Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ending the Year with a Bang

 "Quickies":  Activities that require little to no prep and can be completed in a class period

1.  Tweet to Next Year's Class:  I teach 6th grade and right before the end of the year the 5th graders come for a visit/orientation. Rather than write the traditional friendly letter about how to survive the transition to middle school, I give them sentence strips and have the class write tweets and tape them to the wall outside of our door.

2.  Illustrated Six Word Memoirs: I love using Six Word Memoirs throughout the year as a warm up, a way to collect background knowledge, to summarize, or to reflect on learning. It only seems natural to write them at the end of the year. I don't generally have my students illustrate them, but there is a lovely blog post (with examples) here: Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs by Students from Grade School to Grad School, by Maria Popova

3. Report Card for the Teacher: I know this idea is neither new, nor exciting, but it is a great reflection tool for me. I allow my students to choose anonymity when grading me to get really honest answers and it is always interesting to read and definately helps me to improve on my practice as a teacher. Here is a link to the one that I am using for this year: Report Card.

Some really involved projects that might take a week or more to complete:

1. Teacher for the Day: Here is my google doc on this project to print and use with your class. This one was new to me this year, but I guess it has been around for a while. I heard about it through a twitter chat and then found this article about it on the Teaching Tolerance blog: ‘Teacher for a Day’ Energizes Students, by Jacqueline Yahn. It's new to my class, so we are going to have some fun with it.

2. "We are so Inspired"

Instead of "We Didn't Start the Fire" have students reflect on their year of learning by writing a song, record it and make DVDs for them and you have a great end of the year gift for them as well. I wrote a separate blog post on this one. You can also visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to purchase this lesson.

3.  Game Based Review: There are so many formats in which you could gamify a little end of the year review.

  • My kids love this one I found from Kara Wilkins' blog, To Engage Them All. She calls it "Grudgeball" and the directions for how to play are on her blog.  
  • I also like to have my class create their own games, and I recently wrote a blog post about a game that we made. That lesson is also available on my Teachers pay Teachers store. 
  • I'm fan of Kahoot and Quizziz, but those require access to the computer lab, which can be difficult to get this time of year. 
  • I have a big pocket chart that we use to play a quiz show type of game and I was able to purchase some cool light up buzzers with my scholastic bonus points this year to add to the fun. 
Regardless of the style of game we are playing, I prefer to have the students come up with the questions-it's a sneaky way to get them to review the material. I have an example page that I use when explaining how to write different styles of questions. Feel free to download it and use it with your class: How to Write a Quiz Question.

4. Orientation Videos: The 5th graders come to the middle school for an orientation/field trip at the end of the year and I teach a Media elective in which we study all forms of persuasion in the media (PSAs, political cartoons, commercials, documentaries, TED talks, etc.). For our end of the year fun in that class we are making commercials for the elective classes and clubs, PSAs on middle school survival tips, and some other videos to add in just for fun. The videos will be shown at the orientation and will be posted on our web page.  I am super excited about "The Locker Games". It is a parody of "The Hunger Games" scene with the cornucopia, but instead of getting survival gear, they must get to their locker, get their materials, and make it to the next class in four minutes while avoiding the hallway obstacles.

Some Stuff I want to try out next year:

1. TED talk: I am hoping to get a TED-ed club started next year and I would like to end the year with TED talks, which we have in the evening so families can attend. If you have an interest in starting a TED-ed club go to:  and apply. Once you apply, you can download the facilitator materials there.

2. Student Media Festival: I would really love to showcase all of the awesome videos we made and have a film festival with "Academy Awards" rather than the traditional style Open House.

3. Poetry Slam: Poetry Month is in April and it would be great to showcase that work poetry slam style. There's a local cafe that has evening poetry events and it would be a wonderful opportunity to show off our rhymes in the community as well. I can't think of poetry without also thinking about "Epic Rap Battles in History". They are not all classroom appropriate, so don't take this as an endorsement and not preview first. Do check out their website though, the videos are funny. I teach English and History and I try to integrate the two subjects as much as possible, so our epic rap battles might be between historical figures and literary figures or authors.

These last two ideas are awesome, but they would require multiple teachers or an entire school to participate:

Will Kimbley from Tulare County USD shared some photos of their "Night at the 21st Century Museum" on Twitter last week and it looks like an amazing event.  The Tulare County Office of Ed has resources that they are sharing on their website if you have an interest in trying this out next year. If your school has a "Genius Hour" program, this would be a great opportunity to showcase those projects. "Genius Hour" isn't something I know very much about, but I am really interested in exploring the possibilities of getting this started next year too. I found a blog that seems to be mainly focused on "Genius Hour".  If you are reading this and you have additional information to share, I would love to learn more.

We haven't yet adopted the Maker movement at our school, but if we do I am thinking that an end of the year parade with Maker group floats would be so cool. Battlebots are also awesome. What middle school student wouldn't be into an event that involved Battlebots?

If you've got an idea to share please add it in the comments below.

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