How do you mark the end of the school year for your staff and students? Don’t just let the year fizzle to a close. Here are 17 creative end-of-the-year rituals and activities to recognize all the great accomplishments of the year.
1. Throw a bubbly brunch.
Buy a few bottles of sparkling apple cider and some plastic champagne flutes for your last staff meeting of the year. If the students are gone for the year, you might want to make that real champagne. Make a toast to the awesome educators at your school! Prefer coffee instead? Consider a “thanks a latte” meeting, with the coffee order of choice for everyone.
2. Crowdsource a summer playlist.
With help from the teachers and staff in your building, make a fun summer playlist on Spotify or YouTube to share with everyone at your school.
3. Rent a dunk tank.
Consider adding a dunk tank to your school’s spring field day to create a hilarious memory for students. “I rent a dunk tank and put it on the playground,” says Liz Garden, the brains behind the blog Monday Morning Musings and principal at Florence Roche Elementary School in Groton, Massachusetts. “Then I put on a silly outfit—one year it was a tutu with a cape, another year it was a ninja outfit—and each grade level gets to spend time on the playground trying to dunk me. Believe it or not, the kindergarteners have really good aim.”
4. Organize a flash mob.
Surprise students with a flash mob during your end-of-the-year assembly. “I start talking to all of the students, then all of a sudden, the music starts, and teachers begin to join me at the front. The staff has so much fun dancing, and the kids love to see their teachers dancing,” Garden says.
5. Promote summer reading.
Encourage your students to read over the summer by sharing your goals with them. “Then I make them a deal: that if they write to me about books they read in the summer, then I will write back to them. Everyone loves to get mail,” Garden says.
6. Celebrate students.
7. Send them off.
8. Host a s’mores party.
Thank the teachers at your school with a s’mores party because, as principal Lindsy Stumpenhorst pointed out on Instagram, school is s’more fun with them!
9. Set up a banana split station.
As temperatures heat up, why not treat your staff to a banana split or ice cream sundae bar?
10. Dive into data.
Now is the time to take a hard look at your school’s metrics to learn what worked and what needs improving next year. You might be inspired to take a new approach or launch an out-of-the-box project.
11. Reflect on memories.
Before they move on to middle school or high school, ask students to reflect on their experience in your building. “While I have the fifth grade students, I lead them through a reflection activity to find out their best memories of elementary school that I then write up and share with all staff, because their memories [include] something from every grade. Teachers from lower grades love getting to hear from former students in this way,” says Jessica “Principal J” Johnson, principal at Dodgeland Elementary School in Juneau, Wisconsin.
12. Host a picnic lunch.
It takes a lot of planning, but Johnson is a big fan of hosting a picnic lunch on the last day of school. The entire school—including families—gathers for one final meal together. In eight years of this tradition, it’s only been hampered by rain once, Johnson says. “All of the staff work together to serve all of our students and families, and we enjoy a school picnic together outside, with a DJ for rocking music,” she says.
13. Load up on podcasts.
Share a list of your favorite leadership and education podcasts (and maybe a few “guilty pleasure” podcasts, too) with your staff to help them stay inspired over the summer. Ask them to share their favorites with you, too.
14. Give funny awards.
At your last staff meeting of the year, give out an array of creative awards to your staff. Teachers Pay Teachers has a fun digital download of these awards,including The Email Ninja Award, as shown above, for $7.99. Or you can easily come up with your own accolades tailored to your staff.
15. Do a digital declutter.
Take some time to spring clean your computer—wipe out your email inbox, install updates, and make sure your important documents are backed up to the cloud or a hard drive.
16. Hold a school beautification day.
Invite students’ family members to join your school for a spring beautification day—plant trees, build garden boxes, replace mulch, pull weeds, or ask your students to come up with a project of their own.
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