a student giving a presentation to his class

11 unique ideas to finish the school year strong

These ideas can create a high level of energy to enhance learning and head into the summer break on a high note

State testing is done (or will be), the weather is getting nicer, and the school year is coming to an end. It’s hard for students to stay focused and sometimes even harder for educators.

We cram in field trips and awards ceremonies after testing, and that can give the impression that “teaching is done.” Having been a principal for 10 years, I understand this time of year can be hectic, exhausting, and stressful for teachers and school leaders. Here are some ideas that can create a high level of energy to enhance learning and finish the school year strong.

11 ways to finish the school year strong

Classroom ideas

In a game, a race, or anything that have a start and finish, the finish is what we remember. We need to step up the intensity of learning and lessons—not step back.

1. Have students create units: Create an avenue for students to identify a topic (or topics) that highly interest them. This immediately adds relevance to learning. Ensure the topic matches the grade-level curriculum goals and assist students to frame the outcomes to match grade-level standards. If there is more than one topic, groups can prepare a full-fledged unit instructional plan on a specific topic and then teach a portion to the class or another small group. Allowing students to have a role in teaching is motivating and will provide intrinsic drive.

2. Unit trailers: Take student-created units to the next level. Once they design the goals, lesson ideas, and learning outcomes, students can use video or posters to create movie-like trailers. This activity will build excitement and put a little mystery into what is to come.

3. Create a talk show: Talk shows like Ellen, The Tonight Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live often feature experts on a topic. Modeling this can occur two different ways. First, if students have a specific skill (e.g., academic area, sports, dance, acting, etc.) have a “show” to allow students to talk about the topic and showcase their skill(s). The audience (class) can ask questions and learn more about the skill. Teachers can set up a “This week’s episodes” and have panels of different skills.

Another option is to research and create “experts” on a variety of skills like “Achievements in Science” or “Space Exploration.” Again, make sure that the research topics match the grade-level scope and sequence. Students in content groups can research the topic, write a script on it, and go on the talk show as their characters to teach the class about the topic.

4. Top 10 List: In the spirit of late-night shows, one of David Letterman’s trademark bits was a top ten list. Have students reflect on their learning and create a list of their 10 favorite or most impactful things they did at school this year. This can start as an independent activity and then the whole class can try to create a class Top 10 List for the year.

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