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Four Simple Strategies to Boost Student Engagement at the End of the Year

Oct 26, 2023
Boosting student engagement Edmentum article

The end of the school year means that state testing is finished, and students are feeling antsy for their summer vacation. There’s no denying that teachers everywhere tend to feel burnt out as the year ends, especially as students begin to disconnect. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve student engagement and keep it high until the very end – and no, they don’t have to include searching through YouTube for another video to watch. Let’s dive in.

How To Boost End-of-School-Year Student Engagement

Keep student engagement high even as responsibilities and lesson plans dwindle with these simple strategies. You can’t go wrong with activities that push students to think creatively and show what they know.

1. Try Something New

Was there a lesson you didn’t have time to get to during the year? How about that cool activity you read about online but never planned for your classroom? Now is the time to try it!

Maybe there’s a certain subject your students are interested in or a viral video that ties back into class. Use this time as an opportunity to try a new activity or teaching style with your students as the guinea pigs—you may just find something that works well and that your students love.

Activity Ideas

Found Poetry

Found poetry is the practice of creating a poetic work by blacking out everything from a printed page except the words you want to be read. The products end up looking like redacted evidence from a court case and can be a great way to reuse some papers from the classroom that you would have been getting rid of anyway. 

The theme everyone needs to cover can be the school year, their plans for the summer, or anything else. Add some extra challenge by having students’ poems fit a form, like a haiku. This activity works for any subject area because reading materials are available that are no longer needed, and this has the added benefit of featuring subject-specific vocabulary.

Take Learning Outdoors

Younger students are eager to get outside and play, so this is a great opportunity to take learning outdoors for a few hours. Create a scavenger hunt for students to look for different shapes or colors, measure things on the playground, or study plant life to help burn off some energy after eating lunch.

2. Celebrate Accomplishments

You and your students have worked hard this year, so why not celebrate? You don’t need a large budget to reward your students for their hard work.

Motivate your students to finish the year strong with small incentives like candy, toys, or something larger like a class-wide pizza party or movie day. Providing some sort of incentive for your students will help them stay focused and give them something to look forward to.

Check out this list of four student rewards that encourage intrinsic motivation. (As a bonus, they don’t cost a thing.)

3. Reflect On The Year

Reflection is an important part of the end of the school year, and it’s also a great way to rev up student engagement. Go over what you and your students have learned throughout the entire year, and show them how much they have improved. Here are some ideas:

Create Portfolios

Build end-of-year portfolios with tests, projects, report cards, and more to show your students their growth and allow them to share their favorite lessons. This will provide some closure and help refresh students on the knowledge they have gained from the year. Younger students can also create a "Look How I've Grown" flower for a fun take-home project.

This Year's Newspaper

Similar to surveys and scrapbooks, task students with creating a newspaper of the major events of the school year, both within the classroom and outside of it. These newspapers can be as easy as your resources and time allow. They can also be solo pursuits or require the whole class to work together.

Last-Day Charades or Pictionary

Playing last-day charades or Pictionary provides an opportunity for students to act out or draw memorable moments and memories from the school year without speaking. There shouldn’t be any need to make it competitive, but some treats can be used if they will help keep the students’ attention.

4. Plan Ahead

Your students most likely have questions about what the next grade level will look like, so provide a time for a Q&A to help them prepare for the new school year. Consider doing some of these activities:

Schedule A "Field Trip" To The Next Grade Level

For younger students: Many elementary students don’t realize that the next grade level could be very different from the one they’re in, so organize a "field trip" to the next grade to help calm their nerves. 

If your school participates in looping, prepare an introduction to the exciting things you’ll go over in next year’s class. See what kind of predictions students come up with about what the next grade is like, and spend time answering any questions they may have.

Coordinate with a teacher from the next grade level, and take a walk down to where the next-grade classrooms might be found so that students can scope them out and look at what projects that grade worked on throughout the year. Have your students take some notes with observations about the room, or have them write about what they’re excited to learn in the next grade.

For older students: Provide an overview of what topics they will cover next year or use class time to answer questions about college or life outside high school. At this time of year, there are many things that are completely unknown about the future, especially for seniors, and it can easily feel overwhelming. 

Provide some wisdom and words of encouragement to help calm some anxieties about the future. Share some of your stories and what you’ve learned over the years with your students—they’ll be excited to hear it.

Set Summer Learning Goals

Just because summer vacation is coming up doesn’t mean students must stop learning. Talk with your students about how summer is the perfect time to set a learning goal for themselves, and have them pick out a skill or subject that interest them and that they might want to explore on their own. 

Maybe they want to learn more about volcanoes, memorize all their multiplication tables, or read four chapter books before school starts again. Whatever that goal may be, help your students figure out a set of actionable steps to achieve it.

Whether you use a reading list, a set of practice worksheets, or other resources, you will feel more confident that students won’t forget all the material they’ve learned throughout the year, knowing that they have a plan of action to stay sharp over the summer break.

Letters To Their Successors

Students have records that follow them from grade to grade, but there is very little to prepare students for their new teachers. Ask your students to write introductory letters to next year’s students, telling them all about what to expect from you and the year in class. 

To make the practice more authentic, have students address their letters to future students with which they have something in common, like a first initial or birth month, then distribute the letters to next year’s students with those traits.

Do A Classroom "Demolition"

You already have to deconstruct your classroom at the end of the year, so why not have your students help? Children always get a kick out of helping take apart the classroom, so utilize your little helpers, and check this task off your own to-do list. 

You could use deconstruction tasks to encourage good behavior, such as creating an assembly line of students to pass supplies down the line and organizing a hunt to collect different items and box them up. Consider even using some of your existing supplies as little rewards for students to take home.

Classroom Cleanout Raffle

The end of every school year includes the process of preparing the classroom for the next one, whether that just means some early summer cleaning or preparing to move to another room altogether. 

Instead of everyone fighting for your castoffs, hold a raffle for anything of value, with students earning tickets through academic performance, game rewards, or good behavior. Oddly, students will attach more meaning to something they win rather than gather for free.

Wrapping Up: The Value of Increasing Student Engagement

Even when there’s not much new content to learn, keeping student engagement high is important. For many students, school is one of few – if not the only – places that invite open discussion, promote social bonds, and create opportunities for self-discovery. Your students deserve an end-of-year effort that puts all their hard work to good use.

Thinking ahead to summer learning? Check out Edmentum's free Summer Planning & Success Toolkit. We've assembled our very best resources geared toward helping educators and students get the most out of any summer session.

This blog was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated.

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