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5 End-of-the-School-Year Activities to Finish Strong
As the weather gets warmer, students tend to get pretty antsy and start not-so-patiently waiting for summer to come. While it's perfectly natural for students to become less focused on their schoolwork during this time, it can be challenging for teachers, and fun end-of-the-school-year activities can help finish the year off strong.
It's our job as educators to reel our students back in and teach them until the very last second of school. However, no one ever said that we couldn't have some fun while doing it. Here are a few of my favorite activities to wrap up the year and keep students focused.
Further Reading: 5 Tips to Keep Your Students Engaged at the End of the School Year
Take a Field Trip
Spring is a great time to take your students on a field trip. When I taught second grade, at the end of the school year we would take our students to the museum to see the space exhibit. While this was a fun way to connect what we were learning to the outside world, I felt like it was too generic and I wanted to do something more outside of the box. I decided to bring the field trip to us. I scoured the internet and found someone that could bring space to our classroom—an astronomer. The students were so excited when this guest turned our gymnasium into a planetarium. It was such a great way to connect what we were learning in the classroom to the real world, and we didn't even have to leave the school to take this trip.
Have a Team Challenge
A team challenge is a fun way to wrap up the year while having students work together to achieve a common goal. Get students outdoors and have them create fun science experiments where they compete against one another. Students can create rockets out of soda bottles or airplanes out of recycled goods. These end-of-year motivators are not only fun, but they also get students out of the classroom and actively participating in their learning.
Write a Letter to Incoming Students
Writing a letter may not sound like a fun way to end the school year, but it can help some students get things off of their chest without any repercussions. They can give incoming students advice and tell them what they should expect throughout the year. Students can talk about their favorite projects and what new kids can and cannot get away with in class. They can share their favorite memories and talk about what you're like as a teacher. The key to getting your students to be honest is to tell them you won't read the letter. (To make sure everything's appropriate, you can have a colleague read the letters before you pass them out to your new students.) One of my colleagues did this activity in a fifth grade classroom and I was honored to read the letters. I found that students were very forthcoming with their advice and didn't say anything inappropriate. To make this activity a little more creative, instead of handwriting the letters, have students use the lettrs app to write to incoming students.
Hold a Field Day
Many schools choose to wrap up the academic year by having students participate in a field day with fun relay race-type games. My daughter's school makes a whole day of it, and every year they get even more creative than the next with a new theme. They begin the week prior by having the students tie-dye T-shirts to wear the day of the event. The event starts in the morning with a fun magic show, and then students head outdoors to participate in activity stations that parents help run. After students partake in fun, themed events like "fishing for letters" and "dressing the clown," they move on to a dunk tank where they throw a ball and dunk their art teacher. This is followed by a dance party deejayed by their music teacher. The end of the day is usually a school-wide movie or a lesson taught under a tent by the local K-9 unit. This event is always a huge success and a wonderful way to end the school year with a bang.
Celebrate with an End-of-Year Party
Another way to motivate students to keep working until the end is to plan a themed party. This gives your class something to look forward to; the more that they are invested in it, the more excited they'll be to participate. Have students help you plan the party every step of the way. Assign pairs to come up with creative foods, party games, and hands-on activities that correlate with the theme. I've found that the sooner you have them start planning the party (one or two months before), the more you can use it to your advantage when students slack off.
Further Reading: 4 End-of-the-Year Teacher Strategies to Liberate Your Summer Vacation
If you want to finish off the school year strong and keep your students focused, you need to get creative with your end-of-the-school-year activities. Think outside the box and get your students excited to learn. Whatever it is that your students love, try and incorporate that in your lessons. Remember: as long as your students are engaged, you'll finish the school year in a great place.