Keeping students motivated as the end of the school year approaches is notoriously challenging. There’s even a quasi-official term for it when it happens during their senior year: "senioritis." Seniors may experience end-of-the-year apathy more intensely than other students, but all grade levels face the same issue and pose the same challenge to educators.
This problem correlates with the bigger challenge of students failing to complete high school. A majority of students who fail to complete high school say they were unmotivated or uninspired to go to class, according to research cited by Issues in Science and Technology.1 Help students stay motivated and engaged in class until the end of the school year with these tips:
Stay Motivated Yourself
Motivation is contagious — and so is apathy. Many educators feel burnt out after administering standardized tests and year-end exams, and finding the motivation to endure the final weeks before summer vacation can be a challenge. If educators themselves feel unmotivated, students are bound to emulate their mood.
To overcome this, consider saving a special project — one you’re really looking forward to — for the end of the year. Doing so gives you something to get excited about, and you can in turn pass this excitement onto students. The only caveat: Be careful not to disrupt routines to the point that students feel like they're already on vacation. Maintain structure while injecting some fun into the routine.
Find Creative Ways to Continue Test Prep
At this point, students most likely need to continue preparing for end-of-year testing — but they’ve also probably done a great deal of test preparation already and aren’t looking forward to more of the same. Find creative ways to continue with test preparation. For example, take a team approach to test review by playing a review game where the class is divided into teams who compete for the highest score.
Assign a Fun Project
This is a simple but effective idea: Assign something fun. High school Spanish teacher Matt Miller, author of “Ditch That Textbook,” suggests assigning students projects that involve making videos, such as making and sharing Vine vocabulary videos.2 Project-based learning advocate Suzie Boss suggests project ideas including using video games to explore physics, using lunch menus to teach nutrition, or assigning students to interview older relatives for oral history projects.3
Start a Mentoring Program
Another way to sustain student motivation is by pairing students with mentors. Bethany Brookshire describes how her scientific career was sparked by her animal physiology teacher, who made physiology fun with his creative teaching approaches and continued to support her scientific aspirations after graduation.4 Mentoring relationships may develop naturally from a student's interaction with faculty, or they can be cultivated through deliberate efforts using local and online resources. For instance, New York City's Mentornet partners students interested in STEM-related fields with mentors.5
Create Learning Centers
Consider setting up simple learning centers that allow students to rotate through activities with a partner. They don't need to be elaborate to be effective — it can be as simple as packets of hands-on materials with sets of directions for students to follow. Have students pair up or form teams as they cycle through different stations. This can also give students the opportunity to study content outside of normal curriculum. For instance, if you have a group of juniors or seniors, you can have the activities that focus on life skills such as setting up a bank account, checking their credit score, doing taxes, or managing their calendar.