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

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!

Comments (14)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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

Laurie Kroll's picture

I agree with many of you that my kids are spent!!! We are daily playing a game that reinforces the skills they have learned all year. For example, "Spelling Up" played like "Heads Up 7 UP" but they have to spell words to stay up front. Or "Four Corners" where they are asked math questions about things we have learned all year, for example, what are two multiples of 8, or what is a prime number. They love competition!!! We are still learning but it is fun!

Christine Brown's picture
Christine Brown
High School Mathematics teacher

Thank you for the great list of ideas. I teach math to juniors and seniors and often encounter students with Senior-itis. I can definitely incorporate the "On-Campus Field Trip" idea as well as the "Create a Commercial" idea. I have been developing an activity to transform a print ad from a magazine. I am thinking that the students will alter the existing ad by selling the product using math. For instance, I have an ad for Snickers candy bar. The ad shows a rectangle, that represents the Snickers bar and a jagged edged circle that represents a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. Using symbols the sales pitch is: rectangle > circle. Very clever.

K. Brown's picture
K. Brown
7th Grade SS teacher from Atlanta, GA

This is a really great blog topic. All of the ideas that you presented are excellent. Not only are they engaging, but they also appear to be rigorous. It is so important to keep students actively engaged in learning, especially at the end of the school year. Many students feel that school is simply a waste of time after they have taken the state test, primarily because we put so much of an emphasis on it. I think I will definitely try #5 creating a commercial.

Ian Schweikert's picture

My PLC came up with an idea a few years back that keeps the students engage after testing and can be useful for there entire life.
Disaster Preparedness.
Check out the final Product on Prezi.com

http://prezi.com/4yw9gewno8wq/disaster-preparedness/

There are several under the topic which our students have completed in the past. Usually completed in June or July.
We are just about to get started on presenting the info. through our Active inspire software on our Promethean Board.

Royce Rowan's picture
Royce Rowan
Cofounder of thePortfolium- free platform to showcase your accomplishments

Great article! I especially like #6! thePortfolium.com is a great platform for students to create free portfolios where they can network with their classmates and find others with similar interests. www.thePortfolium.com

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator

These are some great ideas! I think that anything that combines a public demonstration of learning with a celebration of the growth over the past year would be a total win!

Lisa Mims's picture
Lisa Mims
5th grade teacher /Education blogger
Blogger

What a fun way to practice spelling words any time of the year! Love it!

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