Minimizing Stress at the End of the Year

Helpful tips for minimizing stress at the end of the school year.

The end of the school year is near, and that means it is time to start thinking about final projects and final exams. Usually the last few weeks of the school year are a whirlwind or stress. Between trying to squeeze in the rest of the curriculum, grade final papers and projects, and maintain our sanity, and maintain our sanity, it's easy to get caught up in the end-of-the-year madness. And let me tell you, it is entirely okay and entirely normal to feel stretched a little bit too thin right about now. We've all been there. Here are some tried and true ways to minimize end of the school year stress.
Helpful tips for minimizing stress at the end of the school year.

Now, I am not ashamed to admit it, but I always plan a student work day toward the end of each semester or grading term. By the end of the term, I totally need this day. Yes, I tell my students that the work day is to help them prepare and study for final exams, and yes, it really does help them, so that’s a bonus. However, the day is for me. I use that day to finalize any grading that I still need to do before the final round of grading begins. I use that day to get caught up with all of my work that’s piled up as I made my way through the end of the year rush.

When I give final exams, I always let my students bring one page of notes to use on the test, and I dedicate a day in class for them to write their notes. While some educators believe this might not be the best practice for final exams, I truly believe that it helps the learning process. In creating and writing their notes, students review the content, write the content, study the content, and learn the content. I get a day to grade, and students get a day to study. It’s a win-win for everyone!

In addition to planning for a student work day, teachers can also minimize stress by administering a multiple-choice final exam. To help stressed out teachers during the end of the school year, I have a premade, 100 question test with a student study guide that is completely formatted and entirely editable. Actually, there are two different versions of a 100 question test in this resource, so teachers have more than 200 questions to choose from! It is ideal for final exams because it covers standards and skills for middle school and high school English language arts classes. And since this test is a Word document, teachers can easily change questions and answers to suit their needs, all while keeping the formatting and answer key to save time. I’ve used this test (and various versions of this test) for many years.

Another way to minimize stress while maintaining high standards in class is by holding a Socratic Seminar or Fishbowl Discussion as a final activity. These activities can be graded in class as students participate in the activity, and they require students to practice their listening and speaking skills. When I hold a Socratic Seminar or Fishbowl discussion, I will usually give the students a list of comprehensive questions that require evidence to support their answers about a week before the seminar. I encourage students to work on a few questions each night so that they produce thorough answers that are complete with examples and analysis.

Free Socratic Seminar questions to help students review at the end of the year.
You can download this FREE list of end of the year Socratic Seminar questions that are ideal for reviewing an entire semester’s worth of content. For English and literature classes, I also have a Socratic Seminar resource that works with any novel.

During the Seminar, students discuss what they learned the most, what content stuck with them, what challenges and obstacles they faced and overcame throughout the year, and more. It’s a good review of the semester.

Another way to minimize stress is to plan backwards and make sure that you give yourself enough time to grade final essays. During my first year of teaching, I made the mistake of having large research papers due the Friday before final exams. I gave myself less than a week to grade more than 150 research papers. I was a ball of stress that weekend. Since then, I’ve learned from this mistake. All of my final papers are due at least two weeks before grades are due. Planning for adequate grading time at the end of the year is essential for your mental health. Here is what my final week of school typically looks like now. Between the student work day, using a multiple-choice final exam, and scheduling my final writing projects beforehand, the end of the year isn't as hectic as it used to be.

As the end of the year draws near, don’t fret. Have some fun with you students and try out various end of the year activities and end of the year growth mindset activities to end the year on a positive note. And if you find yourself stressing out, just know that you are in good company. Teachers everywhere are tired and overloaded with grading. You've got this. Summer is right around the corner.

Teens can get stressed at the end of the year, too. Jackie from Room 213 shares ideas here on how to help teens manage their stress.

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