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6 Engaging End-of-Year Projects

Rebecca Alber

Edutopia Consulting Online Editor
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I don't know about your students, but so many of mine, coupled with Senioritis, were done after state testing. (The well had run dry, no blood from a turnip -- all those sayings applied!) With just a few precious weeks left in the school year, what do you do to keep the kids energized and on board with learning?

One thing I knew for sure when it came to my high school students: They had to feel as if they weren't actually doing work. (Yep, I had to trick them.)

And whatever you do plan, especially for secondary students, three elements are essential: choices, creativity, and constructing. In other words, as long as you present options and then have them create something that includes using their imaginations, you really can't go wrong.

Consider these projects (and I've included the cognitive demands):

1. Show What You Know

Give students an opportunity to teach the rest of the class something, like origami, a new app, or a martial arts self-defense move (design, construct, apply).

2. On-Campus Field Trips

  • Take them outside to write observational notes on what they see through the eyes of a scientist, historical figure, artist, or character from a book or film (discover, examine, report).
  • Journey to the library for a scavenger hunt. There are many online that you can revise to fit your content and/or your students' interests (locate, investigate, compile).
  • Join another class and have a poetry slam, or a science or math mini-fair. This gives students a chance to share a project or product with a different audience. Consider doing this in a neutral zone like the cafeteria or library (discover, demonstrate, evaluate).

3. Own a _______

Have students take ownership of a planet, song, decade, career, author, country, scientist, medical breakthrough. . . With this activity, the student becomes an expert on whatever she or he chooses and then presents it to the class or in small groups. The product can be, for example, a mini-book, PowerPoint, or iMovie (select, prepare, research, design).

4. Craft a New Ending

Students take their favorite book, speech, short story, poem, or historical event and write a new ending. Ask them to also include rationale for their ending. They can also illustrate it (infer, devise, conclude, reflect).

5. Create a Commercial

Host a class competition where students cast a vote, and give an award to the team that produces the most clever, creative 30-second advertisement. Decide first as a class on the product to be pitched (plan, design, critique).

6. Portfolio Showcase

Students compile a collection of their best work from the school year or last semester, and include explanations for their choices. This could be done in hard copy or digitally, and can include illustrations and photos (select, assess, categorize, prepare).

Whatever you decide to do with the last handful of instructional days, stay flexible and open to taking the journey with your students. Testing is over. Have some fun.

What are successful end-of-the-year projects that you've used in your classroom? Please share in the comments section below.


Comments (16)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Selena Trotter's picture

I really appreciate these ideas. They apply to all the classes and it's easy to see how the lesson plans can be constructed so that each last day is memorable and fun for the end of school year. Even works for elementary school kids. Really enjoyable!

Mary Kirkland's picture
Mary Kirkland
national board certified hi school mathematics instructor from Mississippi

My textbooks (by Glencoe) has multiple real world problems in most lessons. Toward the end of the year, each student chooses a different problem to present to the class. They don't have to explain the math...just make the connection. For example, a student constructed a three foot tall roller coaster last year and told the class which lessons they had learned in Algebra 2 would be useful in the field of designing roller coasters. Another student built a one foot tall model ferris wheel to show what angles and measurements were being asked for in a trigonometry word problem. The students usually make A's, because I get really great work, the choices are virtually unlimited (several use an internet site for their visual aid if they cannot afford to build one) and the presentations are usually very enjoyable.

Karin's picture
National Board Certified 4th grade GATE teacher

I have my 4th grade students write a brochure of what to expect in 4th grade. The brochures are then put out the first day ofnesite most of my class each fall is comprised of students coming from other schools, so the brochures are a way for them to learn about me, my classroom, the GATE program, and their new school.

I'm also going to try a new project this year courtesy of teacherspayteachers.com. they will create a Diary of a Fourth Grader Memory book.

Janet Moeller-Abercrombie's picture
Janet Moeller-Abercrombie
International Educator, Certified by the NBPTS | Educational Leader, Licens

The end of the year is a great time to give students project that have them review knowledge and skills they practiced all year.

One of my favorite projects is the Million Dollar Project. Tell students they have a million dollars to spend. They need to account for the whole amount to the cent. They must list their resources (research and citation). They must categorize their purchases and report categories on a circle graph (converting fractions/decimals/percents + graphing). They can report their themes and their spending in any form they choose (speaking, technology).

It's amazing how many fifth graders begin by buying candy and such. They realize just how much a million dollars is...until they try to buy real estate in Hong Kong...

Janet | expateducator.com

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