TEACHERS...What Are YOU Doing the Last Few Weeks of School?
I did some research trying to find fun activities to keep students engaged and out of trouble during the last couple of weeks of school.
Teachers, you can TWEAK the activities to meet YOU and YOUR students' needs.
Here is what I found...
By: Kim Haynes
Let the kids teach the class.
Split the class into groups and assign each a specific topic you studied this year. Give them time to go over their topic and invent a good review activity, which they have to grade. You assess them on whether they get their facts straight and how effective their review activity is.
Have students write a children’s book.
When writing for younger children, your students will have to really simplify and emphasize the key elements of your course. This can serve as a great review and a fun way to integrate art into the curriculum. Students might write the children’s version of a Shakespeare play, a young readers’ version of the history of Ancient Egypt, or a picture book that illustrates the cycle of life.
Host a talk show or “expert” symposium.
Imagine an Oprah-style show on bullying or school violence as a way to discuss The Chocolate War. Or a discussion on “Great 20th Century Achievements in Science” featuring Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Stephen Hawking – all portrayed by students. Put students in groups and have them research their topic, write a script on it, and present their show to the class.
End of the Year Activities: Reflect on the Year's Experience
Looking back can be fun, but it’s also a good instructional strategy to help students learn from previous experience. Why not…
Create a class scrapbook.
Let each student make a page. Offer some prompts (My favorite book we read…/The best experiment we did in Chemistry…/One thing I learned about myself…) and encourage students to include favorite class memories. Supplement with photos of students, the classroom, or class activities. Make a copy of the scrapbook for every student, or make an electronic scrapbook and take the opportunity to teach students how to use PowerPoint or another program.
Have students write letters to themselves.
Ask your students to write themselves a letter, reviewing the year and making “resolutions” for the next school year. Give them some prompts to write about: one thing they are proud of from this year, one thing they would like to do differently next year, one thing they want to remember, and so on. You can either mail these letters to your students just before the start of the next school year or make arrangements with their next teachers to distribute the letters at the start of school.
Ask students to write letters to your future students.
Have your current students write letters of advice for the new students you will teach next year. What advice would they give on how to “survive” or do well in your classroom? What are the hardest parts of the course? Note – if you have any special traditions or “surprise” activities you don’t want students to spoil, make sure to tell them ahead of time.
Create a portfolio or profile for each student.
Work together with your students to develop an individual profile that highlights their work from this year. Depending on the level of your students, this may include samples of work, a self-evaluation, and a written teacher evaluation. If possible, make two copies – one for students to show their parents and a second copy for the student’s next teacher. Keep in mind: this activity works best when it relies on student work and self-assessment more than teacher comments.
Invite students to evaluate the course.
For older students, evaluating the course can be valuable on many levels. They may surprise you with their assessments of their own contributions and may have some good suggestions for ways to revise the course. Even better, you’re providing a good model for them, showing everyone can benefit from constructive feedback and all of us have things to learn.
Goal: Do Something Educational But Not Too Stressful for Me or the Students
Sometimes, just getting the students to do something educational is hard enough, especially at the end of the year. Why not…
Teach that fun unit you never have time for.
Most teachers have fun units or activities they can never find time for: why not do it now? Food math, logic puzzles, “Mythbusters”-style experiments, or lessons on advertising or political cartoons – these are legitimate educational activities with a high “fun factor” that will make it easier to hold students’ attention.
As the weather warms up, find a way to teach outside. Students can explore nature using math or science skills or write a poem about the weather. Got an activity that is messy or noisy? Doing it on the field is a great way to enjoy spring. Of course, students may get rowdier outdoors, so make it clear that if they misbehave, it’s back to the classroom and normal (a.k.a. “boring”) assignments.
Put a new twist on skill drills.
Every teacher has skills or content they want students to practice – reading, writing, learning the Periodic Table, or memorizing the Pythagorean Theorem. Choose a specific skill and make it the focus on your lessons. Have a Reading Fair, declare Grammar Week, or hold a Math Theorem Memorization Contest.
Find a fun way to practice these skills – if your students need to improve their reading skills, can you allow them to read Sports Illustrated or X-Box: the Magazine? If they need more time on writing, have them write profiles of their favorite TV stars or even write their own autobiographies. Practice is easier than learning new material, but still a valid way to spend class time.
