The end of the school year is a big transition for students (and teachers). Don’t just let the year fizzle to a close—end your year with memorable, meaningful, and reflective activities.
Celebrate the experiences you shared, highlight what’s special about every child in your classroom, and leave students with a sense of accomplishment and belonging.
Sounds like a tall order, right?
Don’t worry—closing activities don’t have to be complicated to be profoundly positive for your students.
Try an activity or a combination of activities below to give your school year the ending it deserves.
Write a Letter to Your Students
These days, it’s always special to receive a thoughtful hand-written letter. Writing an end-of-year letter to your students brings meaningful closure to the school year and provides a keepsake from your time together.
Keep notes positive, encouraging, and personalized. Reflect on the positive qualities the child added to your classroom, cherished memories, and the growth you observed throughout the year.
Let each child know that they made important and appreciated contributions to your classroom community.
The more personalized, the better. But if you have too many students to write individual letters, it’s still a nice gesture to provide each child with a copy of an end-of-year letter.
The letter should reflect on the school year, thank students for a wonderful time together, provide advice for the years ahead, and wish students well in the future.
Give Individual Awards
Another personalized way to end the school year is with individual awards.
Too often, students only receive recognition for good grades and athletic achievements. Honor the special qualities of each student in your classroom by giving every student an award related to their positive attributes.
Be sure to avoid any awards that could be considered hurtful, like “Class Clown” or “Most Likely to Show Up Late.” Your awards ceremony should leave every student feeling seen and appreciated.
Create a Time Capsule
Look back on your school year by creating a time capsule featuring the special moments you had together.
While there are many ways to do this fun activity, I recommend having each student complete a time capsule they can keep and open later.
The time capsule doesn’t have to be a box of items. It can also be a book that the student writes and illustrates.
In the book, students can include:
- What they learned
- Favorite activities
- Best memories and moments
- A questionnaire about their personality and goals (fun to look back on later)
- Notes from the teacher and classmates
Another variation is to have students write letters to their future selves. Students write a date on the envelope and open the letter on that date.
Some teachers even have students address the envelope, then the teachers hold on to the letters and mail them on the agreed upon date.
Reflect on the Year
Reflect on the year with questions like:
- What did you learn this year?
- What did you learn about yourself?
- How did you help others?
- How did others help you?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of this year?
- My favorite activity this year was __________ because _________.
- What challenges did you overcome this year?
Hold a class discussion or have students discuss with a partner.
Alternatively, have students write their answers on Post-It notes with words or pictures. Then, create a collage of Post-It notes on the whiteboard, a large poster board, or a sheet of chart paper.
For end-of-year reflection activities by grade level, click here.
Write a Letter for Next Year’s Class
One fun way to reflect on the year is to write a letter or make a video for next year’s class. Children step into the role of older, wiser students and give future students a preview of your class, including:
- What they will learn
- The things they will love
- What might be challenging
- Fun activities they might do
- Advice for doing well in the class
Older children may enjoy making a “course trailer” (like a movie trailer) telling future students what to expect.
Gratitude offers numerous benefits, including a better sense of self-worth, more generosity and compassion for others, greater stress-resistance, and more overall happiness and optimism.
If you want to end your year on a high note, sharing gratitude is a great way to go. Ask students what lessons, experiences, or memories they’re most grateful for from the school year.
Have students list what they’re grateful for, draw it, or write it on the board. Find a fun way to display your students’ responses, celebrating the year and honoring your time together.
It’s always nice to know that you’re appreciated by others. Encourage students to share what they love, respect, and admire about one another on paper.
Here’s an easy way to accomplish this activity:
- Each student writes their name on the top of a sheet of paper.
- Students sit in a circle.
- Students pass their papers to the right, and each student gets one minute to share some love.
- They then pass the paper to the right again, repeating until their own paper comes back to them.
You may want to review the notes before the students read them, ensuring that all comments are positive and appropriate. In addition, it’s helpful to share examples of positive comments before the activity begins. This activity can be found in individual grade level packs found here.
Host Student-Led Conferences
When possible, it’s a great idea to involve families in your end-of-year celebrations. Mukilteo Elementary in Washington sends the year off with a picnic celebration.
At the celebration, students sit with their families and share their progress over a picnic. Families look over students’ notebooks and portfolios in a conference led by the student.
If students don’t have family members to share with, they’re paired with an older buddy.
Do a Countdown
ABC countdowns are a popular way to end the school year, often with activities like Art Day, Bubble Day, Crazy Hair Day, and so on.
Put a meaningful twist on the ABC countdown by focusing on a reflection activity for each letter (the ABC countdown pictured below was created for students in upper elementary).
Another option is to start each of the last 26 days with a reflective question related to the letters of the alphabet:
- What did you ACCOMPLISH?
- How have you changed or grown since the BEGINNING of the year?
- What CHALLENGE did you overcome this year?
- Is there anything you would do DIFFERENTLY?
- What are you most EXCITED about for next year?
Continue with the rest of the alphabet, personalizing your questions based on experiences and activities your class shared throughout the year. Each day, discuss your students’ answers and celebrate.
These activities give your students an opportunity to process and reflect on the many accomplishments, lessons, and memories you shared during the school year.
They also leave both you and your students with better attitudes going into the summer and returning the following year.
All teachers know that the way you start your school year is extremely important. Remember that for your students, the way you end your year matters too!
You may also be interested in these posts:
- The Benefits and Pitfalls of Using End-of-Year Awards
- Help Your Students Feel More Confident During High Stakes Testing
- Teach Your Students About Mindfulness and Meditation in Just 10 Minutes a Day
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