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Before the Final Bell, by Penny Percenti

Eliminate the stress of the last days of school by hooking your students with these innovative activities

Student at the board

A student teacher (above) leads the class. On the last day of school, each student also writes a letter to next year's teacher telling him or her about what he or she learned this year and what they expect to learn next year.

As an elementary teacher for many years and now a substitute teacher, I dread the last week of school. To minimize stress and to keep kids learning, I now use my students' energy to my advantage.

Student teachers.
One technique that works well for me is to allow my students to become the teacher. I post a chart listing different curriculum areas that we either didn't complete or need to review and the students sign up for what interests them. They then work in pairs or small groups to teach a lesson to their classmates. Each day, two or three groups teach their lessons and pass out worksheets or tests that the "teachers" correct and grade. Some groups have even designed their own discipline plan or a point system for good listening.

The letter F

Step outside.
Students are often tired of being indoors and a simple walk around the campus can allow movement and learning. With primary students, I've taken an alphabetical field trip where they find something that begins or ends with each letter of the alphabet. The students can collect the object or carry a notebook and draw or write its name. Make the activity more challenging for older kids by asking them to add adjectives to the alphabetical words or write riddles or poems about what they observe. Other campus field trips might include observing math in nature, classifying observations according to the senses or sketching the school and its surroundings.

The final days.
Since much of the last week of school involves cleaning, I put many recyclable items in a box for our last day of school raffle.


Some items might include leftover worksheets, damaged books and bags of old crayons. Names are drawn and the winners pick what they want from the box. There are usually enough items for everyone to win at least one time.

When the students line up for that last dismissal, I give each a personal letter about why I enjoyed having him or her in my class. I also list some books that I think the child might enjoy reading in the summer and some suggestions for writing activities. I sign it with my name and e-mail address and encourage each student to send me some of his or her writing adventures. Then they're off to a summertime of fun, hopefully prepared for next year!

Penny Percenti is a former elementary school teacher who is currently substitute teaching in Port Orchard, WA.