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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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.

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