We are getting close to the end of the year and it has been a difficult year for all of us–teacher and student alike. However, there is always some down time at the end when students are tired of “content” no matter how engaging that content is and need something different.
In a normal year, I have had the students clean the room, return borrowed items to the office or library and clear the bulletin boards. But this has not been a normal year. This year, the last day of school is also a day of finals–not sure why the calendar was created like this. So this year, students will not have “down” time to help clean the room or return borrowed items.
However finals are allotted for 2 hours and our final will not take that long, so I need to have some activities ready for students when the final is finished. The class will need to be quiet to allow others to finish working but hopefully there will be some activities that students find fun.
Once finals are over and your sharing platform has been cleared (Google Classroom, Seesaw, Classkick, etc), it is difficult to keep students engaged. Wait until the last day to clear the digital clutter. This also makes it easy if some student is turning in late work for the assignments to still be available.
1. Online Activities
Give students a choice of what they can work on. One way to do this is to use a choice board, and include links to the activities. You can use links to online activities such as Kahoot or Quizizz, something non-content related.
My students have these as favorites:
Disney Movie Trivia https://quizizz.com/admin/quiz/575964b1f8e805d2e5c44076/disney-movie-trivia
Video Game Trivia https://quizizz.com/admin/quiz/5fdcb8c2de9725001c877dd9/boomer-zoomer-video-games
2. Boom Card Trivia
You can also use a fast pin for boom cards that feature trivia. Students love trivia as much as I do. They are not math reviews.
In my district, seniors take finals early so on the day before final exams, I had them complete a quick survey on the topics in Consumer Math using Google Forms that they felt were most useful, Least useful, Most difficult, Easiest, Which topics should be included and Which topics should be dropped from the curriculum.
Their answers provided important planning for the next school year. Most students found the stock market game difficult, but they also found it useful to explore investing. They also wanted to know more about buying a car and how to rent an apartment, topics that we had covered but not as deeply this year.
Geometry students were asked to give comments on the new IM curriculum we have been using. Students who had taken Geometry before (unsuccessfully, obviously) were asked to compare and contrast the prior curriculum with the new one. I wanted all the Good, Bad and Ugly.
4. Letters to Future Students:
Let students write to future students and tell them about class rules, how to be successful, etc. I stress that the emphasis is on how to be successful, turn in work, bring supplies and tips for working collaboratively but students like to add “how to get along with the teacher”.
They add some funny (and truthful) remarks so I am a good sport. “If it is period 1, keep in mind Mrs. Faulk is not awake yet, and cut her some slack”. “Mrs. Faulk loves it when she makes a mistake and you catch it, so you really need to pay attention and get some points for spotting an error”.
You can give prompts for the students or let them create their own letters. Some ideas would be”
How do students improve their test/quiz grades?
How do students get tutoring help during the year?
What is the first thing students do when they enter the classroom?
Where do students get their supplies we use in class?
5. Time Capsules:
At the beginning of the year, students prepared a file of goals, a picture and their predictions for the school year. These are put away until the last day and then are returned to the student.
I then put the students in groups to discuss their prediction and as a group which student had the most interesting goals, achieved their goals, etc. Make sure that students understand they only share what is comfortable with.
In general, I am not a fan of school awards because it is usually a handful of students who get recognition and often a few students receive multiple awards. How does a student in a school with 2,300 students feel special when awards are given to less than 100?
One solution is to use digital stickers. I prepared award stickers for most holidays and year end is no exception. So year-end digital stickers will be shared with students as well. I post them the last day in a file and students can have them all. Some students like to decorate their papers with stickers, some print them out and glue them on notebooks. If you would like this set, you can download the stickers here. If you want a file to edit and create your own, then use this Canva Link: https://bit.ly/2TyXAOg
Another option is for a teacher to create unique or special recognition for EVERY SINGLE STUDENT. Leave no one out. And make each award different. You can easily create in PowerPoint using a free template and print them out. You can make your own or use the ones at We are Teachers.
These are free to print or save, just enter your school email address and you are able to download a pdf.
If you decide to make your own, create some odd and fun ones for this odd year: Most Unmutable, Most Participation in Chat, Digital Guru, Google Classroom Assistant, etc.
7. Thank You Letters
Our students need to learn the power of gratitude. One easy way is to have them write thank you letters to teachers or staff. It can be a thank you letter for something they have done for the student, for their participation in hosting an activity or club or any reason the student wants.
Then students can either deliver the letters, send them (in email) or turn them in to have the teacher deliver. Depending on the age level, students may need a template for the letter.
Thank you for (what did the person do, save or give) ______________________________________________________________________________________
(How did you feel about it?)______________________________________________________________________________________
(Why was it so important) _____________________________________________________________________________
Thank you again for _____________________________________________________________________________________
Sign your name
It has been a strange, long school year, unlike any other school year I have experienced. Yet, there have been positive moments as well. Teaching students to find the positive in such a year where many have struggled is a skill that will help them in the future. Each day–even when we had a lock down of 2 hours for a disturbance on campus- there was a positive thought that emerged.
Maybe we teach students to journal those positive thoughts so they can remember when things become difficult. I hope you find the end of this year both eventful and uneventful.