As the school year winds down, your students may start to get a little antsy. And when students are restless, it's hard to keep them engaged and motivated to learn. So instead of trying to deal with your students' pent-up energy, have them partake in a few fun year-end activities that are constructive and motivating.
1. Write Welcome Letters to New Students
As you probably already know, children like to give their opinions. What better way to end the year than to have your students write a letter of advice to incoming students? At the end of each school year, my daughter comes home with a new student welcome brochure that details what she can expect next year. This is a great way to calm students' nerves as they begin a new grade, and a perfect place to include a handwritten welcome letter from a previous student.
To create letters with your students, brainstorm the specific areas and topics that would be beneficial for new students to learn about. Topics may include a brief summary of what students learned, fun activities they completed, and important advice they want to share. Then give your students free rein to write their own welcome letters. Have students peer edit their letters to check for any errors before you read them over, and then sign, seal, and deliver a unique letter to each student who will be entering your class next year.
2. Motivate Students with a Team Challenge
One of my favorite year-end activities is a team challenge competition—something my fellow teachers would do when I was a long-term substitute in a fifth-grade classroom. These challenges motivated students to work together as a team to reach a common goal, and helped build interpersonal skills, self-esteem, and collaborative thinking. The students loved the activities. They were able to spend the day outside, and they got to work and play with their friends. Whether they were creating a water rocket out of a soda bottle or building cars using recycled goods, they were working as one group—and having fun.
Further reading: Creating Closure Before School Ends
My favorite team challenge I've seen thus far was when students created a wind-powered car. First they were given all of the supplies (cardboard tubes or paper towel rolls, masking tape, pipe cleaners, straws, cardboard pieces, wooden skewers, construction paper, and card stock paper), and then they had to use their critical thinking skills to design the car. There were many decisions to be made, such as how long the car should be, if they needed a small or large sail to catch the wind, and so on.
They then tested their theories by using a fan to see if the car moved. Once they knew their cars worked, they raced them against their peers' creations on a windy day outdoors. The best part about this team challenge is that students get to use the same process as engineers. They must identify the challenge, design a solution, and then test their solution, which will help them to flex their STEM muscles.
3. Create a Digital Classroom Newspaper
For many students, wrapping up the school year means signing a yearbook. While a schoolwide yearbook is a nice treat, I've always liked the idea of creating an individual classroom yearbook together. However, instead of creating an actual yearbook, I have my students build a digital newspaper. This newspaper highlights all of the special moments that occurred throughout the school year.
Further reading: Keep Students Engaged at the End of the School Year
Each student is assigned a specific job, such as a photographer, writer, editor, or designer. The photographers gather all of the pictures that were taken throughout the school year, while the writers write pieces on something memorable that happened during the year, such as the school play, a class field trip, or the "invent-a-thon." You can even have students vote on awards (classroom superlatives), share accomplishments, or submit artwork to be shared in the newspaper.
I like to use a newspaper template on Google Docs and then upload a PDF to Youblisher to create the final digital newspaper. You can complete this project in as little as a week as long as you delegate the tasks to your students properly.
Use these ideas to start planning year-end activities that are memorable and build on the skills your students learned throughout the year. What are some activities you're going to try this year?