By Andrew Hawk
The fourth grading quarter is well underway, and soon many schools will bring another year to an end. This year marks the conclusion of my twenty-first year working in public education. While this is my first year at my current school, I have ended school years at six other schools. Each of these places liked to celebrate the end of the school year a little differently.
Some would hold a schoolwide event, while others chose to let grade-level teams plan activities. In some instances, individual teachers had special activities they liked to do with students at the end of the year. Whether you are looking for something to complete on your own or with a group, here some ideas that I think your students will enjoy.
1. School Cookout
This is one of my favorite activities, and it can be enjoyed by students and families. Staff members bring their grills onto the playground and students enjoy a cookout during their lunch and recess. This is an event that you can keep simple or make big. At the last school where I held a teaching position, we enjoyed a school cookout every year, and it seemed to get a little larger each year. Parents were invited to eat with their students. One parent who was a professional DJ would bring his equipment and play music. One year, a local company that sold snow cones brought their food truck and students enjoyed a cold treat. I am planning on trying this at my new school, with the principal working the grill.
2. Kickball Tournament
This is a great activity for some grade levels. I recommend doing a two-loss elimination tournament. This ensures all the classes get to play more than one game. Kickball also allows all the students who are competing to play at the same time. In addition, it does not require a lot of practice for students to be able to contribute to their team.
3. School Awards Ceremony
Students love having their achievements recognized. Educators can give out many awards or just a few. Some schools elect to give awards by grade level, while others prefer to give awards by class. This is another event that parents enjoy attending.
4. Classroom Book
The idea is easy. Every student in a class creates a written response to a writing prompt. The teacher puts all the finished prompts together to make a book and produces enough copies for all the students in class. The prompt has something to do with the school year, such as “Describe your favorite event from this year.” These books make great keepsakes that students can share with their own children someday.
5. Talent Show
This is a student favorite, but it has been my experience that schools need to set a limit for the number of acts. For this reason, I recommend blocking ninety minutes to two hours for the show. Hold auditions and select the most entertaining acts. It is always a good idea to see students’ acts before the actual performance to ensure everything they do is school appropriate. I think this is a great activity to do at school so all the students can watch their classmates perform.
6. Standardized Testing Party
As long as there has been standardized testing, there have been schools celebrating its annual completion. This is a unique activity that can be done as a school, as a grade-level team, or as an individual class. Knowing there’s a party to look forward to helps students stay motivated throughout the testing window and adds to their sense of accomplishment when they finish testing.
7. Transition Field Trips
For students moving on to a new grade at a different building, a field trip to their future school is usually fun and can alleviate fears. I recommend having the new principal and some of the students’ futures teachers make an appearance. I believe students get off to a better start in the upcoming year when they have had a chance to meet their future principal and teachers.
8. Field Day
This list would not be complete without a Field Day. Every school at which I have worked hosted this time-tested and true event on the last or second-to-last day of school. If this is something you do year in and year out, I recommend rotating activities from year to year so students who have attended many Field Days have something new to look forward to.
9. Special Writing Prompt
My personal favorite activity, I always closed the year having my students write a letter to the incoming class describing what it was like to be my classroom. I found these to be very humorous, and I would invite students to share these with their classmates. I think most teachers would find a surprise or two regarding what really made an impression on students.
One year, I had a young man who told my future class to “get ready, because Mr. Hawk says the funniest sentences when he gives a spelling test!” I taught this young man when he was in first grade. Years later I ran in to him at a grocery store and he said, “Mr. Hawk, remember your sentence for old? You said, ‘Do not call me old!’”
Stay healthy, everyone!
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for 18 years. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, also from Western Governor’s University. This is Andrew’s first year as a building principal. He is the principal of an elementary school that houses kindergarten through fifth grades. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with this wife and two daughters.
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