After state testing is over, it can be difficult to keep 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade students engaged. As the weather starts getting nicer, students begin to get spring fever. They know the end of the school year is in approaching, and student motivation can dwindle.
The time after testing, however, is a great time to try some new things. Usually teachers are given a little more freedom at the end of the year. Without the pressure and time crunch that testing brings, you have more time to complete longer activities or projects.
Below are 17 different ideas to keep students engaged and learning after testing is done. Some of the links below are affiliate links for Amazon.
17 Ways to Keep Students Motivated After Testing
1. Teach a Lesson Outside
The end of testing usually corresponds with the beginning of nice weather. Take your class outside to enjoy the beautiful weather – Just changing up the setting can reenergize and remotivate students. This works best for lessons that do not require a lot of materials or manipulatives. Have students bring a book outside to read, or have students bring a clipboard, paper, and a pencil outside and write.
2. Take a Tour of Next Year’s Classroom
Pair up with a teacher from the grade level above you and take your class for a visit. This gets students excited about their upcoming school year and helps them overcome any nervousness. You can take this a step farther and pair up your students with a student in the grade level above them for an interview.
My End of Year Tour of Next Year’s Class Resource can help facilitate a tour and interview like this. It has interview questions, a place to record answers, pages to help facilitate a tour of the classroom, and reflection questions.
3. Write Thank You Letters
Schools are full of people who rarely get the thanks they deserve. Have your students write thank you notes to other teachers, the janitorial staff, lunch ladies, secretaries, paraprofessionals, special education teachers, parent volunteers, and anyone else that deserves thanks. You can use this free Thank You Note, or have students make their own cards.
4. Read Aloud a Favorite Book
Sadly, read alouds are often the first thing cut due to the pressure that testing brings. Take advantage of the time after testing to read aloud an engaging chapter book. Below are a few of my favorite read alouds for upper elementary.
5. Experiment with Technology
All teachers want to integrate technology into their lessons in a meaningful way. The learning curve for students to learn a new piece of technology, however, often requires large chunks of time that teachers do not have. Use this time after testing to experiment and have students try new things.
These blog posts address different ways to integrate technology into your lessons:
- 3 Ways to Integrate Technology While Teaching Text Features
- Using an Online Comic Book Creator to Practice Point of View
- Integrate Technology While Teaching Character Traits (Includes a Free Wordle Activity!)
- Using Blabberize To Create Talking Pictures
6. Teach a Strategy Game
When I was in 5th grade, my teacher taught our classroom how to play chess. It was a lot of fun and required us to problem solve and come up and follow through with a strategy. While games like this clearly benefit students and their brains, they are not often taught in schools anymore because they do not directly correlate to a standard. Try to take advantage of any extra freedom you might have before the end of the year to teach games like chess, checkers, Sudoku, Connect Four, or Mancala.
7. Write Letters to Next Year’s Students
Have your students write a letter giving advice to next year’s class. Have students think about what they learned this year – both academically and behaviorally – and pass on their wisdom to next year’s students. Use my End of Year Letter to Next Year’s Class Resource as a no prep, scaffolded option.
8. Let Students Be the Teacher
Give each of your students the opportunity to teach the rest of the class something. Have students prepare a 5 – 10 minute presentation on a topic of their choice (that is teacher approved, of course). Give them some freedom in what visuals they should include in their presentation. This gives them a chance to be creative while practicing their speaking skills.
9. Clean The Classroom
This technically is not standards based learning, but it is a lesson in how to organize and take care of things that have been entrusted to you. Let your students help you out by doing some spring cleaning. There are a lot of tasks that they can help with. Have your students test out all of the markers and glue sticks and discard any that don’t work. Have them help organize all of your books and find the books that have broken covers. Have them help organize math centers and manipulatives. Students can also clean out and wipe down their own desks.
10. Do a STEM Project
If your school district was like mine, then English Language Arts skills were overemphasized and everything else got pushed to the back burner. I always tried to include meaningful STEM activities in my classroom, but they were often rushed because of the focus put on tested skills. Use the extra freedom teachers usually get after testing season to spend on STEM related activities, or any other subject that did not get its fair share of attention during the school year.
11. Have Students Work On Puzzles
Puzzles – whether they are the typical puzzles that you put together to make a picture, or something like a riddle or logic puzzle – can be a lot of fun and help develop a growth mindset in students. They usually take longer to complete and require students to fail before they succeed. We don’t often have time for things like that during the school year, but they are so important to a student’s development!
12. Reflect on the School Year
After testing is a great time to think for students (and teachers!) to reflect on the school year and think about what went well, how they grew, and what they still need to learn. Use these End of Year Reflection Question Cards to help facilitate the discussion in your class.
13. Do Origami
Origami is not only fun, but it can also benefit students academically. It builds spatial awareness, understanding of symmetry and other geometry skills, and requires students to read and follow instructions. It also requires patience and persistence. Libraries usually have plenty of books with step-by-step instructions for origami, or check out this origami website.
14. Practice Oral Storytelling
Give students a chance to practice telling stories orally and build their speaking and listening skills. We often focus on writing stories, but telling stories orally is an important skill as well.
You can use wordless picture books to help start the creativity process. Have students use the pictures from a wordless book to tell their own story. You can even record students telling a story for some technology integration!
Your students will love David Wiesner’s wordless picture book Tuesday. Through pictures, it tells a story of frogs flying on lilypads and having a great adventure one Tuesday evening. Students will love adding their own words to the story, and they will have to make inferences based on the pictures in order to tell the story. Below are some of my other favorite wordless picture books for upper elementary.
15. Have Students Give Book Reports
Let students read a book of their own choosing and give a book report to the class. Give them some freedom and let them decide how they want to present the book. Doing this at the end of the year can encourage students to read a book that one of their classmates recommended over the summer!
16. Compare a Book With Its Movie
Watching a movie is a common after testing activity, but it can be more than just a time filler. Choose a book to read that has a movie counterpart. Read the book together, and then ask thoughtful questions both before and after the movie. This will help students think more deeply about similarities and differences between the book and movie. My blog post about Comparing Books and Movies has questions you can ask your students, or check out this Comparing and Books and Movies Resource for printable activities to encourage higher level thinking and to help your students write a compare and contrast essay after watching a book and movie.
17. Let Students Plan Their Own End of Year Party
Give students a (small) budget and let them plan their own party for the end of the year. You could put students in groups to plan, and then the class could vote on their favorite party plan. Let them figure out what food will be involved, what games they can play, and how to make a small amount of money go a long way. They can even write the letter that goes home to parents. This takes some of the pressure off of you, gets students more engaged, and shows them how expensive parties can be!
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