4 Meaningful Ways to End the School Year and Strengthen Student Connections
It’s almost here! The end of the school year. The finish line to a unique and interesting year.
You’ve adapted - stepped out of your comfort zone - and rocked this year!
Your students have surprised you - delighted you - with their flexibility to a new type of school day. Some might’ve disappointed you. But they all tried their best considering the circumstances.
And with all that - it’s time to end the school year on a high note!
After all the effort spent building community and relationships - virtually and in person - now is the perfect opportunity to focus on strengthening connections before you head off to summer break.
The end of the year can bring up thoughts of summer slide and learning loss - especially through a pandemic.
But relationships and social emotional needs are of utter importance right now. A recent study showed that “the presence and quality of our relationships may have more impact on learning and development than any other factor.”1
So let’s take a look at what we can do to keep building those relationships between students and with you!
4 Ways to Continue Building Student Relationships
The end of a year always brings on mixed feelings for students and teachers alike. These last weeks - or days - are a good time to encourage students to continue making connections with each other. And with you!
Here are 4 things you can do to maintain strong relationships.
Group work is an effective way to build relationships and increase engagement. Studies have shown that positive group experiences contribute to student learning and success.2
Not to mention it is a necessary life skill that students need. Students enjoy working in groups and partnerships - and this connection is crucial.
One fun activity you can do -whether online or in person - is year mapping.3 With year mapping, students work together to create a graphic organizer of what they learned in a particular area.
This is a great opportunity for students to reflect on the past year and realize how much they have grown. It is also a good way for teachers to see the impact of their lessons and reflect on the outcomes.
For older students - have them prepare a presentation of their map. They can talk about all the different things they learned. Include the resources and tools that helped them in their learning.
For younger students - create the map together as a whole group. You can include pictures and fun details or activities created during the lessons.
Hang these maps in the classroom to see all the amazing growth the students gained. Bring them out again at the beginning of the year so new students can see all they will learn throughout the year.
2. Student Led Conversations
Student conversations are a powerful tool that bonds students and forms lasting relationships. It builds trust, creates friendships and fosters community. Schedule time in these last few days to have a student-led discussion group.4
These conversations provide a space for students to talk about issues relevant to them. Develop norms for talking, listening, and respecting each other’s views.
Have students come up with a list of topics to talk about to help the conversation flow. Students need to be active listeners, offer feedback, and ask questions. So remind them to listen and engage.
It can be tempting to want to drive the conversation. But it’s important to remember that in these discussions - the adults are the listeners. This will give students more space to share their stories.
If you’re online - use breakout rooms and move through them to listen. And remember your kiddos that are more shy to speak. Offer a “final thoughts” activity. Your quiet friends will be able to share their voice through video or in writing.
These activities can create a memorable end of the school year for everyone.
3. Play Games
Nothing brings more fun and camaraderie than games! Studies have shown that using academic games in the classroom positively impacts student learning.5
Create an end of year epic Kahoot battle where students can play as teams or on their own in a whole group.
Design a Jeopardy game with questions that review content learned throughout the year.
Create a trivia game of memorable moments that happened in your classroom. This exclusive game is one that only your students will know the answer to. And that will make it extra special.
For the younger kiddos - host a board game day! Students can bring games from home or provide them materials for students to make their own board game.6
Enjoying some end of year teamwork is sure to bring on some good bonding fun.
4. Beginning of Year Ice Breakers
Remember the start of the school year when you were deep in the “get to know you” ice breakers? The end of the year is a great time to bring those back - and try some new ones.
Play a round of Two Truths and a Lie.7 Have every student write 3 statements about themselves - two statements are true and one is a lie. The object of the game is to guess which statement is a lie. Play it whole group or with partners.
Try the Blobs and Lines icebreaker.8 In this activity, students line up or gather in a blob based on things they have in common.
A great thing about doing these icebreakers at the end of year is the chance to dig deeper. Get to know each beyond their “favorite color.”
And with the trust built throughout the year - what students share this time around may surprise you.
Celebrate The End of The School Year
The year began with uncertainty, nervousness, and wonder. You had new platforms to learn, new students to meet, and new routines to establish. You and your students made it through this school year with resilience, flexibility and grace. Take a moment to reflect with each other and enjoy all you have accomplished.
These final weeks and days are really a time to look back and feel proud of all the hard work and fun. You did it! Celebrate and have fun!
Use these ideas to continue solidifying the connections you have built. Play a game - have meaningful conversations - share your experiences. Enjoy the fact that another school year has ended - with new friendships - new learning - and new memories.
Need some ideas for self-care this summer? Check out The 6 Essential Elements You Need to Know for Quality Teacher Self-Care.
1 How the Science of Learning and Development Can Transform Education.
2 What are the Benefits of Group Work? https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/instructionalstrategies/groupprojects/benefits.html
3 A Powerful Way to End the School Year https://www.edutopia.org/blog/powerful-way-to-end-school-year-donna-wilson-marcus-conyers
4Building Community with Student-Driven Conversations https://www.edutopia.org/article/building-community-student-driven-conversations
5The Art and Science of Teaching / Using Games to Enhance Student Achievement http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb10/vol67/num05/Using-Games-to-Enhance-Student-Achievement.aspx
6 Create Your Own Board Game https://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-and-experiments/create-your-own-board-game
7 14 Fun “Getting to Know You” Icebreakers for Kids https://www.teachstarter.com/us/blog/classroom-getting-to-know-you-icebreaker-games-us/
8Icebreakers That Rock - https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/classroom-icebreakers/