Tips for surviving the last week of school from a real teacher - language, math, and other fun activity ideas for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students.

Surviving the Last Week of School – A Teacher’s Perspective

Activity ideas to help you not just to survive, but to thrive that last week of school while still keeping your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students engaged and learning.

Written by Guest Blogger Kerry Heino

As teachers we often long for the beginning of summer vacation, the start of a well-deserved holiday and a break in our all-consuming career. How easily we forget though, how hard that final week of school can actually be; weather that is unbearably hot, with often no air conditioning, curriculum that is done being taught, and students who have “checked out.” So what’s a teacher to do?

Plan, Plan, Plan… But Be Flexible!

The worst thing you can do is fly by the seat of your pants on this last week. Teachers need to have a general idea of what they’re going to do each day, while still being open to throwing something in at the last minute. But what do you plan for?

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Language Lessons that can be fun – yes, they do exist!

Letters to Next Year's Students - One of my favourite lessons is having the students write letters to the students who will be coming up to the grade they are leaving. These letters can tell the “newbies” what to expect, what is fun and exciting, and even things that they found difficult. They can write about their teacher, what he or she expects from the students, and what is liked or disliked. This activity gives the students a chance to really reflect on the school year.

If I’m really on the ball, I hold a bit of a lottery to make this more exciting. The first name that I draw gets to choose a student they most want to write to and so since I teach at a relatively small school, where the students all know each other,  this can be a fun add-on. Then, on the first day of the next school year, I hand out the letters for the students to read.

(Find a no prep, scaffolded version of this activity here!)

Cursive Practice - I often save teaching my students cursive writing until the end of the year as well. Rather than photocopying booklets for this, we practice in our everyday writing books,  starting with letters of the alphabet. We move on to names of students in the class and  teachers at the school. I let students pick words we can practice and then move on to funny sentences they create. Cursive is a useful skill for students to have, so why not try to make it fun too?

Mad Libs - An old favourite is to break out the Mad Libs. I have a few pre-made ones for my students, but I also allow them to make up some of their own that we can do as a class. This makes for many laughs, but also reinforces parts of speech as well.

A Wrap Up to Math

By this last week of school, the Mathematics curriculum has been taught, but that’s no excuse to leave all the things we’ve learned behind. So how can we make a math wrap up entertaining?

Math Jeopardy - Create a Math Jeopardy game with questions from all strands of the curriculum. Include easy questions as well as challenging ones. I usually divide my class into 3 or 4 groups and call up 1 student from each group at a time to answer a question.

I provide whiteboards and markers for students to write down their answers, and buzzers to make it more fun. Each group can also have a number of “life lines” such as “call on a friend,” “give me a hint," and “switch questions.” Students love this activity and many are amazed at what they’ve retained throughout the school year.

 
 

And Let’s Not Forget Spontaneity

Go Outside - Go outside to be active everyday, sometimes twice a day! - If it’s nice outside, take the students outside to play games that you may not get the chance to play throughout the year.

  • soccer
  • baseball
  • badminton
  • frisbee
  • Red Rover
  • beach ball games
  • parachute games
  • tag games

Have a Picnic -Buy a case of water and some freezies. Ask parents to supply some treats. Students can bring folding chairs or blankets from home. Sit in a special place and talk about some funny times you’ve had in the school year, while enjoying a treat. Students like getting out of the classroom and just kicking back.

Have a Water Fight (Not for the Faint of Heart!) -I often regret this one, as I usually end up doused beyond belief, but it is always a treat that students thoroughly enjoy. The local dollar store sells inexpensive water balloons that can be used. 

Note: Make sure that you fill a few buckets with water to use as refilling stations so students stay outside.

Double note: If using water balloons, there will be a mess to clean up afterwards.

Triple note: Set ground rules before beginning. For example, no head / face shots, and have a designated area they must stay in to avoid a larger than necessary mess.

The World of Online Quizzes - My favourite is “Kahoot,” but there are many sites where teachers can find pre-made quizzes or even create their own. I have created my own quiz for the end of the year, “Everything You Should Know About Your Teacher.” My students love this quiz, which contains information about me that is very obvious, but also some things that are random. I sometimes buy a small treat for the winner as a bit of an incentive.

These are just a few ideas on ways that you can make the last few days of the school year enjoyable. Keeping students busy can prevent behaviour issues from popping up, especially during a time when teachers are tapped out and students are checked out.

Kerry Heino

Thunder Bay, Ontario


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