/her stones to classmates, sharing why they are gifting this person with this particular stone. If you can, invest in small cloth bags that students can use to carry their stones. These can be powerful reminders of the experience and a great thing to turn to if students are feeling down on themselves after the program has ended.
Some Final Thoughts
Taking the time to include meaningful closing rituals is well worth the effort. Not only does it provide your students with the closure they need to transition, it can also be a powerful reminder to YOU of all that's been accomplished and the connections and relationships that have been created.
- Partners for Youth Empowerment Closing Activities--some creative ideas here.