Monday, May 9, 2011

Don’t Give Up:
Fun End-of-Year Activities
Keep Interest and Learning Alive

Over his years as an elementary school principal in Texas, Mark Lukert enjoyed sending his staff off with a bang! at the end of the year. The centerpiece of his end-of-year celebration was a cake tied to the year’s school-wide theme. Then he purchased plastic champagne glasses and several bottles of a beverage that looks like champagne -- sparkling apple cider, for example. He also purchased party poppers for each staff member. (Party poppers are little plastic bottles with strings attached. When you pull the string, streamers shoot out of the bottle. These inexpensive novelty items are sold at most party stores or you can purchase them online).

“I give a little talk about the year, we serve the ‘champagne’ and have a toast, then pop the streamers,” says Lukert. “Everyone enjoys the event and it is a nice way to wrap up a great year!”

The idea can be just as effective when introducing a theme and toasting the start of a new school year, Lukert adds. [learn more]

Education World columnist Diane Hodges offers dozens of fun ways to celebrate the school year's end in her books Looking Forward to Monday Morning and Season It With Fun: A Year of Recognition, Fun, and Celebrations to Enliven Your School.

Among Hodges’ end-of-year ideas is to hold a "Thanks a Latte" party. Obtain latte machines and make a variety of lattes for staff members. Serve biscotti, scones, or other treats as well, Hodges recommends.

Or maybe you can plan some special awards to present at an end-of-year gathering. You might have staff members vote in advance for special recognitions such as
  • Most Willing to Help a Team Member,
  • Most Positive Attitude,
  • After-Hours Award,
  • Cheerleader Award (pom-poms),
  • Adhesive Award (a bottle of glue for the person who held everyone together), or
  • Rookie of the Year Award.

    For more great ideas for all year long, be sure to sign up for Hodge’s free Looking Forward to Monday Morning newsletter, which is packed with practical ideas for motivating and recognizing your staff. [see a sample newsletter, then sign up to receive this free newsletter on Diane Hodges’ home page]


    The grounds of The Ellis School in Pittsburgh are covered with trees planted by the Arbuthnot family, who once lived on the school’s property. Identifying those trees was the job of some students who took part in last May’s “Ellis’ Trees Please” mini-course at the school. The task was not an easy one, since many of the trees were purchased abroad at the turn of the 20th century, when importing plant material into the U.S. was legal.

    Ellis School faculty and friends have offered mini-courses since 1972 as a way to keep learning alive between final exams and the end of the school year, according to Jack Gaddess, a Spanish teacher and the school’s mini-course coordinator. The courses offer students time to explore nontraditional topics of study or a particular topic more in-depth, Gaddess told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettte. Besides “Ellis’ Trees Please,” last year’s courses included offerings that explored the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, mountain biking, traditional West African dance, and personal finance. [read more ]

    Education World columnist Larry Ferlazzo has many favorite activities for the final days of the school year. In one of those activities, he has students draw and write a simile about themselves (I am like a _______ because _______) that he will pass along to their next teacher. “I explain this will be the first impression their new teacher will have of them,” Ferlazzo wrote in his Teacher Magazine blog. “This is one more way students can reinforce a positive self-image. It also opens the way for the student and new teacher to make an early personal connection when they meet in the fall.” [read more ]

    Educator Elena Aguilar encourages teachers to give kids time and tools to reflect on their school year. “They can write, make scrapbooks, record a video piece, or create drawings,” writes Aguilar in her Edutopia blog. “Prompt them to think about what they learned, how they learned, what was challenging, how they dealt with those challenges, what they feel proud of, how they changed, what advice they have for kids entering that grade next year, and so on.” [read more ]

    For more ideas from teachers, see these Education World articles:
    Closure Activities for the End of the School Year
    Favorite End-of-Year Activities


    Over the years, Education World has shared numerous ideas for end-of-year lessons that provide fun and learning – and help bring the year to a close on a high note. The links below will take you to some of those lessons.

    Wind Up Learning as the Year Winds Down: Activities For The Last Days of School
    The last few days of the school year are upon you, and you're at a loss for what to do. Do you emphasize fun or attempt to squeeze in some last-minute learning? Education World offers suggestions for keeping kids focused during the last hours of the school year. Included: More than a dozen great end-of-year ideas.

    End-of-Year Lessons -- Volume #3
    You're tired, and you're eager to get through the last few days, but you feel guilty about showing videos or letting the kids play games. Education World offers five more end-of-year activities that will engage students, and maybe even include some new learning.

    Making the Most of End-of-School Days
    "No more pencils, no more books, no more..." No more time? The last days of school may be upon you, and your students may already be chanting the traditional end-of-school cheer, but that doesn't mean that you have to succumb to the temptation to start summer early. Blow your students away with some cool end-of-year activities that combine fun and learning.

    More End-of-Year Lesson Ideas
  • Reviving Reviews: Refreshing Ideas Students Can't Resist
  • A 'Boring' Lesson in Geography
  • Invent Your Own Poetry Form: An End-of-the-Year Activity
  • Mystery States Game
  • It's Up for Debate
  • Math Fun -- Volume 1
  • Math Fun -- Volume 2
  • Make the 'Write' Impression
  • Ten Games for Classroom Fun
  • Don't Waste a Minute
  • Crisscrossing the Country: Scavenger Hunts for Kids of All Ages
  • Rock or Feather: A Critical-Thinking Activity
  • ABC Books Aren't for Babies
  • Summer Reading Lists Abound on the Web
  • Student Essays Describe 'Perfect' School
  • Wax Museum Biographies Teach and Entertain
  • Students Create a Virtual Tour of Their Community
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