Nothing is more awkward than the random amount of time you have post end-of-year testing. This can range anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks for many teachers, depending on the exam and the way your school year schedule falls.
For example, when I taught in a public high school in South Carolina, we would have the EOC exam in biology, and then anywhere from 1-5 days left afterward (depending on if it was one of the first or last EOCs).
When teaching AP biology, if the exam fell in the first week of May, I ended up having 2 more weeks with seniors and nearly a MONTH with the juniors in my class.
And let’s be honest. Energy is at an all-time low. Senioritis, even in your non-seniors, is running rampant. You are lucky if your actual seniors even show up for class.
You aren’t quite ready to just completely give up on the rest of the school year, but you also know that whatever you do attempt to do MUST be engaging and fun or there will be 0 buy-in from your students.
I’ve been in your exact shoes many times, and am here to share 4 ideas for meaningful, yet FUN, things you can do after end-of-year testing with your students.
Post End of Year Testing Idea #1: Dive into a topic for FUN.
Teach your students something JUST FOR FUN – not because the standards dictate it, the state promises it will make up 17% of the EOC, or because your textbook has it next in the chapter sequence. Pick a topic you know will interest your students, or that they’ve had tons of questions about. Better yet, ask THEM what they would like to learn about your last few days (or weeks) together!
A few suggestions from my own time in the classroom:
In anatomy and physiology, I like to do one of the following:
- Cover a body system in more detail that I may have skipped or been rushed through
- Let THEM pick ANY disease or disorder of their choosing to learn about
- End the year with reproduction*
*Because let’s be real, nothing will keep a bunch of high school students engaged until the last minute of class than talking about penises, ovaries, sperm, and STDs – amiright? And really, it is the BEST topic to end the year on because our students know a DISTURBINGLY small amount about a system that they are most likely highly interested in or involved in utilizing in some conscious capacity. (If interested, you can read more about my anatomy scope and sequence here).
In biology, I like to cover one of the following in MUCH greater detail than we cover in the regular school year:
- Plants – think flower dissections, plant reproduction, and a look into adaptations and why plants are ACTUALLY AMAZING
- Pathogens – introduce students to diseases and an overview of the how our immune system fights them!
- Homeostasis – cover a more in-depth look at how homeostasis is maintained at a cellular level, through communication, and at an organ system level through an overview of the human body systems
I usually let students vote on which of these topics most interests them! A topic that ALWAYS leads to fun discussions and student interest is a look into different careers in science.
Post End of Year Testing Idea #2: Research careers in SCIENCE!
I love creating the space for students to research careers based in science or careers that use science. You can even have them research their top 3 careers and as part of their research, find out what science courses they would have to take in college or other training, and how science is a part of their job. Students are always SHOCKED to see how science is a part of jobs they never thought it would be!
This is especially perfect to use with a class like AP Biology, where you have upperclassmen post-exam. It really interests them and seems more relevant, as they are closer to graduation than your 9th and 10th graders.
This is also a great one if you are just trying to fill a handful of days, rather than several weeks, with meaningful time together. I love that it really gives students the reins and lets them research what they WANT to research.
Speaking of handing over the reins to students, that leads me to my last two favorite ideas.
Post End of Year Testing Idea #3: Let students TEACH THE CLASS!
No matter what topic you decide to cover post end-of-year testing, I highly recommend handing over the bulk of the instruction to your students. This not only gives YOU a break, but it gives your students MUCH greater buy-in if they are the ones in control, rather than you.
You can have the students work in groups to investigate different extension topics that are outside the scope of your course and teach the class on them. If you have to do some sort of final exam, despite the fact that you’ve already done a state or national standardized exam, you can make this a review project. This kills two birds with one stone – review gets covered (AGAIN, because I KNOW you were exhausting yourself with review pre end of year testing) and you don’t have to be in charge of it!! WIN-WIN.
Here is an editable version of a project just like this I have used with my own students after end-of-year testing.
But of all of these ideas, this last one is by FAR my favorite.
Post End of Year Testing Idea #4: Let students SERVE FUTURE YOU!
I know this sounds selfish, but hear me out. I’ve learned SO much from my students over the years that has made me a better teacher. They’ve taught me more than I ever learned in my two undergraduate degrees and one graduate degree. So why not let them serve FUTURE you by also teaching your future students?
Use whatever time you have left to have your students make resources for your future classes. They can design labs, inquiry investigations, or research projects. Have them make review games or review stations for their favorite (or not-so-favorite) topics from the year.
Give them a survey and have them list the topics they felt like they struggled the most with, and/or list the labs, activities, and projects you did with them that they didn’t feel were very helpful. Then flip the script and have THEM revise or replace the ineffective resources.
While most of the results will be duds, you can end up with a few gems each year that you can actually use. And how fun would it be years later to look back at a lab or project you are still using and think, “XYZ students made this”?!
Again, you can have them pick the topic or you can provide them a list of options and see what they come up with. It is totally your call! I will say, I find this type of assignment MUCH more effective with upperclassmen students. It is PERFECT to do with AP students after their exam. To make it more reasonable, you can have your AP Biology students make resources on the level of your Biology 1 classes.
Here is the best part – even if you can’t use ANY of their resources EVER, this is a GREAT critical thinking exercise for them to engage in.
I hope these 4 ideas inspire you as you look ahead to that weird chunk of time you have post end-of-year testing and try to discern how best to use it. Do you have something else you’ve done in your classes that has worked really well? I’d love to hear about it! You can reach out to me here.