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June 5, 2017

A Fun “Chain of Events” to End the School Year

By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    The last few weeks of school is one of my favorite times of year. With about three weeks left, I find myself looking at my class and reflecting on how much my students have grown — academically, socially, and physically. It’s during these days that I like to celebrate the knowledge they’ve gained, the friendships they’ve made, and the confidence that they’re feeling. This week, I’m excited to share with you some of the fun activities I plan that have my students literally running in the door each morning, asking, “What are we doing today?”

    The Inspiration

    I can remember making chains when I was in elementary school to count down the days to Christmas or the end of the school year. The paper was blank, but just tearing off a link a day felt like an accomplishment. To end the year, I create one of these chains with my students with ten links. On each link, however, I’ve written a fun activity that my class will do that day, unveiled when the link is removed from the chain. My chain of events for third graders, was actually inspired by our kindergarten teachers who do a 26 day, alphabet-themed countdown for their classes.

     

    My Chain of Events

    The beauty of this end-of-the-year activity is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Each year activities are different from the year before. Some years I have written all the activities on the links and other years, I’ve let my students generate the ideas for activities. My grade level partners are going with a five-day chain for the last week of school, instead of ten. It’s whatever you want to do.

    Below I’ve included a few ideas for activities that I am including on my chain this year, along with others from past years. Now that all students in my class have tablets, there is more tech integrated into our activities than before, but most days don’t require any tech at all. Some ideas to try include:

    1.     STEM Day:  Plan a day for your students to invent or create something. This year I’m going to try out fellow blogger Lindsey Petlack’s, “Frosty, Frozen STEM Fun,” perfect for a warm, spring day.

     

    2.     Game Day: Students love when they get to play “games” at school. This link in our chain is the perfect opportunity to have my students try all the games that were part of our math series that we didn’t get to, or to have a Scrabble tournament. (While it’s called “game day” on our chain, it’s really more of a game hour.)

    3.     Create Bucket Lists: Students create their summer bucket lists with things they have never done, that they would like to try before school starts in the fall. These usually include very doable things such read a chapter book without pictures, swim in the deep end of the pool, or try sushi for the first time.

     

     

    4.     Start a Chapter Book: On this day, when my students are told they can become authors of a real chapter book, they rise to the occasion. While students spend a good part of the morning planning out their chapter books before they start writing them, many are actually beginning work on what will be a fun project for them to continue working on all summer long at home. Every year I get at least one or two completed chapter books shown to me on the first day of school, their owners beaming with pride at having finished writing a “chapter book.”

    5.     Read-a-thon: This is a fancy name for an extended period of independent reading. Kids love being able to spread out around the room with books of their choice.

    6.     Outdoor Classroom: Take your class outside for instruction for one (or more!) periods of your day. A little fresh air goes a long way to help keep students engaged during reading, writing, math, or science.

    7.     Make a How-to-Video: Last year, my students spent one day creating a How-to Video for the next year’s class filled with tips and directions on how to use the new iPad they would be receiving. I loved that I was completely hands off on this project. My students planned, assigned roles, wrote, filmed, and edited the entire video. When they showed it to me and I said some parts were tough to understand, the two “editors” took it back and added written captions to each scene. I was amazed at the final product and the pride they felt in what they’d accomplished at the end was well worth every moment spent that day.

    8.     One Day Project: Just recently I shared two quick projects that are perfect for the last days of the school year. Both are highly engaging and educational while taking little prep time:

    ·       “The Who Would Win 60 Minute Research Project”

    ·       “What If You Had Animal…Habitat Project”

     

    9.     Future Diary: Have students write a diary entry in the voice of their future self. I ask my students to pretend it is the last day of fifth grade, (which is two years away) describing who their friends are, what their favorite books, foods, shows, and music are, etc.  I collect and save these letters to give to the students when they actually finish fifth grade. They always laugh at how much they’ve changed in two short years.

    10.  Write Letters to Next Year’s Class: This activity is a win-win. Kids get to share advice with next year’s incoming third graders, and I get writing to put on a hallway bulletin board display to start the next school year.

    11.  Kahoot! Review Quizzes: My kids have loved taking and writing Kahoot! multiple choice quizzes since the first day they were introduced to them. On Kahoot! day, students use their iPads to write 10 question quizzes about anything that happened during the school year. These can be academic questions or just questions about things like, What days does Mrs. Connell have recess duty?

    12.  Make an Animoto of the School Year: Animoto is a great tool for digital storytelling that I use all year long. (Check out some of the Animoto videos on my class website.) On Animoto Day, students get to make their own videos using pictures they have taken during the year, or those they’ve saved from our class website. After the videos are finished, students share them on our interactive whiteboard.

    13.  Reader’s Theater: Over the course of the school year, we read several books as read-alouds. It’s always great fun to watch students work collaboratively as teams to adapt one of the books we have all read into a reader’s theater script that they act out. The final performance of each play is always enjoyable and memorable.

     

    14.   Create an ABC book of the school year: Assign each student, or pairs of students one letter of the alphabet. Using that letter, they write and illustrate a page about a class memory. For example, N might be Nature Field Trip and R may be for Right, Obtuse, and Acute Angles in Math. We will normally do it on the Book Creator for iPad app so the finished product can easily be shared among students and parents, but a paper book that can take a place of honor in the classroom library is awesome as well.

    15.  Clean!: Kids love to clean and making it part of a “fun” day makes it all the better. On cleaning day, my students sort and organize the classroom library, straighten cabinets and cupboards, empty their desks, and take home the bulk of their materials and supplies.

