By Andrew Hawk
It’s hard to believe, but another school year is nearing its conclusion. The weather is finally turning warm again after what was a brutal winter in many states. Practices for warm weather sports have resumed. This time of year puts teachers through a gauntlet of emotions. Teachers will feel pride when they step back and see the growth they have facilitated in their students. Teachers may also feel regret when they remember a lesson they wanted to teach but didn’t or a concept their classes didn’t quite master. Happiness comes to teachers when they consider a break to recharge their batteries. Of course, no matter what challenges a teacher has faced with a class, there is always sadness when saying goodbye to a group of students.
Many schools, my own included, like to hold a celebration at the end of the year. It’s a fun way to end the year on a positive note and add to students’ happy memories of the year. Here are a few ideas that I hope you will try if your school is looking for a fun way to celebrate the end of the school year.
This is the old standard for an end-of-the-year celebration. I can still remember having end-of-the-year parties when I was an elementary student. It is these happy memories that, at least for me, keep this idea relevant. A party doesn’t have to be about passing out sweets and watching a movie, although students enjoy both of those things. Plan fun activities that will get students up and moving. A colleague of mine likes to do end-of-the-year parties where teams of her students compete in a range of activities to earn points. An example is making a mummy. One student has to stand still while teammates completely cover the student with toilet paper. This colleague’s students always really enjoy her parties.
These can be serious or fun. They can be awarded by class or schoolwide. It is really easy to download a certificate template. The awards can then be printed on cardstock. Whatever your beliefs are regarding the number of awards that are handed out, this activity can be adapted to meet your needs.
I have only heard of one school trying this, but the students really enjoyed it. The challenge is getting staff and parents on board. The concept is simple: On a Friday evening, students arrive with sleeping bags, pajamas, snacks, and so on. They take part in traditional sleepover activities such as telling scary stories or even having pillow fights. I recommend asking a couple of parents per classroom to attend to help supervise.
This is a favorite end-of-the-year celebration at my school. Several teachers bring grills from home. Our school supplies burgers and hot dogs. Parents come and bring side dishes. We host our picnic on our playground. Since we are a larger school, our picnic takes place throughout the afternoon with two grade levels participating at a time. The feedback that we have received from our families regarding this event has all been very positive.
I know funding is not always easy to come by, but I am not saying that your school needs to provide another field trip. I have in mind something within walking distance from your school. Even if it is just a trip to a nearby park where your class can have recess, your students will love the change of scenery.
At my school, we host a school dance at the end of the year for fifth graders only. The dance takes place after school. It is one of the ways we celebrate sending our graduating class on to the next step in their education. A local DJ volunteers his services. Parents and teachers chaperone. Even though we do this only for fifth grade at my school, I think all grades would enjoy this activity. Teachers could lead younger grades in group dances.
All four schools at which I have taught have ended the year with field day on the last day of school. Mornings are spent cleaning out desks and such. Field day activities take place after lunch. This makes for a tiring afternoon for school staff, but the students really enjoy it. You can host athletic events as well as games and activities. Here are some examples. The best thing about field day is that you can adapt the activities to match the equipment you have available and the interests of your students.
Choose a fun theme and conduct the school day accordingly. Students and teachers can dress up and participate in themed activities. For example, my fourth-grade class celebrated the end of the school year with what we called “Pioneer Day.” All the students and teachers dressed as pioneers. We played pioneer-style games at recess, and class was held in a manner similar to the pioneer schools. We enjoyed the novelty of this day. Any theme would work, so this activity can be changed to match the interests of the students and teachers at your school.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for 16 years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher, and for the past five years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. Andrew earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University, and in 2016, he completed a second master’s degree in educational leadership, also from WGU. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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