As a former teacher and administrator, I know end-of-year assessments can be an insightful window into your students’ progress. But data only reflects one aspect of student growth—academic. For students, any kind of growth matters.
Maybe your multilingual learners have dramatically improved their English skills. Maybe your shiest kids have started to participate more in class. Maybe your natural leaders have given others a chance to shine. Or maybe those students who had trouble following directions early in the year are now on task. Whether it’s recognizing a class effort or an individual’s hard work, the end of the school year is a great time to celebrate learning and growth.
Here are some ideas for ending the year on a positive note, with enough momentum to carry your students’ growth through the summer.
Let Students Decompress in a Structured Way
Recognizing and celebrating student progress is crucial for continued learning success, as is encouraging them to set their own goals and recognize their accomplishments. “My students need time to decompress in a structured and creative way,” said Georgianna Castellano, a third grade teacher in Florida. During the last month of school, her students work on animal reports. They create posters of their selected animal, draw a picture of it, and collect fun facts. They build their habitats using 3-D materials, and each student presents their reports to peers and administrators. “It’s a great way to end the year,” she said.
Keep Them Learning This Summer
From encouraging students to enroll in summer reading programs with their local library to holding lemonade stands to keep those math skills fresh (i.e., making lemonade, rationing it, and calculating profits), learning doesn’t have to stop just because classes do. During the last days of school, Zachary Pfrimmer, a third and fifth grade teacher in Washington State, has his students work on some fun STEAM projects. “They design and build planters outside where we raise and track herbs that kids can use when we make our own pasta sauce the last week of school,” he said. The students can then take their plants home and care for them all summer which is a great way to teach kids about science. Here are more ideas for supporting your students’ summer learning.
Acknowledge the Local Community
So much learning happens outside of the classroom. Toward the end of the school year, Meg Tegerdine, a special education teacher in Missouri, has her class spend more time within their community to focus on supporting one another. “We sprinkle in academic games and projects to make the year-end more engaging,” she said.
Sarah English, a first grade teacher in Utah, said, “The last two weeks of school we walk to the library to learn about the summer reading program and check out books and take the kids on a little hike where the park rangers teach us a science lesson outside at the school.”
Remind Students How Special They Are
Cyndi Lu Chapman, a fifth grade teacher in Illinois, said, “We celebrate all we’ve accomplished this year academically, socially, and emotionally.” Her students write letters to future fifth graders about what to expect, what they enjoyed, and to their future sixth grade teachers, introducing themselves. They also create presentations about what they loved, struggled with, and their favorite books, activities, etc. “I add their first-day picture and recreate it for the end of the year to see how much they physically grew,” said Cyndi. “I hope they know how much they are loved and that they learned a little more about themselves through all their challenges.”
Megan Geise, a second grade teacher in Pennsylvania, said, “During the last few weeks of school, we make a poster for each child. Students write their favorite thing about the featured child on the posters, which we hang all around the room for everyone to enjoy until the last day of school. I want my students to remember how loved and special they are.”
Build on Your Own Successes
As you celebrate your students’ hard work this year, don’t forget to recognize your own. Maybe you’ve prioritized your own self-care. Maybe you’ve mastered a new technology. Maybe you’ve invested in your own professional development. It’s important to take time to reflect on the year so you can apply what you’ve learned. This template will help you look back at your classroom’s successful activities and initiatives so you can begin planting seeds for the new school year.
There is much to be proud of at the end of the school year, so embrace your accomplishments. Have a wonderful summer.