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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

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, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program
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!

Mrs. D's picture

I find that as soon as the warmer weather starts approaching my second graders slip into holiday mode and the summer countdown begins! I like the idea of providing students with choice and open-ended activities that showcase learning. One project my students often embrace is acting as Grade Two Experts and creating some sort of 'tool' to help next year's grade two students navigate grade two. Some students choose to collaborate in creating a "Things You Need to Know to Have a Great Year in Grade Two" book, others create Google Slides presentations for next year's students and others create an iMovie about Grade Two. My students love being the experts; they love knowing their creations will be shared with upcoming students.

(1)
Mrs. D's picture

I find that as soon as the warmer weather starts approaching my second graders slip into holiday mode and the summer countdown begins! I like the idea of providing students with choice and open-ended activities that showcase learning. One project my students often embrace is acting as Grade Two Experts and creating some sort of 'tool' to help next year's grade two students navigate grade two. Some students choose to collaborate in creating a "Things You Need to Know to Have a Great Year in Grade Two" book, others create Google Slides presentations for next year's students and others create an iMovie about Grade Two. My students love being the experts; they love knowing their creations will be shared with upcoming students.

(1)

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