Can you believe that there’s only a little over a month left in this school year? My answer is complicated. On the one hand, yes, I can believe it. But on the other hand, I have no idea where the time went! Some days flew by while others slowly mosied along, seeming to never end. It was the fastest, slowest year I think I’ve ever had. Do you feel this way? To celebrate the end of one of the most challenging school years, I want to share some of my favorite ideas for end-of-school-year activities. Because you know what? You did it. You and your students made it through this year, and learning happened. And that should be celebrated.
Create a Visual Timeline
Turn your classroom or hallway into a visual timeline of the school year. Students can create videos using tools like Screencastify, FlipGrid, or the video app on a Chromebook, iPad, or laptop. Their videos can reflect on different units, activities, events, lessons, and field trips from the year. Turn the videos into QR codes and have students choose photos or draw pictures to include in the display. For example, you can have a poster for each month of the year. Students can place the QR code videos and photos (or drawings) on the correct poster.
When it’s all finished, have a museum walk with your class to reflect on all that you’ve accomplished together this year. Watch the videos, look at the pictures and drawings, and celebrate each other! (Spoiler Alert: You can also use this along with activity suggestion number three.) This is a great activity to encourage reflection at the end of the school year, and it’s super fun.
Write Thank You Letters or Cards
The end of the school year is a great time to think back about peers and teachers who have been supportive, helpful, encouraging, kind, collaborative, etc. We never reach success on our own. Ask students, “Who has helped you get through the year? Who has encouraged you and supported you in meeting your goals? Who has been a good friend?” Encourage them to make a list of people to whom they would like to write notes of thanks. But expressing gratitude is not easy, and it is a skill to be taught. Before beginning the writing, model examples of how we can give specific, meaningful, and honest thanks to others. Write a note of thanks as a class. Leave it up on the board as a reference for students as they write their own messages.
Visit the Grade Above and Welcome the Grade Below
Certain students may feel a high level of anxiety and the end of the school year. Some take everything in stride, but others may fear the unknown and all the changes that come with a new school year. Coordinate with a class in the grade level above and arrange a visit. The class could present their visual timeline or create a class presentation, and host a question and answer session for your students. This will help them know what to expect in their new grade level. Showing the visual timeline can give students specific things to look forward to. And hearing from other students directly about their experiences can help belay some fears. Also, consider hosting a class from the grade level below you! Your students will definitely take pride in talking about what they’ve accomplished and in answering younger students’ questions. It’s a great way to pass the torch!
Brainstorm Advice for the Upcoming Class
Ask the students to recall how they felt when they began the year. Were they a little nervous? Did they feel a bit lost or unsure? Well, the new students will likely feel the same way. As a class, brainstorm some advice and information that the new students might find helpful when starting the new year. Create a list of advice, have students write letters to the new students sharing their words of wisdom, or craft a letter as a class to the incoming class. This is an excellent activity for reflection and a practice in empathy.
End-of-Year Self-Reflection Survey
Have students answer a self-reflection survey. This can be done on paper, through video, or using a tool like Google Forms. Ask students questions that will instigate self-reflection, and the answers don’t necessarily have to be academic. This is a great gift for students to take with them at the end of the year, but it’s also valuable information to hand up to teachers in the next grade level. For example, you could ask questions like:
- In what area did you most improve?
- What gifts, talents, or skills do you have to offer your new class?
- What would you like to improve next year?
- How were you a leader this year?
- What was your favorite thing about this school year?
- What are you most proud of?
- If you could go back in time, would you do something differently?
- What was your least favorite thing about this year?
- What helped you learn best in class?
- Was there something in class that made it more difficult to learn?
Make a Class Book
Using a tool such as Book Creator, make a class book full of information and reflections about the year. Much like the visual timeline, students can write, draw pictures, record videos, and select photos for their class book. You can include pages about special lessons, projects, activities, and field trips and include examples of students’ work. This is a lovely keepsake for students and teachers alike!
Last but not least, one end-of-year ritual that I love is the student-written speech. Guide students in writing short speeches about their year. In their speech, they can highlight one favorite event or activity, express gratitude to one person who helped them, talk about how they grew, and outline one goal they have for the upcoming year. Students can even use their self-reflection survey as a guide for their speech. Let students know that they will be performing their speeches in front of their peers. And if you work in a school where it’s possible to invite parents, invite them to be in on the fun. Student speeches are a great way to end the year, and you can use them in coordination with the visual timeline celebration and presentation. It is a nice way to provide students with some closure and also have them practice important writing and speaking skills.
There are plenty of resources on the web for end-of-year activities, but here are some of my favorites.
- 35 End of Year Assignments and Activities for Every Grade by We Are Teachers
- 37 Awesome End of the Year Activities by Rachel Lynette and Cassi Noack (Minds in Bloom)
- 8 Epic Ideas for Ending the School Year by Vicki Davis (Edutopia)
- Last Day of School Activities by Beth Lewis (Edutopia)
- 15 Awesome End of the Year Activities by Playdough to PLATO
- What to Do on Lame Duck School Days by Jennifer Gonzalez (Cult of Pedagogy)
- Easy End-of-the-Year Activities by Andrew Roush (TCEA)
Let us know how you’ll celebrate the end of the school year with your students in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!