Ahh…the end of the school year. A time to clean up, get stuff finished, and reflect on the year. It’s also the time of year when we try to squeeze out the last bit of learning from our students who grow increasingly resistant as the sun shines brighter. Yesterday was the last day of classes for us (seniors finished up last week and graduated on Monday-much congratulations to all graduates!). For most of us, the last day of class is a bit of a slush day where very little happens. This year, I decided to try something new-an idea that I stole from the incredibly talented and thoughtful Dave Stuart: Pop up toasts. By the way, if you are an English or Social Studies teacher and you are not following Dave Stuart, you are missing out! Check out his stuff here: http://www.davestuartjr.com
One of Dave’s techniques that I’ve tried out and made my own is the idea of pop up debates (read more here: http://www.davestuartjr.com/pop-up-debate/) This is a great way to get students comfortable with public speaking, arguing, etc. His idea of Pop up toasts works on a similar level.
On Monday I asked my students to reflect on 4 questions:
- What are you thankful for in this class?
- What is at least one funny memory from this class?
- What are some of the things you appreciate the most from our class together?
- Who in this class made you laugh/think/smile/see things differently/etc.?
On Tuesday, our last day, I told them that they were to use those answers as a basis for toasting the class. They each had a cup of water (soda’s unhealthy, so I go with water) to raise a toast. Whenever you are ready to speak, simply stand up, deliver a short message of gratitude and/or reflection for the class, end with a toast closer (cheers) then have a seat. If more than one person stands at the same time, simply graciously yield the floor.
This was a great experience. We had a few laughs together as we remembered moments that we had all forgotten; students expressed sincere thanks to their classmates; students reflected on their past year together and all that we have done; and they all got to practice a little bit of public speaking one more time.
While it was great to hear students reminisce about funny moments, there is one moment here that stands out the most to me. One student in particular in one class suffers from extreme anxiety. Earlier in the year she was literally in tears about the prospect of speaking publicly. She was the 3rd person in her class to VOLUNTARILY stand up and deliver her toast. I can’t express how incredibly proud I was of her in that moment.
If you are looking for a great but easy way to end the school year, I urge you to consider pop up toasts. I urge you to consider pop up debates through the year, and I urge you to check out the work of Dave Stuart. You’ll be glad you did.