    Here’s wishing you a great end to your school year! Take care and thanks for reading! Genia

    The last few weeks of school is one of my favorite times of year. With about three weeks left, I find myself looking at my class and reflecting on how much my students have grown — academically, socially, and physically. It’s during these days that I like to celebrate the knowledge they’ve gained, the friendships they’ve made, and the confidence that they’re feeling. This week, I’m excited to share with you some of the fun activities I plan that have my students literally running in the door each morning, asking, “What are we doing today?”

    The Inspiration

    I can remember making chains when I was in elementary school to count down the days to Christmas or the end of the school year. The paper was blank, but just tearing off a link a day felt like an accomplishment. To end the year, I create one of these chains with my students with ten links. On each link, however, I’ve written a fun activity that my class will do that day, unveiled when the link is removed from the chain. My chain of events for third graders, was actually inspired by our kindergarten teachers who do a 26 day, alphabet-themed countdown for their classes.

     

    My Chain of Events

    The beauty of this end-of-the-year activity is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Each year activities are different from the year before. Some years I have written all the activities on the links and other years, I’ve let my students generate the ideas for activities. My grade level partners are going with a five-day chain for the last week of school, instead of ten. It’s whatever you want to do.

    Below I’ve included a few ideas for activities that I am including on my chain this year, along with others from past years. Now that all students in my class have tablets, there is more tech integrated into our activities than before, but most days don’t require any tech at all. Some ideas to try include:

    1.     STEM Day:  Plan a day for your students to invent or create something. This year I’m going to try out fellow blogger Lindsey Petlack’s, “Frosty, Frozen STEM Fun,” perfect for a warm, spring day.

     

    2.     Game Day: Students love when they get to play “games” at school. This link in our chain is the perfect opportunity to have my students try all the games that were part of our math series that we didn’t get to, or to have a Scrabble tournament. (While it’s called “game day” on our chain, it’s really more of a game hour.)

    3.     Create Bucket Lists: Students create their summer bucket lists with things they have never done, that they would like to try before school starts in the fall. These usually include very doable things such read a chapter book without pictures, swim in the deep end of the pool, or try sushi for the first time.

     

     

    4.     Start a Chapter Book: On this day, when my students are told they can become authors of a real chapter book, they rise to the occasion. While students spend a good part of the morning planning out their chapter books before they start writing them, many are actually beginning work on what will be a fun project for them to continue working on all summer long at home. Every year I get at least one or two completed chapter books shown to me on the first day of school, their owners beaming with pride at having finished writing a “chapter book.”

    5.     Read-a-thon: This is a fancy name for an extended period of independent reading. Kids love being able to spread out around the room with books of their choice.

    6.     Outdoor Classroom: Take your class outside for instruction for one (or more!) periods of your day. A little fresh air goes a long way to help keep students engaged during reading, writing, math, or science.

    7.     Make a How-to-Video: Last year, my students spent one day creating a How-to Video for the next year’s class filled with tips and directions on how to use the new iPad they would be receiving. I loved that I was completely hands off on this project. My students planned, assigned roles, wrote, filmed, and edited the entire video. When they showed it to me and I said some parts were tough to understand, the two “editors” took it back and added written captions to each scene. I was amazed at the final product and the pride they felt in what they’d accomplished at the end was well worth every moment spent that day.

    8.     One Day Project: Just recently I shared two quick projects that are perfect for the last days of the school year. Both are highly engaging and educational while taking little prep time:

    ·       “The Who Would Win 60 Minute Research Project”

    ·       “What If You Had Animal…Habitat Project”

     

    9.     Future Diary: Have students write a diary entry in the voice of their future self. I ask my students to pretend it is the last day of fifth grade, (which is two years away) describing who their friends are, what their favorite books, foods, shows, and music are, etc.  I collect and save these letters to give to the students when they actually finish fifth grade. They always laugh at how much they’ve changed in two short years.

    10.  Write Letters to Next Year’s Class: This activity is a win-win. Kids get to share advice with next year’s incoming third graders, and I get writing to put on a hallway bulletin board display to start the next school year.

    11.  Kahoot! Review Quizzes: My kids have loved taking and writing Kahoot! multiple choice quizzes since the first day they were introduced to them. On Kahoot! day, students use their iPads to write 10 question quizzes about anything that happened during the school year. These can be academic questions or just questions about things like, What days does Mrs. Connell have recess duty?

    12.  Make an Animoto of the School Year: Animoto is a great tool for digital storytelling that I use all year long. (Check out some of the Animoto videos on my class website.) On Animoto Day, students get to make their own videos using pictures they have taken during the year, or those they’ve saved from our class website. After the videos are finished, students share them on our interactive whiteboard.

    13.  Reader’s Theater: Over the course of the school year, we read several books as read-alouds. It’s always great fun to watch students work collaboratively as teams to adapt one of the books we have all read into a reader’s theater script that they act out. The final performance of each play is always enjoyable and memorable.

     

    14.   Create an ABC book of the school year: Assign each student, or pairs of students one letter of the alphabet. Using that letter, they write and illustrate a page about a class memory. For example, N might be Nature Field Trip and R may be for Right, Obtuse, and Acute Angles in Math. We will normally do it on the Book Creator for iPad app so the finished product can easily be shared among students and parents, but a paper book that can take a place of honor in the classroom library is awesome as well.

    15.  Clean!: Kids love to clean and making it part of a “fun” day makes it all the better. On cleaning day, my students sort and organize the classroom library, straighten cabinets and cupboards, empty their desks, and take home the bulk of their materials and supplies.

    Here’s wishing you a great end to your school year! Take care and thanks for reading! Genia

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