Keep Students Engaged at The End of the Year!

April 25, 2017

Keeping my first grade students engaged during those last few weeks of the year is always a challenge. A fun one, but certainly a challenge.


The sun is usually shining, the warmth makes my students start to yawn in the afternoon, and all they can see is another vacation looming in the near distance. Completely understandable right?! I feel the same way those last couple weeks!


The last days as a teacher can be pretty bogged down with report cards, cleaning, meetings, and all sorts of things that pull you away from your room. It can often feel like the last days with your class can slip away all too quickly.


Well I wanted to share a few tips to help keep your students engaged and learning during the last few days together! These will help you all enjoy your final days.




At the end of the year I like to have entire themed days. That doesn’t happen that often in my classroom, so it is such a fun way to break the everyday mold and try something new!

Some of the themed days I have done in the past include:

–  Sports Day

– Friendship Day

– Let’s Make Memories

– Beach Day

– Camping Day

– Game Day

– Food Day

– Ice Cream Day

On each of these days, we still learn/review all the subject areas but every activity ties into the theme! For instance, on camping day we read stories about camping during our reading block, we catch fish and add them during math, and we build our own tents during science! We eat themed snacks and make themed crafts. It’s such a nice break from the ordinary!

Here you can see a little look at a few activities we do for a couple of the days:

*the above activities are all from my  fun-filled Countdown to Summer unit.


Your students are used to you. They are used to their classmates. They are used to their routine. Let them know something new and exciting will be happening soon!Before the last 5 of school days begin, I give my students little hints about what kind of days we will be having in the classroom and let them guess! When they get to school in the morning they can see if their guesses were correct!

^ leave out these materials (toothpicks, paper, play dough) and have students guess what they might be building ^

Give them the following hints:
We use this outdoors.
It provides shelter.
It can protect us from bears!

Some of your kids will guess that we are building a tent and that tomorrow may be CAMPING day! The more you can reel them in and excite them, the easier it is to teach!


Nothing beats boredom like getting up and getting moving! There are numerous studies to show that student engagement and learning increases with the use of daily movement (read more here or here), so use that research to your advantage!

^^hopping on one foot in the great room while completing a place value activity^^

On camping day, we go for a nature walk outside and experience our 5 senses. For sports day, we complete a physical challenge seeing how many different activities we can complete in just 3 minutes. On game day, we play lots and lots of games that have our blood pumping and minds working!

Blow up a beach ball and write sight words, math facts, phonemes, etc. on it! Have students stand up and pass it around while practicing all sorts of skills. Anything that gets them out of their chairs, does us all a favor at the end of the year.



You know it’s coming. They know it’s coming. Use summer to your advantage! I like to make an entire themed day all about the beach (if you aren’t near a beach – make it a water or pool themed day). We use pails and shovels to search for seashells and simultaneously review digraphs:

We read the funny book, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach and we write realistic fiction stories about family vacations at the beach gone all wrong! Whatever you know your kids will be doing over the summer, use it! Reel them in with the FUN that is summer!


As I mentioned before, it can be easy for your last days to slip away with all the extra tasks you are given as a teacher during the end of the year. Try to hold onto the fact that these students are yours and yours only for the next week or so. Next thing you know, you blink and they are onto middle school, graduating high school, or (gasp!) getting married and having kids. Treasure each and every one of those little kiddos and remind them of all the fun you had together!

In fact, I like to dedicate an entire DAY to our memories! We make memory picture frames and draw our favorite memories from the school year inside. I like to show my students how to play the game, memory, and review all different math skills. We practice some fine motor skills and make friendship bracelets and trade them with another classmate. Anything to help cherish and enjoy our last bit of time together as a class.

I hope you can take some of these tips and really make the end of your year extra special! All of the activities in this post are contained in my Countdown to Summer unit. If you’d like to see more about that unit, just click below:

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