Ideas to Push Learning Forward When Motivation is Lacking

The mid-year slump. That summarizes how teachers of year-long classes feel in the late January to early February time period. We’re settled back into a routine from our holiday break (even though my fellow southerners had a few extra snow days last week), the weather is bleak, and energy is lacking. The year is no longer new yet we’re not close enough to feel the excitement of graduation. We are in the mid-life crisis of AP Lit (there is no personal parallel here). Here are a few ideas to bring some energy to your classes until spring kicks in and the adrenaline for the finishing kick to the exam takes over.

Get kids out of their desk and moving.
I plan on introducing Hamlet with Shakespearean Musical Chairs by Brian Sztabnik this week in hopes that it will combat some of the lethargy felt during the last couple of weeks; Brian also gets his students up and moving with Kick Me Multiple Choice as a fun alternative for multiple choice practice. Beth Whinnem sends her students on a tone hunt around her classroom while Jill Massey uses post-it notes to get her students out of their seats and engaged in discussion.


Get creative.

Karla Hillard’s Quickfire Challenge is a fast-paced activity forcing students to think outside the box that will definitely serve as a shot of adrenalin. As an added bonus, this will help you get rid of random supplies in your classroom. Amy Adams has students do a mashup of a periodic table and literary terms. This past week my students did some mind mapping to help them sort through their thoughts on Brave New World; we followed this activity with a Socratic discussion the next day leaving my students ready to write tomorrow. We will also be doing character presentations when we start reading Mudbound/As I Lay Dying which also involved drawing and thinking.


Get out of the routine.
Tia Miller wrote about Flipgrid a couple of weeks ago; this programs allows students to video themselves and is a great way to give students a break from writing while keeping them focused on analysis. This is very similar to vlogging. Students can also showcase their writing through blogs. Jori Krulder keeps students focused on analysis by doing impromptu speeches which also help students work on their speaking skills. Whenever my class needs a break from the routine, I turn to art for analysis; I love this because students continue to develop skill, are exposed to art, but also get a break from reading and writing.

Get collaborative.
A tableaux is a good way to get students working together while thinking about literature; Beth Whinnem’s tableaux assignment is a solid template that’s ready to use. Have your students ever written a group essay? This idea by Jen Wolfe forces students to work together (and argue if your students are like mine) and consider other opinions and ideas. Roy Smith groups his students and has them make group videos of poetry analysis. 

What are some ways you get your students through the mid-year slump?

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

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