Three Habits for Ending the Year

May 05, 2023 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

I remember my first years teaching in the classroom. Almost everyone advised me to start the year strongly because it would affect my whole year, but I don’t remember ever hearing that I should plan my end well. I instinctively knew that how we ended mattered as much as how we began.

This begs a question many teachers are asking this time of year—what does ending strongly look like? The advice I found seemed to be this: Keep on keeping on. Don’t relax. Work to the end. But the end of the school year seemed like the end of a marathon. My students and I wanted to do nothing more than collapse! I eventually developed three habits that gave our year that feeling of dénouement that every story craves.

Reflect on progress.

First, I found ways to help my students reflect on the year—specifically regarding their own progress. This habit is what prompted IEW to revive Dr. Webster’s advice to create student writing portfolios. If you used IEW’s writing methodology this year, your students will have a portfolio of their assignments..

Make time to allow your students to study the work they have accomplished this year. Let them contrast something that they wrote very early this year with something they wrote at the end of the year. This reflection isn’t about competing or testing. It is about seeing their own progress for themselves. It’s satisfying.

Revisit what used to be difficult.

Next, I revisited what my students considered easy at the end of the year but reminded them how they struggled earlier.

For example, assign a writing project from an earlier IEW unit. Surprise your students by telling them that they only need to go as far as a rough draft. You and they will be able to see how many of the stylistic techniques they have internalized.

Another idea is to assign a Unit 6 fused outline to present as a public speech or a Unit 3 key word outline for a storytelling time. The point you can drive home is this: they have learned how to write. They might even express delight about how easy that is.

Remember to laugh.

Finally, make it a goal to laugh every day. Equip yourself with jokes. Remind the students that they can tell a joke better because they know the Story Sequence Chart. Let them practice being joke tellers. Laughter truly is a fine medicine. They will always equate laughter with you, which is not a bad way to be remembered. If you need some help in this area, consider Andrew Pudewa’s talk Humor in Teaching and Speaking.


Ending strongly is not simply about pushing to the end. It is about experiencing dénouement. Your school year with these students is a chapter in your story and a chapter in their stories. Reflecting, revisiting, and remembering to laugh are ways to remind everyone that life is a comedy when we live and learn intentionally. End strongly. It matters. They’ll remember.


Janet Spitler is Academic Dean at St. Paul's Community School. Whether her days are challenging or smooth, they are always satisfying. She and her husband Greg live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They enjoy spending time with their children and their grandson while they patiently wait for the arrival of their second grandson.

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