It might be hard to believe, but the end of the school year is almost here! The last few weeks with your students can often be jam packed with testing and final projects, but it is also a time to celebrate the community you’ve built and your students’ growth. We wanted to share 5 of our favorite end-of-year activities that help students acknowledge all they’ve accomplished and set goals for the future, while having fun.
1. Thank You Notes
This first activity is incredibly meaningful for not only your students, but the important people in their lives. This activity is also as simple as it sounds: Your students write Thank You notes! In order for this to run smoothly and have the most positive impact possible, it is important to plan how you present the activity to students, ensure you have all necessary materials prepared, and consider how to support students that need additional guidance.
In my experience, it has been helpful to start this activity with small group or partner discussions about the people students rely on in their lives. Many students talk about their families, some talk about school staff, and others talk about the friends that have helped them through challenges. After students have begun to bring these important people to mind, I would explain that during class, we are going to take some time to thank these important people.
I would provide students with card stock, pencils, and markers–you can get creative depending on the age and interests of students to include glitter, stickers, or other materials–and then encourage them to select 3 to 5 people that they wanted to thank. Students then had time to write independently and, if they were interested, were given the opportunity to read their notes aloud to the class. If you have students that struggle with independent writing, you can provide sentence stems or an outline of a thank you note for students to reference.
It was incredible to hear my students share the many ways in which parents, siblings, cousins, teachers, and friends had helped them throughout the school year.
2. Vision Boards
This next activity takes a little more planning and prep work, but is very engaging for students and can be stretched into a multi-day activity. To make a vision board, students will need poster board or card stock, scissors, glue, and lots of photos–magazine clippings or printed photos work well. You can also bring in stickers, glitter, stencils or any other materials you think would help your students make their vision boards look great. It is helpful to have a lot of visual material to help students get started so you may want to start collecting magazines ahead of time or ask students to bring in their own. You can also check your local or school library for any magazines they were planning to recycle.
The idea behind this activity is to have students create a poster that illustrates their vision: their hopes, aspirations, and goals for the future. You can set guidelines depending on the age of your students for what you want them to include, or you can allow them to get as creative as they want. In my classroom, I encouraged students to include academic or career goals. Many students were excited to look up and print photos of the college campus they hoped to attend or images of people with the career they planned to pursue.
To get the most out of this activity, I allowed students to spend two class periods working on their vision boards and then each student had a chance to present theirs to the class. Students were excited to share their visions of the future and many included dreams of traveling the world, attending college, and someday becoming famous.
Not only is this activity a fun way for students to set goals for the future, but it also allows them the chance to share those goals out loud and begin to think about the steps they can take to achieve those goals.
3. My Favorite Lesson
This activity is an engaging way to keep students focused on class content while still allowing them to do something different and interesting. For this activity, every student–or pairs/groups of students depending on what you think will work best in your individual classroom–selects their favorite topic from the school year and prepares a lesson on it. Depending on the age of students, these lessons can range from a few minutes to a full class period.
This is a particularly great activity for a math class in which students can select a specific topic to reteach to the class. In my classroom, students were told to create a lesson that was at least 15 minutes and involved some direct instruction. My students were eager to be at the front of the room, calling on one another, and answering questions. Some students chose to create a game for their review lesson including a Kahoot or Jeopardy game.
In an ELA class, this can work well if there is a particular topic a student likes that they can find new resources to explore. For example, if a student completed the 4th grade Powering Our Future: Energy unit and wanted to learn more about wind energy, they could find an article to read and discuss with the class.
For students who are a little shyer about leading a lesson, you can leverage pairs or groups of students so that everyone feels empowered to be at the front of the room. This activity helps students reflect on their favorite topic, review material with their peers, and practice their presentation skills while having fun.
4. Classroom Cafe
This activity is a creative way to help students connect with peers, explore their own interests, and reflect on the year. One of my favorite things to do when I have free time is to sit in a coffee shop and read a book that isn’t related to any work I’m doing. I wanted to bring my students this same feeling as a way to highlight how wonderful reading for pleasure can be.
For this activity, I turned our classroom into a “cafe” where students could read, journal, and be creative. I put on some background music, brought out plenty of books, paper and colored pencils, and told students they could sit wherever they liked. I also bought hot chocolate for my students to drink while they were reading/journaling/drawing. My students were excited to have an opportunity to read a book that they wanted without the stress of having to write about it later.
This activity works best if you know what books your students want to read and have those available. For my students, this was a lot of anime, graphic novels, and fantasy books. This was a great way for students to find the joy in reading for pleasure and, ideally, remind them that they could continue reading like this all summer!
5. Seeing the Future
Not only is this last activity a fun option for younger students, but I’ve seen middle schoolers get really excited about it too. Students need at least 2 class periods for this activity. During the first, students pick a career they would be interested in pursuing in the future and research that career. You can provide students with specific information they need to find such as the education or training requirements, names of people currently doing that job, and the impact of that job on the community/world.
During the second class, students present their chosen career. To make this more fun, you can encourage students to dress up for the job they want during their presentation! Many of my middle schoolers researched NFL players and were excited to come talk about being a football star while wearing their favorite player’s jersey. I also had a few students that hoped to become teachers that came in dressed like me for the day!
This activity is a meaningful way to close out the school year because it allows students to really dive deeper into a career they might want to pursue and share that out with their peers. Additionally, students get the chance to identify role models and learn more about the people doing what they someday hope to do.
Any of these activities are a great jumping off point to bring joy to your classroom, help students reflect on their progress this past year, and look excitedly towards the future. Whatever you choose to do, remember to celebrate your students’ accomplishments and take the time to acknowledge how far you’ve all come together.
Find meaningful activities to engage your students year round on the Fishtank Blog and our social media accounts. Want to get a head start on next year’s planning? Dive into Fishtank Math and ELA today to explore courses, units, and lesson plans.
Rachel Fuhrman is the Curriculum Marketing Manager at Fishtank Learning. Before joining Fishtank Learning, Rachel spent 5 years as a Middle School Special Education Teacher in New Orleans, LA and Harlem, NY. Outside of the classroom, she has been a frequent contributor to multiple education blogs and focuses primarily on student engagement and instructional practice topics. Rachel earned both her Bachelor of Arts in Economics and her Master of Science in Educational Studies from The Johns Hopkins University.
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