Keeping students engaged at the end of the year can be tough. At this point, they’ve done all the routines and learned all the tricks up your sleeve. They are feeling burnt out, and let’s face it, so are you. Here are five easy strategies that I use to keep students engaged at the end of year!
Keep Students Engaged at the End of the Year with Choice
Choice is always a huge motivator. It can be your best friend as a teacher. Whenever possible, try to include some choice in directions. You can allow students to choose where they work, what materials they work with, or choice in what work they complete. I use all of these strategies throughout the day to keep my students motivated and to give them some autonomy in their work. Working remotely still? I wrote earlier about way s I offer choice in my remote classroom!
At the end of the year however, bigger and better choices should be offered to keep students engaged at the end of the year. Now that students know the expectations and routines and have proven they can handle more responsibility, I let them have special choices. I let them choose who they work with or read with. I let them choose their reading spots, rug spots, writing spots, etc. Many of the decisions I made for them earlier in the year to maintain the order and flow of the classroom, I now turn over to them.
We talk about how this is a big responsibility, and it is earned and if they are not using the choices appropriately then they lose the opportunity. For example, if they are talking non-stop with their partner, then for the rest of that learning period they have to work independently, or I choose their for the day. These choices really help motivate my students and keep the same routines we have been doing day in and day out stay engaging.
The other opportunity for choice comes in what they are learning. For me, I often finish the mandated curriculum with a few weeks to spare. Well, what do we do with all that extra time? A few things that I will get to later on in this post, as well as fun choice academics. In math I let the students vote on their favorite math games from the whole year and then those are the station choices.
Additionally, in writing, all year the curriculum dictates which genre we are writing in. Some students love writing personal narratives while others love writing non-fiction. At the end of the year, I let them choose to write any of the genres we have learned this year. My lessons include reminding them of these genres, because, let’s face it, they do not remember the genres we learned about in the fall or winter. Additionally, my lessons focus on conventions and spelling -work that transcends genres and that can always be taught again.
Introduce Students as teachers
Just like with choice, I love turning over more and more responsibility for my students at this time of year. I am always thinking about what new jobs I can give them. Obviously, this depends on the students in your class and every year is a little different. However, one job that I love to give my students is morning meeting leader. They plan the morning message and choose the greeting and the activity. The students love this. They all have their favorite greetings and activities from over the year. They love that they get to be the one to choose it. I let them sit in my “teacher chair” and use the pointer to point at the morning message and call on students to answer the question.
Another idea to try is to let them teach a lesson. This does work better in older grades, but with the right support you could even try it with younger students! Let them pick a subject and topic that they love. Then, model for them some ideas for how they could teach their lesson. Will they read a book? Will they have students play a game or answer some questions? You could even involve the parents and have them work on it at home for a few days before it is “due”.
Offer New materials
It is hard to keep students engaged at the end of the year when they have used and tried every material in the classroom. Every toy, every manipulative, every tool… you name it, they’ve tried it. One way to keep students engaged at the end of the year is to bring out a new material the children haven’t seen yet. Easier said than done, I know. Look around in nature to see what you can bring inside. Maybe bring in some recycling and see what new beautiful stuff the children can build and explore with. Or, maybe look deep in your cabinets and pull out anything different you may have forgotten about. Also, ask other teachers in your building to trade materials and games!
Finally, even just pairing up materials that haven’t ever been used together is engaging and exciting enough for students. You could show them a new way to try the materials they hadn’t thought about. An easy new material to bring in? Water! I change out my sensory table and fill it with soapy water. Then I add in some of the toys from around the room. Not only does this help me get them clean for the end of the year, but the children love using the toys in the water, as they are not traditionally “water” toys. Don’t have a sensory table? That’s ok! Get a storage bin or a bucket! Just keep lots of towels nearby… trust me.
Plan Integrated projects
At my school, our subjects are pretty individual and distinct. Reading is reading, writing is writing, math is math, etc. At the end of the year however, we have some flexibility with academics. I love to use this time to be more integrated with the subjects. Maybe it’s a fairy tale theme where we read fairy tales, write our own fairy tales, and do STEM projects based on the stories. Or maybe it’s an ocean theme where we read and write books about the ocean, and solve ocean themed math problems. This keeps the children engaged at the end of the year with fun projects. It keeps them interested because it’s a different way of learning than they have been used to throughout the year.
Keep Students Engaged at the End of the Year with Theme days
My all-time favorite way to keep students engaged at the end of the year? Using theme days! I plan out theme days for the final 15 or so days of the year. They start out simpler, like hat day or show and tell day, where we still follow the general schedule and curriculum plan while wearing something fun or bringing something to school. Then, as we get closer to the end of the year, I plan out more elaborate days, like pirate day or board game day. You can read more about planning out theme days here. You can purchase all of my theme days here. Want to try a theme day out first? Try the free Backwards Day!
These 5 tricks will help keep students engaged at the end of the year, as well as keeping you engaged and excited for each day! Offer choices, turn over more responsibility to your students, provide new materials whenever possible, plan out integrated projects, and offer theme days! What is your favorite strategy to keep students engaged at the end of the year? Let me know in the comments!