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End of the Year Activity: Keep Your Students Engaged!

March 27, 2019 5 min read

With summer approaching, we wanted to share the best end of the year activity for keeping students engaged.

We’re all dreaming of those carefree summer days of sleeping in, binge-watching BRAVO shows, and laying out by the pool, (Who are we kidding? More like entertaining our own kiddos who still wake up at the crack of dawn!) but before we get there, we need to cross one of the biggest hurdles of the school year -keeping our students engaged in learning and not checking out before that final bell rings!

End of the Year Activity to Keep Your Students Engaged: Camp S’More Writing

Today, we’re letting you in on the absolute best activity to do in the final days of the school year. We’ve created a surefire way to get our students excited about coming to class, eager to work, and challenged with rigorous learning opportunities up until that final day. Yes, you read that right!

Here’s the exact activity that we do at the end of every school year and it is a guaranteed crowd pleaser!

First, Set Up Camp S’More Writing

Once we’ve wrapped up our final unit, and while there’s still several days left in the school year, we tell our students that we’re getting a jumpstart on summer and headed off to camp.

We decorate the classroom with simple “camp-like” decor: a play fire pit from Jessica’s boys’ room, some signs pointing to the “lake,” cut-outs of trees made from green construction paper, etc.

If you try this in your own classroom, you could go all out and dress up like a camp counselor or show the camp arrival scene from The Parent Trap to get students even more amped up about camp (we’re talking the original 1961 version with Haley Mills, NOT the Lindsay Lohan one!). The point is, get the kids curious and motivated, telling them that they will be on teams and competing in typical camp games. The excitement will already be building … we promise!

Prior to the first day of camp we do the following:

  • We organize our students into several teams and assign them a camp color and pennant.
  • We then select the writing skills we want students to review and turn them into fun camp games.
  • We also throw in a few “just for fun” games like the Sandman (anyone ever play that at camp? So fun!!). But, the main focus is either reviewing grammar or writing skills or challenging students with activities that help them practice new ELA standards.

End of the Year Activities in Camp S’More Writing

To review stronger word choice in writing, we have a “watermelon eating” contest, and students must come up with unique synonyms for worn-out words. They must list as many words as there are “seeds” on the watermelon “slice” we given them. For every word a team has, that no other team has, a point is earned.

We then move on to “archery” and practice throwing darts at a bullseye. In this game, depending on which part of the target you choose, students must create a simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex sentence. (In case you were wondering, we’re NOT actually eating watermelon and throwing darts. We’ll save that for the actual summer camps.) Points are given for correctly written sentences.

Next comes a scavenger hunt for figurative language. Here teams compete to find examples of similes, metaphors, etc. in a short story. We like to use “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros since it is filled with an abundance of figurative language. Points are given not just for the team that completes this activity in the shortest time, but also has found all the correct examples of figurative language.

After the scavenger hunt, teams compete in a “tug of war” game. In this game, students “pull”/expand  a sentence using adjectives, adverbs, independent and dependent clauses, and prepositional phrases. Again, points are earned for meeting the criteria we set forth at the beginning of the activity.

Finally, what camp experience would be complete without some ghost stories told around the campfire? Teams put everything they have worked on at “camp” and craft a ghost story to share with the other campers. Points are awarded based on criteria that we assign before students draft their story.

Of course, we bring in graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows for students to make s’mores as we listen to all the stories.

We use a tally sheet to keep track of all the points teams earned in each round and declare the winners on the last day of camp. We also pass out camp awards to individual students who stood out:

  • Happy Camper – for the student who always had a smile on their face
  • Team Player – for the student who made sure everyone in their group was heard
  • Busy Beaver – for the student who was constantly engaged
  • Extra Miler – for the student who went above and beyond
  • Stick With It – for the student who never gave up
  • Crazy for Camp – for the student who loved every minute of camp
  • Exceptional Storyteller – for the students who crafted the most creative ghost story

Our students LOVE participating in these activities, and we love how focused they are on learning while still having fun!

Standards Addressed with this End of the Year Activity

Here are just some of the standards the games address, keeping the rigor high, but fun-filled for those last few days of school!

  • “Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.”
  • “Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.”
  • “Demonstrate command of standard English grammar and usage when writing and speaking.”
  • “Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.”

We love that everyone is engaged in the activities, while students remain accountable for high level work. It is such a fun way to end the school year and transition to summer, and we look forward to this unit every year!

We’ve gathered all our camp resources for you (just click here) if you’re interested in doing these activities with your own students. Everything’s included from the games to the decor to the awards. You supply the s’mores. 🙂

Looking for more end of the year ideas? This end of the year descriptive writing activity is always a student favorite!

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Caitlin

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