This has been a spring that few of us anticipated. As we now look to the end of the year, many of us are aching for our favorite end-of-the-year moments—that final awesome read-aloud, the class gathering with families, the spring concert, sporting events, and so much more.
We also know that the end of the year is an important time of transition for students. It’s a chance to consolidate learning, reminisce about the year, and look forward to the next one.
But all is not lost.
What if we keep our major goals in mind and think creatively about how to still meet them given our current circumstances?
This was just the challenge that I helped some 2nd grade teachers tackle recently. We met remotely for a half-day, and one of our two major goals for the session was to think about how to help bring the year to a good conclusion.
You can use the same process we did, either on your own or as a team.
Use the following process to figure out how to bring the school year to a good conclusion.
Step 1: Identify Your Goals
It’s important to begin with your “why.” What’s your purpose? What are your goals? If you jump to what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it before being clear about your “why”, you might end up pursuing ideas that aren’t as impactful as you want them to be.
This team’s goals were clear and powerful:
- Celebrate a year of learning and have fun
- Bring a sense of closure to the year—especially challenging and important this year
- Help students feel a sense of pride and accomplishment—to feel ready for next year
- Emphasize relationships and positive community membership
Step 2: Brainstorm Possible Ideas
Once you’ve identified your “why”, generate a bunch of possible ideas for how to get there. You might draw on ideas you’ve used in other years, adapting them to meet the current situation. You might also think of new ideas—ones you’ve never tried before.
Reminder: When brainstorming, don’t try and come up with “good” ideas. Judging ideas while generating them typically does more harm than good. Instead, come up with lots of ideas—let them flow freely without judgment.
Step 3: Decide Which Ideas Best Align with Goals
Now’s the time for judgment! Which are the best ideas? Which ones will help you reach your goals?
Here are a few ideas you might consider.
Create a Class Memory Book: Students generate a list of class memories. They might each write a short blurb about the event (field trip from earlier in the year, class joke, favorite morning meeting game, etc.) and draw an illustration. You can compile these either in an actual physical book or as an ebook (or slideshow) to share with kids and families.
Compile a Writing Anthology: Have each student choose several pieces of writing from throughout the year. Put these together as a class book (again, choose a format that works for you and your students). Student illustrations will always help bring their writing to life! You might also have students add brief reflections about how they’ve grown as writers during the year to reinforce their sense of growth and accomplishment.
Create a Video Montage: Have students each prepare and deliver a “goodbye” or “happy summer” message to their classmates. Have them video record their messages (or you can record them via Zoom or another platform). With a little light editing, you can put them together into a momento to be shared with students and families.
Write Letters: Students might write letters to next year’s teachers. They could share their interests, strengths, and some learning from the year they’re most proud of. Or, they might write letters to next year’s incoming students. They can give new students tips for success or share fun learning to look forward to.
Play Games: Set up a fun quiz game with your students. Mix in questions about content you’ve learned with questions about students in the room or fun moments from the school year. (Invite students to create the questions–they’ll have a blast, and it will help you be more efficient with your time.) Play the game in small groups. Or, you might play games that reinforce how well they know each other. One of my favorites is “two truth and a lie” where students create three statements about themselves (two are true and one isn’t), and others have to try and catch the lie.
Plan Summer Connections: The idea that the 2nd grade team seemed to get the most energized about was hosting voluntary summer book clubs. They thought they might each take a book and a few weeks in the summer, and any 2nd grader could join any group. This means that each teacher is taking on a short time commitment, but students will have a book group to join throughout the summer. (They’re going to make sure every kid has access to the books if they want them.) Just think of how excited students will be to get together with classmates and teachers over the summer to talk about books they’re reading! Of course, this is just one way to connect with kids over the summer. There are plenty more, and this summer especially, a chance to connect with teachers and classmates would be a special treat for many kids.
For other ideas about ending the school year well, many of which will still be applicable, check out these two posts: 36 Ideas for the Last Weeks of School and Positive Behavior and Engagement in the Last Weeks of School–35 Ideas to Try.
Step 4: Choose Ideas to Try
There are tons of great ideas out there, but you should be realistic about how much time you have and what you can accomplish. Find one or two ideas that will both reach your goals and won’t be overwhelming. Save the other ideas for another time!
Closing the school year well isn’t just good for kids. As teachers, we also need a sense of closure. Having a few cool projects to support your students will give you a renewed sense of purpose as the year winds down. Remember that our methods may be changing, but our overall mission—to provide engaging learning experiences and a positive sense of group membership—remain unchanged!