Here in Turkey, there are just a few weeks left until schools break up for the summer. On top of that, it’s Ramadan, so some teachers and students are fasting. It’s a difficult time of the year in schools – the students are unmotivated and teachers are tired. It may be tempting to put a film on, but instead of doing that (which only works for about 5 minutes anyway, in my experience), why not try one of these end of term, student centred activities?
Postcards for New Students
This is a nice way to get your learners to reflect on the year, and is a meaningful piece of writing – as there will someone reading it a few months later.
Depending on the students’s age and level, this could be a simple postcard or a more detailed letter. This activity can be as guided or as free as necessary. I’d advise doing some brainstorming with students first. Discuss what sort of advice would be useful for a new student in their grade. What would they have liked to know at the start of the year? Perhaps the new students should know something about their teacher. The content will vary depending on the grade and your school organisation. For example, in Turkey, grade 5 is the first year of middle school so there are more differences between grade 4 and 5 than in the UK – where students start secondary school in what is called year 7. Maybe there are different rules or privileges. You may want to focus on English lessons – how can the new students best improve their English and do well in their lessons? What’s the best food in the canteen?
I’ve done this with young learners and also university students. They could put their email address in if they want, or remain anonymous. Provide a template for the postcard – early finishers or low levels can spend more time doing the artistic side of the postcard. Collect them all at the end of the lesson and keep them until the start of the new academic year.
Make a Board Game
You may have finished your coursebook, or simply can’t bear to open it again. Students are lacking attention and are excited about the upcoming summer holiday. Put them into pairs or groups and get them to create their own English board games. These could be based on coursebook content or word lists or the four skills – different groups could make different games. Look at various simple boardgame formats before beginning (eg Snakes and Ladders, Trivial Pursuit). Make sure the students plan their game design and questions before giving out supplies. You’ll need cardboard, felt tips/sharpies, something to represent players, and possibly other craft supplies like glue and scissors.
Give a set amount of time otherwise they may deliberately take hours. When they’re all finished, they can swap the games around and play them. I like this activity because it allows students to be creative and also gives you some supplies for your cupboard to use again and again!
If you have tech savvy students and a computer lab, this could be done in the form of a simple PowerPoint game or even an app.
Photo Scavenger Hunt
I love a scavenger hunt and this format will give your students some happy memories working together as a team and having fun. They need to be in groups of 4 – 6. Arrange the groups however you like – you could use some creative grouping techniques. They also need a camera phone per group. I know most schools don’t allow mobiles but perhaps there can be an exception made for this activity.
This works better if the students are allowed to go beyond the confines of the classroom – perhaps in the school garden or corridors. It depends on your school set up of course.
As the teacher, all you need to do is give out the instructions – (a time limit plus any rules) and cards with the things they need to get photos of. This is up to you but here are some suggestions:
Whole team spelling a word with their bodies
Whole team reflection
Whole team jumping
Whole team – each person holding something starting with the first letter of their name
Book titles or idioms
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched
War and Peace
Obviously the categories you choose will vary depending on the students’ age, level and course. For younger learners, it may be photos like “something red” or “an animal”
You can add some unique ones based on your school building. My school hall had statues of lions all around it so I would have had us pose with them as a nice memory. Perhaps your school has some interesting artwork or even a zoo (some schools do!)
After you’ve given the instructions, hand out the categories and let the groups loose. You can stay in one spot – perhaps you’ll want to have another adult or two around to keep an eye on the students. When the time is up, students have to upload the photos to your computer. Each group can “present” their photos. Give points for each successful photo and maybe bonus points for creativity. Make sure there’s a prize for the winners even if it’s just a token pencil or chocolate bar.
A class year book works especially well when it’s the last year a group will be together (last year of primary, middle or high school). Each student can be responsible for one page of the book. Remind them that this will be distributed to everyone, so they should plan their writing first and take care about the presentation.
If each student has a page, put them into pairs. On one side of the page, they can draw a simple portrait of each other and write adjectives to describe each other (young learners) or vote for awards for each other – eg the student most likely to become president/travel the world/become a teacher.
On the other side of the page, they can do a combination of drawing and writing. Possible topics, which you can brainstorm together first, could be: a favourite lesson, a favourite trip, the best book that they read this year, a skill that they learned, favourite teacher.
If students have photographs from the year, they can bring these in and stick them to the pages. Early finishers can add borders, help their peers, work on the front cover, back cover and contents pages. They can also choose a name for the year book (this could be voted on by the whole class). Photocopy all the pages so each student has a copy. You could laminate the pages if you have access to a laminator.
Show the students how to bind the book together using a hole punch and wool. I actually like this activity so much I wish I had made a year book at school. In this age of Instagram and Snapchat, a physical book somehow has so much more meaning and value.