As the end of the school year approaches, many middle and high school teachers find themselves faced with less structured time and more opportunities to engage students in community-centered activities. We can dedicate some of this time to meaningful end-of-the-year activities to help our students acknowledge and celebrate the growth they have made while also setting goals for the future.
4 End-of-the-Year Activities
1. Letters to the future. For this activity, students write a letter to themselves one year in the future. Students are allowed to write anything they want, but I encourage them to focus on what they would like to be true in a year. For some students, this might mean writing about how they are now on the varsity basketball team, are captain of their debate club, or have an A in science class.
The possibilities are endless, and I remind students to include both academic and personal goals for themselves.
In order for this project to work effectively, you can either hold the letters and deliver them to students the next year, or work with your school to have the letters sent home.
While teaching sixth grade, I held on to all the letters and then returned them to the seventh graders at the end of the next school year. This was easy to do, as all of my students were still in the same building. For students who are transitioning from one school to the next, it might be easier to work with your school’s front office to mail the letters home.
2. Thank-you notes. Another option for helping students reflect on the year is writing thank-you notes. For this activity, I simply provide blank thank-you cards to students and encourage them to write at least one note to someone in the school and one note to someone outside of the school. Many of my students take the opportunity to write thank-you notes to their parents, friends in the class, teachers, or athletic coaches.
This is one of my favorite end-of-the-year activities because it creates such a positive environment in which students feel grateful for all they have accomplished and are able to acknowledge the people who helped them do it.
You could easily just provide students with blank paper for this activity and even alter the directions to make it more academically focused. For example, you could require that students write at least a certain number of sentences or use specific vocabulary words they have learned over the course of the school year.
3. Performances. This next option is a great way to let students show off all the amazing things they have accomplished over the past year that might not be academic. To effectively engage students in this kind of activity, I provide at least two weeks’ notice so that any students who want to perform can prepare.
In the past, I have had students sing, read poetry, and dance. I have also had a few students present drawings or paintings they had done at home or in outside art classes.
You can decide what types of performances you want to focus on and can even tie them to academics by having students read short stories they wrote in English or perform a skit they wrote in their foreign language class.
I have tended to allow students to show off whatever aspect of their talents they wanted, as many do not have the opportunity to be in the spotlight if their talents are not academic. I have utilized my school’s gym and cafeteria in the past for performances, but the classroom can also work well as long as you are intentional about setting it up.
4. Vision boards. This last activity encourages students to think about what they want their futures to look like. Students are given a poster board and tasked with creating collages that illustrate their future goals and the people, words, and phrases that inspire them to achieve those goals.
A few days before I plan to do this activity, I tell students to start collecting photos or magazines that they might want to use on their vision board. Several students always ask to use the printers at school for their images, so it’s helpful to be prepared to let students access computers and printers when completing this activity.
Many of my students include a picture of the college they want to attend or the professional sports team they hope to play for. I have seen students include photos of their friends, family, and other inspirational figures. Once all students are finished, I have allowed students to share their vision boards in small groups or in front of the entire class. It’s an incredible opportunity to hear students speak about their dreams, goals, and futures.