I often tell my students that last lessons should be like first lessons as the beginning and end of year represent for me the two sides of the same coin. While we are celebrating the achievements of the nine-month learning journey we are at the same time getting ready to embark on a new one which will start after the summer break. Over the years, I've seen that my end of year lessons have shifted from purely language-related tasks (reading activities, vocabulary recap tasks, writing challenges) to ones which focus more on each student's individual learning journey, their reflection of the year that's passed, their thoughts on their areas of improvement/strength as well as challenges for the year ahead. With this in mind, I've used and blogged about lots of different activities, but I've decided to collect the ones I've seen my students be more engaged in below:
- A letter to my (future/summer) self: This is probably my most favourite activity as it allows students to get a better grasp of what ownership of their learning implies. I've used different variations of this letter both as an end of year, back to school and summer activity. I always try to incorporate a goal setting aspect to it which mostly involves short-term goal setting (e.g. what do I hope I will have improved in by the end of summer? How will I have met my speaking/writing etc. goals 3 months from now?). This is because I've realized most learners find long-term goal setting vague and are often unclear as to what they might accomplish by the end of a nine-month period. Breaking down longer goals to more tangible tasks within shorter time periods gives them a clearer sense of purpose and allows them to track their own progress better. I slightly differentiate the task when I ask my students to write a letter to their summer self. I usually give them a piece of paper and ask them to imagine being somewhere on holiday. I ask them to draw the place and add details to their drawing that should answer the 4WHS (Where are they?, When are they there?, Why have they chosen this place?, What are they doing there?). They are then asked to write a letter/postcard to themselves giving them advice on how to have the best summer possible.
- Creating end-of-year books with your learners: If you keep students' portfolios, this is a great way for students to celebrate their achievements and for you to promote a team culture in your class. During the last week of lessons, hang around your classroom students' work/posters etc. or if that's not feasible a selection of them.Explain to your students that you will be creating a class book together which will include pictures/copies of their own work. Each student needs to go around the class and select at least 1 piece of work by their classmates which they feel should be included in the book. Students should explain why they feel the piece should be included and say how they feel their classmates' work is a good example of the task they had to do. Then, you can take pictures of the final selections and create a digital book/magazine that your learners can keep. I create my classes' books on powerpoint and then save them as pdf files, but you could also scan and print students' work if you'd like to create a printed version of the book.
- Making reflection bulletin boards: I work on different themes each year, but the idea behind my end-of-year bulletin boards is always the same: reflecting on the year that's passed and thinking about the year ahead. This year I worked on a "This year was sweet because..." theme where students were asked to share their best memories of the year and an Instagram-inspired theme called "#nextyear: Posting about the year to come" in which students were asked to write what they would like to improve in next year using an Instagram-inspired template. A similar activity I love working on is called "Summer in our heart". I ask students to draw hearts on a piece of paper and write inside what makes summer special to them. I encourage them to share the summer feeling they most miss throughout the year (e.g. being carefree) and discuss what they can do to feel this way the rest of the year (e.g. stop stressing out and trying to relax more). Then, I ask them to write their bits of advice on post-it notes. When everyone is done, I stick the post-it notes on a piece of A3 paper and create a class “Summer all year long” poster.
- Sharing activities. The first activity I can think of is "5 things to share" which I also use as a back to school activity. Usually what I ask students to do is bring a simple paper bag with 5 objects inside which depending on the type of lesson can vary from favourite summer objects to favourite moments of the year. Then, I ask my students to talk about why the objects/moments are special to them, who they would like to share the objects/moments with and why.
- Review games: Normally last lessons are also devoted to language revision as well. Usually I create jeopardy style games on powerpoint or similar game-based, interactive activities. Some of my favourite sites to use for game-based review activites are: https://tekhnologic.wordpress.com/downloads/, classtools.net, https://learningapps.org/ and https://www.tripticoplus.com/. Alternatively, for non-tech lessons, I like using a beach ball activity where students need to answer the question their fingers "land on" when they catch the ball. Board games also work wonders as well as Story Cubes, especially if you're working on improving students' speaking and writing skills.
The end of school year always provides us with the chance to celebrate what we've learned in class, enjoy the relaxing moments the summer ahead has to offer us, but also think about the priorities we'd like to set for the year to come. Apart from the 5 activities shared above, you can find many more activities and suggestions in my posts below:
https://mariatheologidou.com/2015/06/01/10-end-of-year-activities-for-your-class/ https://mariatheologidou.com/2016/12/31/self-reflection-all-year-round-some-practical-activities/ https://mariatheologidou.com/2016/06/26/summer-activities-all-year-round/