Activities to Conquer the End of Year Chaos

May 24, 2020

Those days after grades are in, but school isn't out yet can be long. If your students are anything like mine, their motivation has been dwindling as the temperature has been rising and it is near impossible to do anything academic when they know they aren't getting credit for it. While motivation may be low, energy is not and any downtime at this point in the year can lead to a classroom management disaster. Here's some ideas to help end your year on a high note rather than in chaos.
Those days after grades are in, but school isn't out yet can be long. If your students are anything like mine, their motivation has been dwindling as the temperature has been rising and it is near impossible to do anything academic when they know they aren't getting credit for it. While motivation may be low, energy is not and any downtime at this point in the year can lead to a classroom management disaster. I like organization, routine, and controlled fun, so the end of the year is a time I like to over plan for rather than be stuck with an unaccounted for chunk of time. Here's some ideas to help end your year on a high note rather than in chaos.

Complete a Service Learning Project
I teach at a K-8 school and we have buddy classes (second and sixth grade are paired together) that we do activities with throughout the year. Our buddy classes were doing reader's theater at the end of the year, so we helped the students practice and create props in the days leading up to their performances and then attended their performances the day of. If your school doesn't have buddy classes, it can't hurt to send out an email just asking if any other classes need help with anything as the year wraps up.

You can also get more ideas for service learning here. The most meaningful projects are ones that are student driven so you could begin by asking your students what needs they see in their school or community and what they think they could do to help.

Recognize Students with an Awards Ceremony
I wish that all grades at our school or at least the middle school part did an awards ceremony with consistent criteria, but that doesn't exist yet, so the sixth grade came up with awards and criteria of our own.

We gave out awards for Honor Roll (all As and Bs), Distinguished Honor Roll (all As), Highest Academic Achievement by subject, Most Improved by subject, Trailblazers (our school's equivalent of a citizenship award), and then each student received a superlative so that every 6th grader was recognized for something. You can find the academic awards we used here and the superlative awards here.

We had a group of student volunteers who helped come up with the superlatives and another group of students helped create a slideshow of all of our photos from the year. At the end of the ceremony, a few of the students who helped with the superlatives also gave awards to the 6th grade teachers, which was very sweet. 

Get Outdoors and Explore
Our school has an environmental focus so our grounds were designed to be a little more "natural" than most schools. While our students are outdoors every day for recess, we designed a nature scavenger hunt to have students examine the outdoors with a closer eye. Besides connecting to our green mission, this activity helped introduce  students to our newly planted garden boxes and downspout planters.

During the scavenger hunt, students' goal was to identify an item in nature for each letter of the alphabet. Points were awarded for each unique find (similar to Scattergories) and bonus pointed were awarded for alliteration and correct plant identification. We put together a "cheat sheet" of plants and trees that students could find on our grounds that included their common and scientific names as well as descriptions and photographs. Here's the directions and recording sheet.

Those days after grades are in, but school isn't out yet can be long. If your students are anything like mine, their motivation has been dwindling as the temperature has been rising and it is near impossible to do anything academic when they know they aren't getting credit for it. While motivation may be low, energy is not and any downtime at this point in the year can lead to a classroom management disaster. Here's some ideas to help end your year on a high note rather than in chaos.
Hold an End of Year Breakfast
This one wouldn't have been possible without the generous support of parents. We put together a Sign Up Genius with a list of breakfast items that parents could sign up to bring in and sent that out in an email that explained that the breakfast would be a surprise treat for the students.

This was the one activity that ran much shorter than anticipated because middle school students eat like ravenous wolves, so in the future I would add some table games similar to things you might play at a bridal or baby shower to keep students a little calmer and in their seats.

Host a Minute to Win It Championship
This was probably my favorite end of the year activity. Each of the three sixth grade teachers on my team hosted a series of challenges in our rooms and students rotated to each room, trying to earn points for their team.

Challenges in my room included:
1. Cookie Face - move a cookie from your forehead to your mouth with no hands
2. Stack Attack - stack and unstack a 7 row pyramid
3. Make A Metaphor - create and explain a metaphor using Metaphor Dice
4. Blind Bowling - blindfolded player bowls and a teammate retrieves the ball
5. Marshmallow Toss - one player tosses marshmallows into a teammates cup and players move an additional step apart every 10 seconds

These Minute to Win It challenges resulted in lots of laughter plus a chance for different students to shine since they didn't require any particular academic or athletic skills. You can find ideas for challenges here, here, and here. We chose games that required few supplies and wouldn't make a mess in the classroom.

Clean Up and Clean Out
Our students have lockers so we set aside time for them to clean everything out of those. We remind students to bring an extra bag to take things home in if they have a lot of extra clothes, containers, books etc. and have extra trash cans and recycling bins out in the hallway when we do this. I give back student work portfolios the same day which they can choose to keep or recycle. I also have a list of things around the classroom that need to be cleaned, organized, and/or put away so that when students are finished with their lockers, they can help out with those tasks.

Plan Last Day Stations Based on Student Interests
Our last day of school is typically a half day, so we split that day into three chunks with three different activities that students rotated through. In one room we had legos, in another we had robotics kits, and in the third we had board games and cards. All three activities were hands-on to keep students busy, but low key enough that they could enjoy the time talking and playing with friends. My room was the lego room. Students could build freely or compete in a lego challenge.

Have a Few Filler Activities
Despite planning out the last few days as carefully as possible, sometime the timing of things changed or an activity didn't take as long as expected. for those smaller time chunks, it is helpful to have activities like sharing advice with next year's students or writing a letter to your future self. The advice for next year's students can be used to create a bulletin board at the start of the next school year and we promised to deliver our students' letters when they graduate 8th grade.

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Those days after grades are in, but school isn't out yet can be long. If your students are anything like mine, their motivation has been dwindling as the temperature has been rising and it is near impossible to do anything academic when they know they aren't getting credit for it. While motivation may be low, energy is not and any downtime at this point in the year can lead to a classroom management disaster. Here's some ideas to help end your year on a high note rather than in chaos.

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