Members of the Education World Teacher Team share their favorite end-of-year activities.
This month, we asked members of the Education World Teacher Team: "What is your favorite and/or most successful end-of-the-year activity? Please share with us activities, projects, review games -- anything special that you save for the end of the year -- either as a culminating activity for a particular subject area or to create a memory of the year for your students. This is what they told us.
"When I was in the classroom, I usually saved a simulation for the final six weeks of class," Robin Smith told Education World. "At the high-school level, we had so many students missing for field trips, spring sports, practices, competitions, and so on, that it was easiest to assign a project and give them a due date. Those who were in class had time to complete it there; those who were missing could finish it on their own time. It worked out well. Usually, I assigned a project that included most of the computer skills they had learned throughout the year."
"One of the end-of-year activities my students and I enjoy most is a course evaluation," said Cossondra George. "For 7th graders, this is the first time they've ever done something like that. I introduce it by explaining that all college professors have their students do it. My students take it very seriously, and the comments they write are always insightful and helpful to me.
"Our other favorite activity," George added, "is to write a letter to next year's classes. Students write about math class, what they like and don't like, insights about having me for a teacher, what 7th grade is like overall, and so on. Students write serious advice like 'make sure you get your homework done on time' and 'read the board in the hall to know what to bring to class.' They also write not-so-serious advice, like 'Mrs. George can be bribed with chocolate.' It's all fun and in good taste. I always read the letters before I pass them out, but I've never had one that couldn't be shared. I use the letters on the first day of school in the fall, when my new students get to read them. It always makes for a fun first day activity."
Camille Napier also has her students write letters to next year's students, offering them advice for success in my class. "It's an open activity," Napier noted, "meaning I read the letters -- although I wonder how they might read if they were anonymous and secret!
"If I'm teaching seniors," Napier noted, "I have them write letters to themselves, which I mail back to them one year later. I don't read those letters. Students address the envelopes and seal them. In previous years (and at the end of reading The Pact with my juniors), I have students write letters to someone who has made a difference in their lives. They might choose a former teacher, a mentor, a coach, a boss, a family member. I steer them away from friends, asking them to save their sentiments for yearbook signatures. These letters have generated some touching words -- one student thanked our vice-principal for being so tough on him. He said, 'I took all your concern the wrong way. Now I know that you were tough because you cared.'"
"The Advanced Placement exams are at the beginning of May, but we have school until the middle of June" Marcella Ruland told Education World. "My AP US History students always think that the course is over and they should be allowed to just fool around until the end of school. Instead, I assign an oral history project. (The instructions can be found at Post WWII Oral History Project.)
"Students interview at least one parent and one grandparent or person of that age," Ruland noted. If grandparents aren't available, they can borrow someone. (One year a student borrowed one of the favorite teachers who was retiring. It was wonderful!) Each year, we take a look at the list of questions from the previous year and students decide the changes they want to make. Frequently, they are dying to ask their parents about certain things from their past, but they also come up with some great issues to delve into."
"The class then uses the results of their interviews to discuss some of the events from the late 20th century," said Ruland. "Many students tell me that they enjoyed the project because they have the chance to really talk to their parents and discover things that they never knew. They find out what it means to be a historian and also how much they can learn from the people we see every day. I also have received many letters from parents; they appreciate the assignment because, in many cases, the questions prove to be a jumping off point for substantive discussion with their children.
"Through the years," Ruland said, "there have been some wonderful moments associated with this project. So many of our parents had interesting connections to the elements of our history."
"End-of-the-year parties -- even though they might seem unimportant -- are to me the most important activity," said Stew Pruslin. "The closure really cements the experience of the year, and positive memories have an effect on retention and attitude."
For more end-of-year lessons and activities, see Making the Most of the Dreaded End-of-School Days, Wind Up Learning as the Year Winds Down, and Great End-of-Year Lessons.