Do some good for the world.
Take this time to get involved with a cause that is meaningful to you or your students? Students can write letters to government leaders, organize fundraisers, or create pamphlets or flyers addressing a particular issue. You can build off world events, tackle an issue you read about during the year, or just ask students what issues matter to them.
Unsure of what your students can do? Why not have them research ways that people their age can make a difference? Create a binder or website that lists volunteer activities or causes that welcome the support of younger people – it can be a resource the entire community can benefit from.
It can be hard to keep yourself – and your students – motivated, but with a little effort and planning, the last month could be the most fun, most effective time of the school year!
- Book Hall-of-Fame. Have each student write (or draw) a reflection on the best book they read over the year. Then, save their reflections and post them on a bulletin board so that next year’s students can glean reading ideas.
- It Takes a Village.Or at least a classroom. Write several story titles—”The Great Summer Adventure,” “How My Teacher Lost Her Mind” or “My Teacher, My Hero” at the top of blank pages. Then, have each student start a story and after five minutes, pass the story to a neighbor who will continue writing. Continue writing round-robin style until you have several stories to read aloud to the class.
- High School (or Middle School) Musical.Break your students into groups and have them create (and perform) musical numbers commemorating the year.
- Teach Me.Flip your classroom upside down AND backwards. Have each student prepare a video lesson (try using the app Explain Everything) on a topic that they learned about during the year. Then have them (re)teach the class what they learned while you sit in the back of the classroom and pass (um, we mean take) notes.
- Dear Next Year’s Class.Have your students write letters of advice (or, if they want, commiseration) to next year’s students.
- Count ‘Em Up.Get students counting by having them use a calendar to figure out how many Mondays you’ve had this year, how many Fridays, how many P.E. days and how many Jello-in-the-cafeteria days. Then work together to make a bar graph and hang it on the wall.
- People of the Year. Time Magazine can’t have all the fun. Help your students to compile a book of the “People of the Year” for your class. Make sure to include important people from history (say, Obama and Romney) as well as important people to your classroom (the custodian, the principal, and even that crotchety lunch lady.)
- Science-Inspired Art. Head outside with paper and art supplies such as watercolors, colored pencils, and chalk. Ask your students to create a wall-worthy piece of art that reflects something they learned in science. Did you study plants? Maybe a watercolor of flowers. Or if you studied space? A cosmic-inspired number. Dirt? Well, at least they’ll have to take their artwork home before too long. (I LOVE this idea!)
By Lily Jones May 23, 2014, 12:41 pm
Editor’s Note: Read more end-of-year ideas from one of our favorite bloggers, Carrie Kamm.
- Advice for Future Students
Make a list of advice for future students by asking current students to reflect on the year and share tips for success. High school math teacher Lauren Collins says this activity usually yields a good mix of funny and serious advice, which she prints out and gives to the next year’s class on the first day of school.
- Graph of Highs and Lows
High school ELA teacher Esther Wu asks students to draw a graph of their year’s highs and lows on 8.5 x 11 paper with emoticons, symbols, lessons learned, songs of the month, etc. Students use the month of the year as the x-axis, and their emotions, what they learned, etc., as the y-axis.
- Top Ten List
Another great idea from Esther Wu is to have students work in small groups to come up with a Top Ten List about the year. Students can be as serious or funny as they wish in presenting their lists to the class. Esther shares that this activity is super fun, plus you get to learn a lot about what students found meaningful about the school year.
- Common Core Reflection
Katie Novak, K-12 reading coordinator, has her students grade her on how well she taught the Common Core ELA Standards. She gives her students a copy of the standards, then makes her case for how each standard was covered over the course of the year by reviewing lessons, literature, prompts, etc. Katie shares that hearing her students assess how the CCSS were covered allows her to assess students’ learning in a non-threatening way.
- Graffiti Wall
Reflection can happen individually, in small groups, and as a large group. Sherwanda Chism, K-6 gifted ELA teacher, has a great way to get the whole class reflecting together. She creates a “Graffiti Wall” by covering a wall in her classroom with bulletin board paper. Students then write and draw about their greatest learning experiences that took place in her class. Sherwanda shares how this activity helps students to reflect, while simultaneously providing feedback for her on her practices.
