End of year activities are a great way to celebrate the best time of the year. The class is gelling, the memories are abundant, and the warm weather has finally hit. You can finally get outside and enjoy some different activities. For me, the days always seemed to sprint by as well. While finishing up the last pieces of the curriculum, weave in some fun final days. Keep reading for ten fabulous end of year activities for the upper elementary classroom.
One way to celebrate the end of the year is to set up a day to culminate your curriculum with thematic days. My daughter’s favorite day in school was Renaissance Day. They dressed up in costume, if possible, and wrote with quills. They also tried to make art like Michelangelo by drawing pictures while lying on the floor under their desk. Just tape the paper to the underside of the desk. They also explored the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and tried to build things with popsicle sticks and toothpicks. It was great fun!
If you can’t come up with 4-6 activities for an end of year theme day, try a fun theme week. Make Monday favorite outfit day and Tuesday funny socks day. Have a sports day, a superhero day, and others. Make sure to consider the inclusion of all kids when you do this. For instance, twin day is hard for those kids who are socially introverted and those who may struggle to make friends for various reasons.
Countdown the Days Together
Another great end of year activity is to create a paper chain or balloon count down. This works well when about ten days remain in the year. Each day, include a random act of kindness, a shared memory, or a task for your students to complete inside the balloons. Students can complete a mathematical coloring page, write a thank you to their parents, or fill out a survey on their year.
Build the drama and suspense each day. Make it as fun as it can be without losing all control. Just keep in mind that you and your classroom might be the only sunny spot for some of your kids. Make sure you honor and validate all feelings that can arise at this time of year. Have fun, but don’t stomp on others’ emotions to do it.
Memory Walls Mark the End of the Year
A memory wall is just that, a wall of memories! For this end of year activity, place a large piece of butcher paper on your wall and give your students a few days to start noting down all their great memories from the year. I’ve found that it usually takes a few days for the great memories to start flooding back to them, so give your paper, or this free Digital Memory Wall, some time to brew.
Make sure you leave time at the very end of the year to review everything that’s been written, photographed, and shared so that you can have a few more laughs together as a class.
Memory books are another great end of year activity to capture your student’s thoughts, ideas, and reflections. Each student can have a unique memory book, or you can do one that is more general for the entire class.
I used to make big individualized memory books for my students. Then my digital offering “way back when” was a DVD of all our photographs set to music. It sure took a lot of time, but it was a labor of love, and boy, did I love those books and DVDs.
Nowadays, you can make a digital memory book much more quickly and assemble it so much easier. Some of my friends have great options if you want to go with paper or digital with this task this year.
Field Day is another end of year activity that I love. Students head outside for a day of fun and relaxation. The P.E. teacher always has such a great day of activities planned. I am a total tomboy, so field day was always my favorite.
One of the day’s highlights is eating a picnic-style lunch together as a class. Hanging together and talking about school, life, memories, etc., is always a good time. We often get quite a few laughs together. It proves to be a great bonding time. Enjoy the time you get with your students before the year is over.
Another thing I loved about field day was our class shirts and hats. I would create a design. All the kids would sign it. Then I would take it to a local T-shirt shop for production. The first couple of years, I actually paid for the shirts and hats myself as an end of year gift.
Not too many years later, I started asking for the parents to chip in. I also included a spot on the order form where parents could donate money to help less affluent people. No one ever went without our class shirts. Then later, seeing everyone all in a group, working together for a common goal, and sporting our class duds was so neat. The pictures were pretty fabulous too.
Advice for Next Year’s Crop
As the days dwindle, a great end of year activity is to have your students write to an up-and-coming student. Have them explain what your grade level is like. Do classes rotate, or are they contained? What teachers do they see? Are there skills needed to be a great student? What lessons (life or otherwise) have been the most important? Students can answer all these questions and more in a letter to new students.
Then save those papers and have one on each desk on the first day of the new year. This activity will help students feel welcomed, reassured, and ready to tackle the new school year.
Clean Up & Pack Up Together
This next end of year task is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be done by you alone. Get your students to help by packing their totes, cubbies, or lockers. Have them clean out their notebooks, desks, and backpacks, and then wash those desks down with some shaving cream fun*. I usually buy one can for every 8-10 students. Give them a small pile on their desk. A little bit goes a long way.
Have them draw, answer questions, or doodle for about 10 minutes. Then walk around with a spray bottle, add a little water to each desk, and have them scrub it clean with paper towels or cloths. You might have to repeat this a few times. But, you’ll have a clean classroom, and the kids will have another great memory.
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Hold an Awards Ceremony or Two
Each year as the days drew to a close, another end of year activity I made sure to include and capture on film was classroom awards. I gave out awards for academics and effort, attendance and reading, and best of all, character. I’d usually celebrate all my awards at once, but sometimes we’d have multiple award days, and you know what, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes kids aren’t celebrated and applauded enough.
My character awards have always been a true passion of mine. I agonize for days over who should get which award and how to ensure everyone’s inclusion in the best way possible. I then make certificates for all my students. Each has a unique quote about the character trait included.
Then usually, on the last day of school, I hand out my awards with a story and reason behind every single one. I love to share the student’s deeds and accomplishments with them through my eyes. I definitely have gotten teary-eyed, if not weepy, more than once. The students are so appreciative and supportive of one another. Those character awards are something I look forward to all year long.
Not a requirement, but something I always enjoyed doing, was giving my kids a gift at the end of the year. Some years and some schools were more extravagant than others in the gift department. You only need to do something small that reminds your kids that you care about them and will miss them when they move on. I’ve given shirts and hats, as mentioned before. I’ve also given plastic cups, water bottles, bubbles, small stuffed animals, and a mish-mash of little trinkets.
However, my daughter’s favorite gift was in 2nd grade when her teacher made her class bookmarks. She had the class sign the back and then laminated them before handing them out. My daughter used that bookmark for years to come.
1st Grade Pandamania has some adorable free bookmarks that can be used for many different grade levels, and Apple-y Ever After has some great pirate bookmarks that would make a cute end of year gift too.
End of Year Activities Should Come From the Heart
Whatever activities you decide to do to celebrate the end of the year and the special days you’ve shared with your students will be good. Kids just like to know that they matter to you and that you will remember them. And if they can remember you in the process with a token, certificate, or even just the memories they hold in their heart, they will take that with them forever.
Once those last days come, remember to pass out your letters to parents about preventing the Summer slide. I have 40 activities to keep young minds learning all summer long if you need ideas.