It’s here! We made it! Somebody pinch me! I love coming up with ways to celebrate, reflect, and end the school year I’ve had with my students. Here are six of my favorites you can use before buckling down for finals (or to celebrate post-finals)!
1. Video to End the School Year
Super fun. Sometime close to the end of the year, I interview and record individual students and ask them questions about my class, such as:
- “What’s your overall impression of my class?”
- “What’s your favorite memory from my class?”
- “What are some things that drive me bonkers?”
- “What advice would you give to students who have me in the fall?”
Their responses would work for an end-of-the-year slideshow or video, but I like to use it as a first -day -of -school video for the following year. It’s helpful not only because it’s more engaging than the typical rules/syllabus they usually hear the first day, but also in establishing a positive classroom environment since they’re able to watch an example from the peers who came before them.
The range of answers you will get from these questions is amazing and informative. You’ll have the sweet angels who will make your eyes well up with tears (“This has been my favorite class of all time. I’ll never forget our poetry slam. I wish you could be my teacher every year!”), and you’ll also have the sweet angels who are brutally honest (“Well, real talk, I hated this class until about November. You would call home like every time I didn’t turn in something and I was always grounded. But now we’re cool. Advice I would give to next year’s students: Put your phone inside your book during silent reading time—it makes it look like you’re reading.”).
2. “Stuff You Should Know” Week
In my last district, I made a “week” (the last three days of school) celebration to end the school year. But if you’re pressed for time, you could easily limit it to one day. Each day during “Stuff You Should Know” Week, I share one thing from each of the following categories to inspire them.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”—Marianne Williamson
“Be who you are, say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” –Dr. Seuss
“I was knocking on the door and then realized I was knocking from the inside.”—Rumi
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” William G.T. Shedd
“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” –R.J. Palacio (from Wonder)
*You should preview ALL of the above examples if you want to use them in your class. Asterisks mean that it has content that may require some preparation, either by cutting material or having a quick talk with your class ahead of time about the material.
Only a few of these categories are related to my subject area (English). My students aren’t quizzed over this information; we just share and talk about it (I print out a packet with all the info so they can refer to it later if they’d like). I also give them time to share with me things they think I should know.
I’m not sure what I will be using for all the categories this year, but I definitely know that my five life lessons will be: using your blinker while driving, elevator etiquette, being a good pet owner, choosing healthy relationships, and the importance of talking to babies.
You can make “Things I Think You Should Know” Week even more special by transforming your space. On the Friday “Things I Think You Should Know” Week, I push all the desks to the side of the room and bring in things from my house like throw pillows (you could have students bring their own), a rug, couch and cushions, and use lamp lighting in the room, giving it a much more homey feel where students can sprawl out on the floor. This may not seem like it would matter to students, but one year I didn’t change the room and kids with older siblings who’d had me in the past were VERY upset that I didn’t “make the room chill” like their siblings had talked about.
3. Freehand Class Mural
End the school year with art. Grab a long piece of butcher paper from the supply room, tape it up on your wall, and let your students have at it with markers (or paint if you’re brave). You could have students respond in a specific format (tracing their hand, drawing a symbol that represents them, writing their favorite memory from this year, etc.) or just let them go wild and see where their creativity takes them … under your supervision, of course.
4. Social Print Studio Prints
This company will print photos from your computer or Instagram in a variety of fun ways. This year I’m going to take a picture with each class, print them on the Mini Squares option, and give them away as an end-of-the-year gift to my students for around $30 total. I’ve used this company in the past to print my student’s digital collages for Back to School Night and they were a hit!
5. Class Toasts
One of my students had this idea a few years ago after watching the movie Freedom Writers, and we’ve made it a tradition ever since. Get a few liters of ginger ale (or 7-Up) and plastic champagne flutes from a party store, arrange your students in a circle, and have everyone say something—maybe a goal for the next school year, well-wishes for their peers, a favorite memory. After everyone has spoken, lift your glasses with some kind of cheer and celebrate and end the school year.
There’s something really special and moving about looking every student in the eyes and hearing them reflect on the past year you’ve had together. I’ve had my students for two years now which I’m sure will make this year’s class toasts extra emotional. I think I’ll construct a bib made of out Kleenex for myself to absorb my tears.
6. Blackout Poetry
This activity is inspired by the work of Austin Kleon, a poet and artist who creates poetry using newspaper articles he redacts with black markers. Chances are you have a book or a dictionary in class that is on its last legs—torn cover, missing pages, damaged from water. First, show some examples of blackout poetry from online and explain the process. Then, pass around the book, let them rip out a page, and encourage them to create their own poem or quote or phrase from the page they have by coloring over the words they want hidden. You’ll be amazed at their creativity, depth, and poignancy, and they’ll be amazed that their teacher let them rip up a book! Great fun.
All right that’s enough from me. What is YOUR favorite activity to end the school year?