Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

The End of the Year is Near: 4 Fun Ways to Leave

June 10, 2014 Updated May 28, 2014
Photo credit: C-Monster via flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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!

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Filed Under

  • Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Creativity
  • Teaching Strategies
  • 3-5 Upper Elementary
  • 6-8 Middle School

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