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Learning Up to the Very Last Minute

These 15 teacher-recommended ideas will help channel spring fever into learning excitement.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

We know how it is. As the days get warmer and the end of the year draws near, it's a challenge to keep the learning going and the kids' energy inside the classroom. The last few weeks of school are an intense time. Both you and your students will most likely be feeling the pressure of the final testing period, strong emotions as you come to the end of your year together, and the pull of warm summer days to come. Make the most of this last month by breaking routine and encouraging your students on to new challenges. Instructor talked with a group of teachers about how to channel spring fever into learning excitement. Here is a roundup of some of their favorite ideas.


Make It a Big Production!

The "What We Know" Math Show
Give math some dramatic flair with an end-of-the-year math show. Begin by asking the class to reflect on what they have learned, brainstorm, and write ideas on the board, breaking down bigger subjects into single concepts. Then, ask students to work in pairs on a single concept, inventing a novel way to present it. They can create a short poem, artwork, or a model, or they can perform their own "Schoolhouse Rock" song or a television commercial that explains the concept. Encourage the audience to participate!
Bob Krech, Dutch Neck School, Princeton Junction, NJ
 
Staff vs. Students
It's an annual end-of-the-year tradition at our school for the teachers to challenge the fifth graders to a game of volleyball. Students take charge of the event, making signs, selling tickets, and setting up the scoreboard. On the big day, children gather on the playground, surrounding the volleyball court. It's an afternoon of friendly fun. The fifth graders are convinced they will win, but to this day the staff remain undefeated!
Charlotte Sassman, Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center, Fort Worth, TX
 
Map a Treasure Hunt
Map skills get a boost with our year-end hunt. I use the book The Seven Treasure Hunts, by Betsy Byars, to get the students excited. We then mark off part of the classroom floor with masking tape to form a grid with rows labeled AJ and 110. Each child brings in a small "treasure" from home and chooses any location on the grid to place it. Then kids write four directional clues for finding the treasure, such as "start at A4, move three squares east and two south, then move...." We mix up the clue sheets and then hand them out randomly. Each child follows clues to find a treasure.
Valerie Schiffer Danoff, Bedford Village Elementary School, Bedford, NY
 
Art for Sale
I consider the end of the year as a time to "gear up" instead of "wind down." At the end of the year, my students create special artwork specifically for our annual art auction. Each piece is matted and displayed in the hallway. Students preview the art and decide which pieces they want to bid on with our classroom currency. I auction off one piece at a time, and students bid with raised hands. I collect the class cash from the highest bidder, and place a "sold" sign on the piece of artwork. The kids feel great about others bidding on their artwork, and I've never had a single drawing or painting left at the end!
Bob Krech, Dutch Neck School, Princeton Junction, NJ
 
Year-End Jeopardy
To test kids' memories on past lessons, we hold a "Jeopardy!" social studies game. The students choose the categories from subjects we've covered, such as state capitals, Abraham Lincoln, or the Gold Rush. My students work in teams. Each team researches and writes the answers for one of the categories. They love making the questions as much as playing the game!
Carlene Payne, Garfield Elementary, Fairfax, VA
 

Take It Outside!

Bubble Blast
At the end of the year, my students become "bubbleologists" and learn all about bubbles. We do bubble experiments, test different-size bubble blowers, try different soap mixtures, talk about the rainbow colors in a bubble, and make beautiful bubble art.
Trina Gunzel, Lincoln Elementary, Corvallis, OR
 
Big and Small Poetry
I take the students on a spring walk and have them look for very large things and very small things. They then write a large-sized poem on a piece of construction paper and a teeny-tiny poem on a sticky note. We compile the poems into class books titled "Mega Poems" and "Itsy-Bitsy Poems."
Kathy Holderith, Franklin Elementary School, Littleton, CO
 
Kite Day
We send our memories flying high. First, I purchase inexpensive kites. In groups of three, the students prepare by writing memories on paper strips that they tape to the kite's tail. The last hour of the last day of school we fly our kites.
Louise West, Waurika, OK

 
Boredom Busters!

Super Subject Week
During the last week of school, I devote entire days to each subject area. For example, on Super Reading Day, students come to school dressed as a favorite book character. They participate in read-alouds, book talks, storytelling, buddy reading, and literature projects. The other Super Subject Days are math, science, writing, and art. Each day is super special!
Trina Gunzel, Lincoln Elementary, Corvallis, OR
 
Grade-Level Go Around
At the end of the year, our team of first-grade teachers does a week of special rotation mornings. First, we agree on a theme for each day, such as bugs, shapes, or favorite books. Each teacher plans a fun activity based on the theme and the kids rotate, spending a half-hour in each classroom. We all enjoy the change in routine!
Loreena Marchant, Show Low Primary School, Show Low, AZ
 
Teacher for a Day
During the final weeks of school, I always set aside time for a "Teach the Teacher Day." This special event allows me to trade roles with students and learn new skills based on their interests. Students sign up for a block of teaching time on a specified date. With the help of their families, they plan a lesson. Over the years, my students have taught me how to fish, collect baseball cards, speak Spanish, and play the piano.
Jackie Clarke, Cicero Elementary School, Cicero, NY
 
Summer Reading Book Talks
To motivate my students to read during the summer, I invite them to share their favorite books with classmates. Students choose a book and sign up for a time slot. I type up a list of the titles and authors and make copies. During their book talks, students share an exciting part of the book without giving away the ending. Classmates listen and circle titles that sound interesting. The end result: personalized summer-reading lists.
Janet Worthington-Samo, St. Clement School, Johnstown, PA

 
School Year Keepsakes

Video Scrapbook
My students and I create a video keepsake to document our school year. First, I ask each student to recall, through drawing and writing, memories of the year such as their favorite activities, first impressions, and funniest incidents. Then students make short on-camera statements about these memories. We watch the completed tape during the last week of school, and make a few copies for students to borrow.
Sharon West, Memorial Junior High School, Whippany, NJ
 
Reflections in the Mirror
Invite students to take a walk down memory lane, reminiscing about the happenings over the past school year. What were the lessons, activities, and experiences that they enjoyed the most? Have students jot down specific thoughts on paper. Then have them write their final drafts, using a permanent marker on aluminum foil. Mount their "reflections" on construction paper, cut in the shape of hand mirrors, for a reflective bulletin board.
Sue Lorey, Grove Avenue School, Barrington, IL
 
Slide Show
Show off your students' tech skills with a computer slide show using PowerPoint or a similar program. Scan in pictures collected from the school year and then ask each student to write a caption for one or more pictures. Your class will have fun watching the show, and copies of it can be printed as personalized yearbooks for everyone to take home.
Jacqueline Howes, F.M. Kearns Primary School, Granby, CT

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