Showing your students the distance they’ve come

As I write this it’s almost (but not quite) the last week of term.

Teaching at this time of year can be difficult – we’re all tired and feel like we should be on a beach already. But it’s also a lovely because we get to see how far we’ve come over the last ten months.

“Me and your mum are so proud of you… you know that don’t you.”


I heard a dad say this to his daughter at a school celebration evening last night. It made me think that every student I have taught this year has done something they should be proud of… and if they don’t feel that I’m not doing my job properly.

Here’s a few activities I’m going to do to have the students look back and consider the successes of the year.

Physically look back at the work they’ve done

That’s obvious right? But how often do we do it? Not often enough in my classroom. Before we finish the year, I’m going to ask each student to pick a piece of work they’re really proud. We will talk about why they’re particularly proud of that piece and how they overcame difficulties to produce it. Then I’ll photocopy it for them to take home, so friends and family can be proud of it too.

Consider a problem that they overcame

In the last year, every student has succeeded at something. For some, that may be academic. For others, it may be outside of school, but each of them has worked towards and broken through something that at the time seemed impossible. I’m going to have them think about this and consider how they felt before, during and after the problem they were dealing with. I do this myself through my journal and it’s only when I look back on events that affected me that I realise how I have succeeded.

Create how-to guides on difficult skills they’ve mastered for others

Students love the idea of doing something tangible, actually creating something that’s going to be used. In this task, they produce something that’s not only useful, but it demonstrates how far they’ve come. I’ll set it up so each student in the class chooses a topic they feel they’ve mastered and then produces a leaflet, cheat sheet, or study guide for a student in the year below to help them learn. What they don’t realise is they’re actually proving to themselves how far they’ve come because a year ago they were that student.

End of term postcard

This is a great idea to show students’ progress going forward. Each should bring a postcard-sized photo of themselves to the lesson. On the back, they’ll write a few sentences about what they’re doing at the moment, what they’re finding challenging and what they’re enjoying. When you look at these again in a year’s time you and the students will be surprised with how far they’ve come.

High, low and buffalo

Similar to the idea above, students write down every week/month/term their current high (something they’re really pleased about), low (something they’re struggling with), and their buffalo (something unusual or interesting they’ve seen or learned recently – buffalos are unusual in England!)

Try these in the remaining days of the term and make your students proud of the work they’ve done and the distance they’ve travelled.

Is there anything else you do to show students how far they’ve come?


Interested in education, writing and creativity? Join my mailing list here.
Interested in education, writing and creativity? Join my mailing list here.


Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

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