Education

10 of the Best Elementary Activities for the Last Days of School

by Andy Minshew

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The end of the school year can evoke a bittersweet feeling. It marks a moment for celebration as educators contemplate the growth and achievements of their students, as well as the sense of community fostered within their classrooms. However, bidding farewell to your students and preparing them for the next academic year can be challenging.

Now is the time to reminisce about the moments that made the school year special and to create lasting memories that students will carry with them to the next grade. Teachers, you can utilize these end-of-year activities and ideas to celebrate with young learners on the final day of school. Many of the elementary end-of-year activities shared are available in both English and Spanish.

The Best End-of-Year Learning Activities for Elementary Students

Hold a picture book show and tell

Magnifying Glas coverInvite students to bring their favorite picture books they’ve read this year and share them with the class. Encourage them to discuss their favorite characters, lessons learned, and anything else that makes the book special to them.

For students who don’t have a book from home or the local library to share, encourage them to select a favorite from the classroom library or share one of the following children’s books with the class:

Go on an outdoor walk

As students get closer to the end of the year, it can be hard to keep their attention on lessons. If the weather permits during the last weeks of school, take learning beyond the confines of the classroom with an outdoor science lesson.

Try a walk around the school grounds to foster curiosity and solidify concepts students are learning in science class. Use this scavenger hunt (or make your own list based on local sights) to help your learners pay attention to their surroundings. If you’re teaching students about cloud types, for example, you could go on a walk to identify the different kinds of clouds they see outside.

Plan a community service project

Finish off the year with an activity that builds mindset skills by organizing a service project! Whether it’s cleaning up a local park, holding a donation drive, or volunteering at a nearby organization as a field trip, students can learn the value of empathy and citizenship.

Plan an end-of-year STEM challenge

Hands-on STEM challenges are a great way to practice team building skills and end the year with a learning refresher. Assign students to groups and give them a STEM project to solve together connected to a subject you learned over the year. If you taught your students about making a hypothesis, for example, you could use this Fruit Float challenge.

Fruit Float challenge

After all of the groups have completed the challenge, lead a class discussion about their results and how they connect to your science or math lessons from earlier in the year.

Start a summer journal

Summer journals can provide students with a creative outlet and a way to practice communication skills over the break. If your class budget allows, give your students a blank journal or notebook. Encourage them to personalize it with fun drawings or stickers.

Along with the journal, assign them a few prompts to ignite their writing over the coming months, like favorite summer moments, aspirations, or reflections on the past school year. This list of journal prompts for children is a great starting point.

If the class budget doesn’t allow for providing each student with a blank journal or notebook, you can encourage students to create their own summer journals using materials they already have at home. They can use plain paper stapled or bound together to create their journal, or repurpose an old notebook. You can also suggest using digital platforms or apps for journaling if students have access to devices.

The Best End-of-Year Reflection Activities for Elementary Students

Make memory collages

Help students capture their favorite class memories by making a collage of their favorite moments from the school year. Start with a class discussion for students to share their favorite moments from the past year. Then, hand out magazines, scrapbook paper, and art supplies to make a collage reflecting these moments. Finally, allow students the opportunity to share their collages with the class if they feel comfortable.

Create an end-of-year art gallery

Picnic coloring pageTo end the school year with a celebration, transform your classroom into an art gallery showcasing student creativity. Give students a few weeks’ notice to create an art piece of their own in any medium they choose—whether it’s paint, sculpting materials, or even a video or audio recording.

In the last week of school, have students share their art project with the class. As students present their projects, they will also gain an appreciation for their classmates’ talents.

For a stress-free end-of-year art activity that promotes mindfulness, consider hosting a coloring break with downloadable pages featuring Waterford characters:

Build a time capsule

A time capsule filled with mementos and messages can help students reflect on their current selves and how they have changed over the school year. Give each child a small container and have them fill it with drawings, photos, handwritten notes, and other keepsakes. Anything that fits in the container and holds meaning to your student will make a great addition!

Send the time capsules home with families along with the instructions to open them after a set time—anywhere from the end of summer to several years from now. That way, in the years to follow, each item the time capsule holds will serve as a snapshot of their favorite memories from their year in class.

Hold a class awards ceremony

Celebrate the unique talents and contributions of each student with an end-of-year awards ceremony. Whether it’s for “Most Creative Artist” or “Best Team Player,” ensure every student receives recognition for the gifts they bring to the classroom. This activity can boost self-esteem at the end of the year, affirming each student’s value within your school’s community.

Encourage reflection and goal setting

Give students time to reflect on the past school year and set goals for the future. Encourage them to write reflection letters addressed to their future selves, prompting them to share their achievements and outline plans for the summer and the upcoming school year.

This Goal Setting (Estableciendo metas) end-of-year worksheet can be a great way for students to set goals and break down the steps they’ll take to achieve them.

Goal Setting worksheet

As the school year draws to a close, cherish the memories your class has created together and end the year with activities that foster learning and reflection.

Andy Minshew is an educational content writer for Waterford.org. He has developed articles, ebooks, help instructions, and other Waterford resources for educators and families since 2018. He is also an Audiofile Magazine reviewer and a librarian advisor for EBSCO NoveList. He loves visiting art museums, participating as a member of the Tolkien Society, and hiking with his family.

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