ACTIVITIES TO CLOSE THE SCHOOL YEAR

By Marieke van Woerkom

To the Teacher:

Below are suggested activities to help you and your students wrap up the school year. These can be used in a regular classroom setting, advisory session, during class meetings or in an after-school program. Each activity uses a different methodology to encourage students to reflect on the year and look ahead to next year.


Simple Closing Circle

Materials: None
Estimated time: 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of the group

Instructions:

Ask students to share one after the other one of the following:

  • something that stands out for them about the school year, advisory, a particular lesson, session, or class meeting
     
  • something that happened or something that someone said that is unfinished for them—something that they're still mulling over for whatever reason
     
  • something that happened, or something they learned that they'll take with them from this year as they move on to the next grade
     
  • something else that you think is particularly relevant to your group as you wrap up the year

Journaling

Materials: Journals and pens
Estimated time: 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of the group

Instructions:

Ask students to write in their journals about:

  • something that stands out for them about the school year, advisory, a particular lesson, session, or class meeting
     
  • something that happened or something that someone said, that is unfinished for them—something that they're still mulling over for whatever reason
     
  • something that happened, or something they learned, that they'll take with them from this year as they move on to the next grade or possibly another school
     
  • something else that you think is particularly relevant to your group as you wrap up the year.

Depending on how you have structured journaling with your students, consider giving students some time to talk about what they wrote.


Weaving a Web

Materials: A ball of yarn
Estimated time: 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of the group

Instructions:

Ask students to stand in a circle. Bring out the ball of yarn. Ask students to reflect on the past year, and think of something that stood out for them, something that they will take with them to the next grade or school, or something else appropriate for the group. The first student, after sharing their reflection, holds on to a piece of the yarn before tossing the ball to someone else in the group. This person, in turn, shares their reflections on the year, holding on to a piece of the yarn before throwing the ball on to the next student. As the ball of yarn is tossed from one person to the next, a web is created, connecting the members of the group.

When all have received the ball (once) and shared their reflections, explain that the web they created symbolizes the community that was built between them over the course of the year. The strands show the connections and relationships that make up the class, advisory or after school community. By tugging on the web in different places students can physically feel the interconnectedness.

Explain, as you tug on the web, that if something happens to one community member it affects the rest of the community—we're all touched in some way. Ask students if they can feel your tugs at the web. You may be able to draw on an event that took place this past year that illustrates the idea of interconnectedness and community.


Hopes, Expectations & Concerns

Materials: Chart(s) with Hopes, Expectations & Concerns from start of the year
Estimated time: 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of the group

Instructions:

If you started the school year asking your students to think about and possibly chart their hopes, expectations and concerns for the year, this would be a great time to go back to that chart (if you still have it).

Ask your students to remember the hopes, expectations and concerns they had at the start of the year, quietly, without speaking. Then ask them to think back over the course of the school year and what happened. Ask them to consider whether their hopes, expectations and concerns came true? If so, how? If not, why do they think that is? Ask students to think back to where they were at in September and where they are at now, both individually and as a group. How did that impact the hopes, expectations, and concerns they listed in September and what actually happened over the course of the year.

In triads or quads have students discuss possible similarities and discrepancies between the start of the year and now as far as their hopes, expectations and concerns are concerned. Also encourage them to talk about why they think this is, touching on relevant events and developments over the course of the school year.

Back in the large group, ask students to report on important themes discussed in their triads/quads (making sure not to violate confidentiality) and open things up to a large group discussion, reflecting on the year's events, developments, lessons learned, etc.


Postcard or Letter to Yourself

Materials: Postcards, writing paper, envelopes, stamps
Estimated time: 30 minutes

Instructions:

Ask students to write a letter or postcard to themselves in which they reflect on the lessons they learned this year and how they'll apply these lessons next year. Ask students to look ahead to next year. Encourage them to think about the goals they'd like to set for themselves or how they'd like to work on themselves, perhaps by changing certain behaviors or by practicing particular skills.

Once they've written the letter or postcard, have them put it in a sealed envelope addressed to themselves. Collect the envelopes, promising to give them or mail them to the students, possibly a month or so into the new year.

Note: If this is an activity you opt for, make sure you find a safe place for the letters/cards. Students will remember, and will look forward to receiving a letter from themselves at some point next year. This can be especially nice for 8th graders moving on to high school.


We welcome your thoughts and suggestions about these activities.