The end of the school year can be a tricky time for teaching. There is the natural tendency to relax competing with the need to continue to provide work that is intellectually stimulating, all while organising end of year events and activities that ensure students will have positive memories of their time as part of your cohort.
For high school teachers with multiple groups of students, end-of-year events aren’t such a big focus, but for primary school teachers with one class, or those in remote schools, these activities help to cement the (hopefully strong) bond you’ve developed over the course of the year.
Things to do at the end of the school year
Only relatively recently have we started to place such importance on the social aspect of schooling. For its own sake, a rich social life is desirable, but the concepts of teamwork and cooperation are increasingly prized in the workplace as part of a set of softskills. When most individual academic milestones have been reached, the end of the year is the perfect time to encourage students to work together, developing social skills through enjoyable activities that allow them to end the academic year on a high note.
End of year activities
The activities below are staples that can be adjusted to pretty much any age group. They form the basis upon which educators are able to exercise their teaching strategies, creativity, and knowledge of their specific class’s dynamics.
A scavenger hunt can be modified for different cohorts and run either in the classroom, in the school hall, or outdoors on the school grounds. While there are scavenger hunt templates you can download from the internet, best results are found when a teacher inserts some elements that are linked to things students learned throughout the year.
Write a summary of the year
Best done in the final days, students can compose a text on what they have learnt, reflecting on any lessons or bits of information that stuck out to them. No two students’ recollections will be the same, meaning it can be worthwhile providing a forum where learners can share their experiences and highlights.
Organise an end of year celebration
While many teachers may wince at the work involved in bringing this idea to life, making it a whole class approach can be a very worthwhile activity. As students help with planning and organisation, the development of whole new skill sets is encouraged, including the ability to debate, compromise, and work to defined deadlines —all of which are prized in the world of work.
Hold a class awards ceremony
A class awards ceremony can be great fun, taking the structure of something official but conducting it in a more relaxed, informal atmosphere. Students can write awards for each other, design their own certificates, while the teacher can show what they value in each member of their class.
Create a fun quiz
Like the other activities, quizzes can be adapted by the teacher to suit the class. Multimedia can be incorporated into the questions, and fun challenges conducted for extra points. In the end, rather than competition, bonding as a team should be the goal.
Get your students to rate your performance
According to the English proverb, “Only children and fools tell the truth.” For that very reason, conducting a task like this can be difficult, but you are likely to get quality feedback that helps you improve your teaching. In addition, students will feel valued and respected—a must in any learning environment—due to the fact that you are seeking their opinion.
Hold a Board Game Session
Negotiation, cooperation, fine motor skills, board games have it all. Holding a session with different board games can be a lot of fun while giving students the chance to encounter games they have never played before. The teacher can supply the board games and/or ask students to bring in their favourites from home.
Create a classroom art gallery
A chance for students to show off their artistic side, this can be incorporated into a series of lessons looking at some of the famous galleries and learning subject-specific vocabulary. Students can even invite other classes to come along by mocking up some invitations.
Organise an activity morning
On the last day, teachers can create a morning full of small activities at different stations. Six activities, 20 minutes a station, and you have most of the morning covered. These stations may involve small scientific experiments, physical tasks, or puzzles. There are plenty of ideas on the internet, so it shouldn’t take too long to set up.
The Importance of Successfully Ending the School Year
In 1993, the Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman, along with colleagues, published a research report entitled When More Pain is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End. In this study, subjects were required to undertake two trials:
- The first trial involved subjects immersing their hands in cold water (14°C) for 60 seconds.
- The second trial also involved subjects immersing their hand in 14°C water for 60 seconds, but they were then subject to an additional 30 seconds, where the water gradually warmed to 15°C.
Both trials caused discomfort for participants; but when faced with a choice about which trial to do again, more people opted for the longer trial. This might seem counterintuitive, but the conclusion is that duration plays a small role in retrospective evaluations of aversive experiences. It is the last moments of an experience that are strongest upon reflection, which is why participants were more likely to choose the trial that contained a more pleasurable ending, despite the longer period of discomfort.
What does this story have to do with education? Even adverse experiences throughout the school year, inter-class problems, and teaching missteps can be looked upon much more charitably by all involved if the year ends in a harmonious way.
Don't celebrate the end of the year too early!
The very last tip is to not create a big celebration too early. Similar to buying an expensive diamond ring three months into a relationship, there is subsequently nowhere else to go. Make sure the classroom stays professional with students on task, and any class parties are planned for just the last or second last day. If you’re already wrapping up things with a week to go, students will feel this energy and not want to complete anything of value in the final few days, making your job very difficult.
In what has been another tough year, enjoy the end of 2022 and the break before term 1 2023 begins!