End-of-the-Year Activities & Keepsakes

It's that time of year when we are all feeling run down and ready for summer break. At the same time, we've been with our students all year (or semester) and have seen their incredible growth. It's bittersweet when we finally reach our last week or day of class.

At the high school level, I always hate to end my final class period with an exam, even though it's required. I usually give students time leading up to the test day for review (obviously) but also for a no-strings-attached fun activity to end the year on a positive note. I do this because: 
• Ending with a test is definitely not the most positive way to send my students off AND
• I think secondary students deserve to have some fun at the end of a long year, too, AND 
• I don't want anything I have to grade. 😏 

The activities have varied from year-to-year (depending on the time I have left by the end of the semester). One thing is certain: they must be activities that the students WANT to complete even though they most likely are not going to get any grade for doing them (some years I have given a simple completion grade, but most of the time they do the activity because they want to). 

Here are some of my favorites for our final day(s) together:

Live & Learn Life Lessons: This activity is so simple but always generates the most amazing results. First, I share some "life lessons" with my students: one-sentence proclamations that summarize a (sometimes hard) lesson learned. The writers of the lessons are known only by their age. 
Examples include: 
"I have learned that if you have gum, everyone will ask for a piece. -Age 14"
"I have learned that grades don't reflect knowledge, but effort. -Age 15"
"I have learned the build-up to getting your driver's license is actually more exciting than getting it. -Age 16"
"I have learned that dog poop freezes in the winter and when you step on it, it doesn't mush or smell. It's like a rock. -Age 16"
"I have learned senior year goes by faster than any other. -Age 18"

After I share examples, I pass out a slip that just has "I have learned..." and "Age: ___" printed on it. (You can download the template FREE here.) Students respond in writing, then after everyone is finished, we read them aloud. Students have the choice of whether they want to reveal themselves or not. Some even ask for theirs not to be read. In the end, I collect them in a binder and make copies of them for their graduation. 

It's also a wonderful retirement keepsake to give a teacher. Instead of just "I have learned...," type "I learned from Mr./Mrs./Ms. ______..." You can also use it as a nice send-off for a student teacher; it's guaranteed to be something they will reread and treasure for years.

Advice Memes: Oh, how I love using memes in class! The images can convey so much in such a short, simple way. I love to allow my students to create their own and the end of the year is the perfect time for them to create memes for future classes. They not only help future students, but they give me feedback on things I may need to tweak or adjust for future classes.

Yes, I am guilty of taking way too long to grade essays (and pass them back), as shown in one of the example memes above. Even though it can be humbling, I still find using them extremely helpful for improving my own instruction. Plus, you will have your first day partially planned out when you share the memes with your new classes in the fall! You can find ready-to-go handouts and instructions for this activity here.

Word Cloud Posters: I love using sites such as WordArt.com, WordClouds.com, or Tagxedo.com to create fun and meaningful art for my students. They are also great for having students create their own art using original poems (such as an "I Am..." poem) or a short story they have written. At the end of the year, though, I love importing a class list of my students' names and having the website generate a word cloud with them using their graduation year as the shape template. Then I just print them and pass them out before students leave for the year. 

Memory Books: Have your students record their memories, information, major events, and favorite things from the past school year. 

Memory books are a great addition to a school yearbook and a nice keepsake, especially for those students who may not have purchased a yearbook.  

I offer different spins on the traditional memory book. I have a range of memory flip books (ALL have been adapted for distance learning!), a simple memory page (great if you are short on time!), and an editable memory book specifically for teens where students can insert their own pictures and text using Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint or Word (perfect for 1:1 schools). 

Social Media Exit Slips: You can use these social media handouts as exit slips (or bell ringers) with your students for a fast, fun activity. 

Have your students summarize the year either in hashtags, through emojis, or with a playlist of songs. You can display them on a bulletin board after they have all turned them in or have students share them aloud with the class. 

Download them FREE by clicking here or on the image. If you need a digital version you can share online with your students for distance learning, you can find it here: End of the Year Exit Slips for Distance Learning

Free distance learning exit slips for the end of the school year

Time Capsule: Using any of the activities above, have your students create a time capsule that won't be opened until a specific date (like their graduation). In addition to any of the aforementioned activities, have your students write a note to their future self. They can summarize their school year and write about what they hope to be doing when the capsule is opened. Use either regular-sized or large manila envelopes to store the contents (students may include anything else, such as an essay or poem they've written or an assignment they are particularly proud of. They can either store the envelopes themselves or, if you have the means, you could put them all in a box and store them, then distribute. Another option is asking your school librarian if he/she could store them for the students. 

What are your favorite end-of-the-year activities? 

My friends here on the blog have shared some of theirs, too. 
Check them out here:
End of the Year Growth Mindset Activities by The Daring English Teacher

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