Activities for Keeping Students Engaged the Last Few Weeks of School

The end of the school year rush isn’t for the faint-hearted.

 

There are year-end events and activities to coordinate, supplies to order for next year, grades to finalize, cumulative record forms to complete, media materials to return, student portfolios to discuss with next year’s teachers, displays to remove from classroom walls and bulletin boards, boxes to pack, reviews of test data...the list seems never-ending.  

 

It takes endurance and patience to survive the last few weeks of school.  It also takes a toolbox of activities for keeping students engaged.

 

At the same time that the teacher end-of-year-rush is on, students start losing their focus, dreaming of summer days free of classes and homework.  

 

They have worked hard all year, and many are ready for some well-deserved time off.  Everyone is tired.  

To keep everyone engaged down the home stretch of a long school year, use the following activities to motivate your students and to help you survive the last few weeks of school.  

 

End-of-Year Top Ten Lists

Kids love making top ten lists because they are fun. Teachers like them because students have to think critically about the order and reasoning of their responses. Add a written component in which students justify their top three choices.  Students can choose from the following ideas or generate their own.  

  • Top Ten Things I Learned This Year
  • Top Ten Books for (Insert Grade) Graders
  • Top Ten Ways to Succeed in (Insert Grade)
  • Top Ten Adjectives That Describe This Year
  • Top Ten Things That Make (Add Teacher Name) Happy
  • Top Ten Things I Will Remember About (Insert Grade)
  • Top Ten Things We Accomplished This Year

Final Feedback Report Card

Teachers spend so much time giving constructive feedback to students, but students like to provide feedback about your teaching, too.  

 

Have them create a final feedback report card for you with sections detailing teaching techniques, lesson delivery, classroom environment, what they liked most/least about the year, commendable comments, and suggestions for how to be a better teacher.  

Their expert educational advice will offer you new perspectives and ways to improve.  

 

Embellished Nursery Rhymes

Expand your students’ vocabulary skills by having them write a sophisticated book of nursery rhymes. They will enjoy embellishing and revising traditional nursery rhymes by replacing words in the original rhymes with synonyms chosen to entertain, amuse, and educate readers.

 

“Take Ten” Dance Countdown

Brain breaks are especially important this time of year. 

Why not create an end of the year dance countdown? “Take Ten” would incorporate a new dance movement for each of the final ten days.  Start with a conga line and build from there.  Did students learn about plants and seeds?  Add a “sprout and grow” sequence.  Students crouch low to the ground as small seeds and slowly stretch upward to sprout and grow.   Let students continue the countdown by suggesting other movements that integrate curriculum topics.  

 

Flag Etiquette

Prepare students for summertime’s patriotic holidays (Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July) by having them learn more about our flag’s history, symbolism, and etiquette.  The National Flag Foundation lists rules for honoring our flag.  Students can write a poem, speech, song, or create a poster that highlights how our flag should be respected, used, and cared for.

 

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Quotes in the Classroom

Quotes in the Classroom

Inspirational quotes are abundant on social media. As we scroll though our lives, they offer wisdom and motivation.  Recently, a “quote activity” caught my attention with its ability to create and maintain online conversation.  Engaged participants were thinking about, discussing, and interpreting various quotes.  It was introduced as follows:


“Post a movie quote that gives away the film without saying the title.”

For example, “To infinity . . . and beyond!” is a quote from the movie Toy Story. “There’s no place like home.” is from The Wizard of Oz.  “You’re going to need a bigger boat” is from . . . 

Like a great classroom prompt, friends eagerly responded and began challenging each other.  They posted movie quotes, debated the quality of the movies, and enlivened the conversation with obscure movie facts. 

Their online conversations made me wonder how and why certain movie quotes become memorable.  Do only classic movies have memorable quotes?  Are some quotes more significant to those of certain generations?  Doesn’t everyone agree with Ferris Bueller’s quote, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”?

My friend’s movie post could be adapted for the classroom as a device for a lively literature activity and discussion.  Working in groups, students compile and/or ask others for their favorite book quotes.  After the quotes have been compiled and shared, each group selects their top ten quotations to share with the other students.  Can students name the titles of the books based on the quotes? Extend and enrich the activity by discussing the following: 

  • Do any of the quotes inspire you to read (or reread) the book?  Why? 
  • Explain what the quote tells us about the character or the situation. 
  • How do these quotes connect to our own lives? 
  • Is there a particular quote that resonates with you?  Why? 

Encourage the students to use their creativity to create a collaborative quote journal/collage, or an inspirational bulletin board.  The quote journal/bulletin board can be used for future activities that promote engaging conversation, personal reflection, and a love of literature. 

