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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Six Engaging End-of-Year Projects

Rebecca Alber

Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

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 onboard with learning?

One thing I knew for sure when it came to my high schools students: They have to feel as if they aren't actually doing work. (Yep, you have to trick them!) And whatever you do plan, three elements are essential: choices, creativity, and constructing. In other words, as long as you present options then have them create something that includes using their imaginations, you really can't go wrong.

Consider these projects (and if rigor is on your mind, 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, a character from a book or film (discover, examine, report)
  • Journey to the library for a Scavenger Hunt. There's many online that you can revise to fit your content and/or interests of your students (locate, investigate, compile)
  • Join another class and have a Poetry Slam, Science or Math Mini Fare. 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 ... Planet, Song, Decade, Career, Author, Country, Scientist, Medical Breakthrough With this activity, the student becomes an expert on whatever she/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, open, and take the journey with your students. Testing is over. Have some fun.

What are successful end-of-the-year projects you've used in your classroom? Please share!

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