George Lucas Educational Foundation
Student Engagement

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

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

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; Elementary Library Media Specialist

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

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.

Susan Chen's picture

One of my favorite ways to end the year is to have my fourth graders read "The Great Horn Spoon" by Sid Fleischman. The story takes place at the time of the California Gold Rush. I use this social studies thematic unit to have the students review map reading, measuring distances, calculating time, and writing summaries. What makes it fun is that the students are assigned roles and I am the narrator. Every time their character says something, the assigned student is to project what he or she imagines how the character sounds. New students are assigned for each chapter. We discuss what life must have been like on a long voyage. Usually enough students have seen the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" to contribute what they remember. They learn the different parts of a ship and the diseases that were rampant in the 1800s. Every year my students enjoy the adventures of Jack and Praiseworthy.

Bmoll's picture

Great ideas! I love the "Own it" project. As a history teacher, each student or group can own a decade and even bring in artifacts from that decade. I also love the commercial idea. This seems to be applicable to any unit throughout the year. Thanks for the ideas!

Christina's picture

For the first time, my students and I will be participating in Maker Week. What a great way to end the year! This is an opportunity to use simple classroom materials to create something new and then, share your creations. It can be as easy or as challenging as you'd like it to be. Some ideas are spaghetti and marshmallow bridge, a marble run, rubber band cars, and catapults. Our entire school district will be participating in the second annul White House Maker Week. June 12th-June 18th. Have fun and let you imagination soar. Check it out and try it with your students. Also, look for Makerfaire coming to your city.

Debi Duke's picture

Love these ideas. For more school yard field trip ideas check out "Our Wet Schoolyard: Mapping Puddles" and "Worms that Squirm in Schoolyard Soil!" developed by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and available in Teaching the Hudson Valley's activity and lesson plan library,

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