May 5, 2021

5 End of the Year Activities and Ideas to Keep Students Engaged and Learning

There is no tired quite like “end of the year teacher tired”, am I right?  During this time, we are all looking for easy and low prep end of the year activities to keep students learning AND engaged. Here are some of my favorite ideas that work great for 4th and 5th graders!

1. Use a Mystery Box or Prop to Motivate

This is an instant student engagement booster! Place a box somewhere in your classroom with a note written on it that says, “Do Not Open Until _____”.  Fill in the blank to fit your needs.  Here are some examples you can use for your blank: 

  • Friday morning
  • 2 pm
  • June 5th
  • after our writing celebration
  • the whole class hands in the assignment

Be as creative as you want! Your students will be BEGGING you to tell them what’s in the mystery box! It’s SUCH a great motivator to keep them on task and focused on the end of the year activities so they can find out what’s inside.

So what do you put inside? Literally ANYTHING! But if you need some inspiration, here are a few examples:

  • MOVIE DAY THEMED BOX– Add in a DVD or print out a picture of a movie you plan to stream, popcorn (if allowed in your district), print out invitations or tickets to give to students make it even more special!
  • HAVE CLASS OUTSIDE THEMED BOX – Put in a playground ball, maybe a blanket, a book, sidewalk chalk, etc. to show students that you will have class outside as a celebration! 
  • GAME DAY THEMED BOX – Add in any game materials you may need to have a class game day celebration: game boards, balls, puzzle pieces, etc.
  • COUPONS INSIDE THE BOX – This is my favorite option because you only need paper and a marker to create them.  You can add in coupons for literally anything – Lunch with teacher, no homework, game day, movie day, etc. Any of the themed day suggestions above can also just be written as coupons so that you do not need to find physical materials to put in the box!

end of the year activities

2.  Escape Rooms

I love using escape rooms throughout the entire year, but they are especially helpful at the end of the year when students (and teachers) are burnt out! They are the perfect activity to pull out of your back pocket to get students excited about learning again, when that might be lacking at this point in the year. 

Choose escape rooms challenges that are LOW PREP and standards based so that it does not make more work and planning from you AND so your students are still learning…  even if they don’t even realize that they are!

If you’re new to escape rooms, read all about the many benefits of using escape rooms in the classroom here

My Save Summer Break and Escape to the Beach ELA escape rooms have been lifesavers for me at the end of the year! 

Looking to try out an escape room for free? Grab my Escape the Carnival Grammar & Conventions escape room!

free classroom grammar escape room

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3. Have Themed Days Countdown

For the last month or so of school, I love making each day slightly special by having a simple theme planned.  This gives the students something fun to look forward to each day.

You can go as simple or elaborate with the theme as you choose.  For example, one day can be “Team Day” where students can dress in ways that represent their favorite sports teams.  You can leave it at that OR you can incorporate your content around the theme too.  

Perhaps you combine your academic activities with a trashketball game that day to up the engagement while keeping students learning.  The game goes along with the team sports theme and adding in a simple game can really make for an enjoyable and memorable day!

Grab my FREE End of the Year ABC Countdown template here!

end of the year activities countdown

4. Turn Learning into a Game

Games are a surefire way to get students excited to learn.  That’s why they’re so helpful to use at the end of the year. 

You can create or invest in resources that naturally gamify learning, such as my ELA Skills Maze Activities, or rather take your existing content and turn it into a game without the need to purchase anything at all!

Here are just a few super simple, low or no prep games that you can play with any content! 

  • TRASHKETBALL – Like basketball, but you use your waste paper basket and students use balls of scrap paper as the basketball
  • SILENT BALL VARIATION – students catch a ball and share their answers, then throw to another student to answer the next question. You can only speak if you have the ball 🙂
  • JENGAthis colored version is my favorite! Color code your questions and pull a piece when students answer the question correctly.
  • BOWLING – Get a toy bowling set and allow students to bowl a frame after each section, set amount of time, or set amount of questions correct!
  • ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS – have students compete after each section, set amount of time, or set amount of questions correct!
  • TIC, TAC, TOE – have students compete after each section, set amount of time, or set amount of questions correct!

Basically, most classic games work well! Every time students answer X amount of questions OR after a set amount of time, they can take a turn in the game.  

end of the year activities - trashketball

5. Switch up the Location of Your Instruction 

I think the more spontaneous you are at the end of the year, the better! Changing up the location of your instruction is always a motivator.  Students love the element of surprise and usually stay on task more if they know special surprises like this can happen again if they prove they can handle them!

My favorite place to hold class at the end of the year is outside.  There’s nothing quite like learning outside on a beautiful day while you feel the warmth of the sun hitting your skin.  

If outside isn’t an option at your school, perhaps consider other places in your school that you may be able to take your students to get them excited.

In the past, I’ve hung task cards in the hallway and had students do a silent hallway walk to complete their work.  I told them that if they were quiet enough that other classes didn’t even realize they were out there, they would earn ANOTHER special surprise later on! (Hint, it worked!)

You can also see if you can borrow the gym if there’s a few periods without classes in it.  Having the extra space allows you to get more creative with your instruction. Maybe each time students read a passage, they have to run a lap? See if they can beat their time each time they run a new lap! 

Or perhaps you can set up relay races in the gym. Students can line up and answer questions on sticky notes and then run the answer down to the next person on their team.  That person can check and make sure their answer is correct and then hang the sticky note up on a chart and run back and get another question to answer.  Repeat until there are no questions left.

end of the year activities

When it comes to the end of the school year, it’s time to start thinking outside of the box.  I love to ask myself the simple question of, “What can I do to make this lesson more fun for my students?” when I’m planning my instruction.  Remember, if they’re having fun, they’re going to likely stay on task and actually be excited to learn.  

Leave a comment below to let me know which idea or end of the year activities you’re most excited to try out with your students this year!

Looking for easy low prep End of the Year ELA activities? Grab my End of the Year ELA Activities Growing Bundle! If you invest now, any and all resources added later on to the bundle will be yours for FREE! 

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5 End of the Year Activities and Ideas to Keep Students Engaged and Learning