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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The End of the Year is Near: 4 Fun Ways to Leave

Dr. Richard Curwin

Director, Graduate program in behavior disorder, David Yellin College

The end of the year is often an emotion-filled time. One common feeling is relief. We are all ready for a break. We are really tired of the daily grind and look forward to the summer. Students count the days and then hours to the end of school. What students don't know is that their teachers count the same way.

A second emotion, at least for teachers, is regret that we didn't get as much done as we'd hoped. So many things are left undone. Of course, we understand that we can't cover everything, but still, no matter what we covered, we fear it is not enough. In addition, many teachers feel sadness at missing the students we have come to know, struggled with, and developed important relationships with. We hope they'll go on to better things.

I always liked doing activities to end the year that both were joyful and informative, things that helped me understand what students learned and how they felt now that the year was close to ending. Here are four of my favorites.

1. Interviews

Interviews are a fun way to end the year on a high note. Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to think of a pre-determined number of questions (three is good) that they want to ask you about the past year. No limits are required. You can either answer or pass. Then you get to ask each student in the group the same number of questions about the past year -- again, no limits. They also have the right to pass. Then go on to the next group.

Sample questions from students:

  • Why did you give us so much homework?
  • Why couldn't we keep our smartphones in class?

Sample questions from teacher:

  • What was your favorite activity?
  • Were my tests too hard?

2. Role Playing

Using small groups, ask the students to role-play you teaching a class. Be prepared for the role-play to be funny, yet highly accurate. Then you get to turn the tables and role-play any of the students' behavior in class. Try for humor, not sarcasm.

Sample situations from students:

  • Teacher giving a lecture.
  • Teacher trying to quiet the class.

Sample situations from teacher:

  • Students asking silly questions.
  • Student explaining a complicated concept.

3. Gifts

Make a list of all your students. (If you teach over 200 students, you may not be able to do part one of this activity. Use your judgment on this issue.) Think of a gift you would like to give each student. These are fantasy gifts, so there are no limits and nothing actually changes hands. Humor and warmth are two of the main criteria for deciding your gifts. One you are done, ask each student to think of a gift he or she would like to give to a fellow student, and then give each student a chance to share. Caution: make sure that no gift is insulting or hurtful in any way.

Sample gifts from teacher:

  • Claire, I'd like to give you a college scholarship.
  • Francis, I’d like to give the skill to take the training wheels off your bike.

Sample gifts from students:

  • Zooey, I’d like to give you a new book to replace the one I spilled water on.
  • Linda, I hope you get that trip to Disney World.

4. Drawings

Divide the class into small groups, and give each group a handful or box of crayons and a poster-size sheet of paper. Ask each group to draw an abstract picture of your class that includes every important element. No words are allowed. If you like, you can draw one also. Once finished, hang all the pictures on the wall and have a gallery walk. Then allow each group to explain what the elements in the pictures mean.

Sample items for both teacher and students:

  • A heart
  • A handshake
  • A textbook
  • A teacher holding a student
  • Students in a group
  • A pencil
  • A PowerPoint slide on a screen
  • A Teddy bear

These are some of my favorite class endings. Do any of you have some endings to share?

Have a great summer!

Dr. Richard Curwin

Director, Graduate program in behavior disorder, David Yellin College
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Comments (4)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

msbowen's picture

I like to read "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann and then have kids create their own rules to live by.

Abi's picture
Abi
English Teacher

These are great. I especially like the role playing one - I think both the students and the teachers can have fun with that one while bonding over something funny.

I teach high school and I find that the older students love to explore and analyze children's literature. It's partially because of its nostalgia and partially it's the excitement over identifying the underlying messages in a book that were missed in their youth. So, I sometimes end with a children's book, either the wonderful but over-used Seuss favorite, "Oh, The Places You'll Go" or other books that have a specific message to impart, like, Seuss' early work, "Come Over to My House" - where we discuss what the positive attributes they can take away from the book are and apply to their lives. (In this case it's warmth, friendliness and hospitality, even to someone of a different culture, nationality or race.) I've also read the Knuffle Bunny series which talks about having a security blanket and how the students, when they leave the sheltered bubble of high school, will need something reminiscent of home and love, their own 'Knuffle Bunny' of sorts.

Children's literature is a great springboard for thought and discussion but also adds a nice element of closure because you are not discussing a specific idea that was covered during the year. You are reaching out to your students on a more personal level, in a way that is different from the usual.

Mandy's picture
Mandy
Kindergarten teacher from Ohio

I absolutely love these ideas. Not only are they quick, easy, and fun, but they are also free! I like the idea that they encourage classroom discussions and playfulness. Being that I teach kindergarten, I like the idea of the interviews. Students would be able to think of a few short questions and all students would be able to participate. It would give students time to learn from one another without the formal classroom setting.
I really like the drawing idea too. I have so many students who LOVE to draw! They would love this one. Being able to explain their work would be exciting, too, because the little ones enjoy talking about themselves (or talking about anything for that matter!)

Madeline's picture
Madeline
7th Grade Special Education Teacher from Charlotte, North Carolina

I love these ideas! Funny I stumbled across this blog tonight because all day long I have been trying to come up with something creative to do with my kiddos for the last two days of school. We're done Tuesday-- wahooo!
I have a small resource class of only 12 kids so I especially love the "gifts" idea! I know my students VERY well, spend 6 out of the 8 school hours with them daily. I will definitely be trying out the gift idea tomorrow! Thanks for the insight and great ideas!

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