By Elizabeth M. Wessling
March 2015, Volume 38, Issue 7
- Think-pair-share: First, asked students to think individually about a question. Then, help students form teams of two, in which they take turns expressing their thoughts to their partner. Next, pairs report their discussion to classmates—perhaps to other pairs, or the whole class. Try having team members report their partner’s answers rather their own—a technique that promotes listening skills and prevents students’ fears of appearing boastful.
- 3-2-1: On a note card, students write down three units/topics they enjoyed the most during the year; two questions they have about a topic; and one thing they want to learn more about in the future. These ideas can be incorporated into an art project for students to take home.
- Final Journal Entry: Have students read through the journals they have kept throughout the course. Then, students can write a final entry about of what they learned.
- Photo Journal: Students can create a photo journal of the year’s academic progress to share with the class.
- Postcards/Letters: Have students write a postcard or letter to students in a younger class describing the topics presented that year. If time allows, have them personally deliver the letters and spend time sharing about learning between grade levels.
- Recipe Card: Create a “recipe for success” to give to the next group of students.
- Doodles: Students can sketch or draw three concepts they learned over the year and describe their doodles to the class.
- Gallery Walk: Students can create a graphic organizer or infographic to represent their learning. Students then post the graphics on the wall for other students to view.
- What’s Inside: This can be done individually, with a partner or in small groups. Students get a sealed envelope that contains a slip of paper with a topic, vocabulary word, or problem. Students then have to explain, describe, or solve the contents of the envelope.
- Self-Assessment: Have students describe their sense of progress towards understanding by answering reflective questions about their work.
End of Year Activities – The author gives many ‘how-tos’ for these activities…just click the link above…
End of Year Letter to Future Students
Have students write a letter to next year’s class, giving tips and advice about what next year’s students should expect. This is a fun activity that also has students work on their writing skills.
End of Year Reflection Questions
Have students reflect on the past school year by asking them reflection questions. For example:
-If you could change one thing about the school year, what would you change?
-What was your favorite book that you read this year?
-What accomplishment from this year are you most proud of?
-What is one thing you wish your teacher would have done differently this year?
-What is the nicest thing that someone at this school did for you this year?
Any method for questioning students is fine, as long as you get your upper elementary students talking and reflecting!
Field Trip to Next Year’s Class
Have students visit one of the classrooms they might be in next school year. For example, if you teach 3rd grade, take your students to a 4th-grade classroom!
Summer Bucket List
Have students continue to read, write, and learn during the summer with a fun “bucket list” of activities to complete during the summer. You could create a list for students, have students create their own, or save time by using one I have already created for you!
A-Z End of Year Reflection
Have students write down something they learned during the school year for each letter of the alphabet.
This was one of my favorite end of year activities to do with my 3rd graders because it requires no prep and is very powerful. Some of the letters are easy – multiplication for the letter M or fractions for the letter F. But some other letters require a little more creativity.
This can be a fun activity to do as a whole class – you could create a large anchor chart and add on to it whenever you have time to kill. Or, have students complete it independently or in partners.
Beginning of the Year Vs. End of the Year Compare and Contrast Reflection
Have students complete a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting their beginning of year selves with their end of year selves. They can consider all of the things they have learned, how their behavior has changed, how their friendships have changed, and more.
This end of year activity is great if you are trying to instill a growth mindset in your upper elementary students. This activity gives them the opportunity to reflect on the progress they have made and how they are improving for the better.
After completing a Venn Diagram, I would have my 3rd graders use that information to write a short paragraph about the changes they had made throughout the school year for the better.
Students can draw their own Venn Diagram on a blank sheet of paper.
End of Year Top 10 List
Have students create a list of their Top 10 favorite things that they did at school during the year. Once again, this can be an independent activity, a partner or small group activity, or a whole class activity depending on your needs. If you do try to create a whole group Top 10 List, good luck getting everybody to agree on their favorites!
Here is MY contribution to the list…
I hope YOU found a few ideas here to help YOU end the school year on a positive note that leaves your students smiling as they exit your classroom for the final time…