 

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Using Visual Data to Engage and Inspire

Visual Data Postcard of Email Usage

McDaniel College student's data postcard

One of the defining features of 21st century life is the prevalence of data.  Whether it is the complexity of Google algorithms or the simplicity of a Fitbit’s measurements, data is everywhere.  Standing at the center of this data vortex is . . . you.  The activities that comprise our daily lives are what give meaning to the data.

Visual information designers Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec see data as a creative material like paint or paper. Their engaging book, Dear Data, depicts how they became friends by revealing to one another details of their daily lives. Every week, for a year, they sent each other postcards describing the details of their lives. But they didn’t write about their lives, they drew it.  “Every Monday we chose a particular subject on which to collect data about ourselves for the whole week:  how often we complained, or the times when we felt envious; when we came into physical contact and with whom; the sounds we heard around us.  We then created a drawing representing this data on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and dropped the postcard into an English post box (Stefanie) or an American mail box (Giorgia). 

Dear Data:  A Friendship in 52 weeks of Postcards

Inspired by the book, students at McDaniel College collected and visually presented data associated with their “ordinary” lives and created a visual data timeline.  Like the book, their depicted activities capture patterns and creativity in even “the smallest details of our lives.” 

 

Finding and visually displaying data is an excellent project for students of all ages, from elementary students to graduate students. Using data to quantify the self will interest students because they can choose which data set to explore and collect.  Critical and creative thinking skills combine as they consider the best way to visually represent the information.  It’s an excellent project-based learning activity because students learn more about themselves as they explore the world around them.  To learn more, visit dear-data.com

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Finding Signs of Spring

Finding the Signs of Spring

Despite the snow on the ground, spring is on the way. Celebrate the new season with the following spring-themed scavenger hunt.  It builds vocabulary and creativity and helps young children enjoy the beautiful signs of the season. 

Finding the Signs of Spring:  An activity to build creativity and vocabulary with primary-aged children.
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March Into Healthy Eating During National Nutrition Month

March into Healthy Eating During National Nutrition Month

We all know that what we eat is vital to good health, but it’s often hard to convey that to children.  We say, “eat your vegetables” and and they think, “stop nagging me.”  Learning about nutritious fruits and vegetables can be fun when we get creative

Fruits and vegetables come in many colors including, red, blue/purple, yellow, green, and orange.  Once children know a balanced diet includes foods from each of these colors, they start looking for vibrant colored food at the grocery store and during mealtime.  They can list the new foods by writing the fruit and vegetable names in their corresponding colors.  For example, they would write “lemon” with a yellow marker or crayon.  

In the classroom, I would share my “favorites” within the various colors.  For example, I might mention that my favorite orange food is a kumquat. Of course, the students had many questions about kumquats (excellent mini-research opportunity) and wanted to see me eat one. 

Sometimes, the students and I did not know if a certain food was a fruit or a vegetable, such as peas. Our uncertainty was another great opportunity to consult the computer or the dictionary to build our vocabularies and food knowledge. Invariably, students were interested in why foods are a certain color.  This is when I would introduce my Nutrition Question Board with “Why are foods certain colors?”  More questions followed such as, “Why are vegetables different shapes and sizes?” and “How are seedless fruits made?”

At this point, I did not have to tell them about the healthy benefits and nutrients in colorful foods.  They were well on their way to harvesting their own healthy habits.  All I had to do was provide the resources for them to begin their independent research. 

Fruit or Vegetable?  March into Healthy Eating During National Nutrition Month
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Notes on How to Encourage a Child's Music Abilities

Notes on How to Encourage a Child's Music Ability

We all know the importance of nurturing children’s strengths and interests.  Whether it’s praise for reading or a conversation about their artistic creations, encouraging a child’s self-expression, creativity, and excitement is important.


For example, I have watched many children develop an interest in music.  Some liked creating silly songs or singing in our classroom.  Others discovered a serious passion for an instrument and would practice daily. Whatever their capabilities, nurturing their enjoyment of music was as important as nurturing their skills.  Students enjoyed building their musical creative expression with activities such as: 

  • Leading the class in a song to start or end the day.
  • Performing in the cafeteria or library.
  • Writing songs to help others learn something such as state capitals, foreign language words, math facts, directions, etc. 
  • Listening to music from other countries to learn words in another language.
  • Using song lyrics as writing prompts for short stories, journal entries, poems, or even other songs.
  • Creating learning contracts that combined their musical interests with other subjects.
  • Writing songs about favorite books or book characters. 

The enhancement of cognitive abilities occurs when children have learning opportunities that encourage creativity and self-expression.  Music can play a role in expanding your children’s interests and motivation.  

 

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Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity

debra@ifthencreativity.com

 

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