Today we’re going to be talking about keeping students engaged through the end of the school year.
In today’s episode, I will be walking you through something that will not only have your students engaged, but it’ll make you look forward to going to school, it’ll make you and your kids laugh out loud, and it’ll put smiles on everyone’s faces!
Once I’ve wrapped up my final unit with my kids, and while there’s still a handful of days left in the school year, I tell my students that we’re going to be getting a jumpstart on summer and that we’ll be headed off to camp together.
I put together a summer camp classroom transformation! It is so much fun – I decorate the classroom with really simple “camp-like” decor – a fake fire pit and some signposts that read “Lake” or “Registration.” I cut out some trees made from green construction paper. I hang up outdoor lights. I put little lanterns on student desks with some s’more food items – you get the idea! You can go as big or as little as you want to with the classroom decor.
And the point of doing this summer camp classroom transformation is to get your students curious and motivated – they will be so engaged and excited when they walk into their classroom only to see this fun transformation!
But I don’t just do the transformation and leave it at that. No. We still have to keep things academic. So … when students walk in, they will see a big sign that reads, “Welcome to Camp S’More Writing” – get it? Like s’mores? And obviously, we’ll be focusing on writing.
So essentially this classroom transformation becomes the overarching theme that my writing games play off of. At Camp S’More Writing students will be practicing a ton of the writing skills they’ve learned over our year together before I send them on their way! And it ends up being 3-4 days of incredible fun and honestly incredible learning.
Okay, so here’s exactly what I do, so you can do this with your students, too.
Prior to the first day of camp, I organize my students into teams and assign them a camp color and pennant.
I then organize the skills I want students to review and turn them into fun camp games. Skills such as utilizing stronger vocabulary words, sentence structure, sentence types, and things like that. When I create the various games students will participate in, I also throw in a few “just for fun” games like the Sandman.
Once students come into class that first day of camp, I place them in their teams, give them their team color and pennant, and I say, “Let the games begin!”
Students then work as a team to complete each writing game that I created for them. As students complete the games, they will receive points for whichever place they come in, in that game.
I then keep track of each team’s points for each game and put them on a big scoring sheet that I have hanging up.
And on that last day of camp, the winning team will get some sort of prize – I usually buy cake pops from Starbucks because my kids just go NUTS for those!
So now that you know what the whole camp experience looks like, I want to break down and explain some of the writing games that we actually do.
Again, I want you to be able to go back to your classroom and do the same thing because it is just SO, SO fun.
One of the first skills I have students review is stronger word choice. To do this in a game-like setting, I have a “watermelon eating” contest, and my students must come up with unique synonyms for tired words. I’ll put a tired word on the board like “very” and students are given a “slice” of watermelon. Students are then challenged to list as many words as there are “seeds” in the watermelon “slice” I just gave them. For every word a team has, that no other team has, a point is earned. You don’t have to use real watermelon slices for this activity – you could just use some printed-out clipart of watermelon slices.
The next skill I have students work on is sentence types – simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. Students review this skill through an “archery” game I created, where they practice throwing darts at a bullseye, where depending on which part of the target students choose, they must create a simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex sentence. It’s not a real archery game with bows and arrows, but I create a fun little print-out for students for this one.
I also like to add in a scavenger hunt for figurative language, where teams compete to find examples of similes, metaphors, hyperboles, etc. in a short story.
Again, each of these games are focused on various writing skills we’ve covered throughout the school year. I do about 4-5 more games, but hopefully these three will give you a good idea of what those games look like. It’s important to the overall experience to keep the games camp themed!
One last thing that I like to do before we wrap everything up, is I like to pass out camp awards to individual students who stood out on their team. So I have each team award each member of their group one of the awards that I created. Here are some of the awards that I use:
- 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
So, there you have it! My students LOVE participating in these activities, and I love how focused they are on learning while still having fun!
It is such a great way to end the school year and transition into summer, and I so look forward to this unit every year!
If you’re interested in seeing each and every game I do with my students plus all of the decor items that I use, I put everything together in a blog post for you which you can check out through the links below.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Want to listen to even more episodes?
- Episode #1: 3 Simple Ways to Create Student Buy In
- Episode #2: How to Overcome 3 Writing Mistakes You Might be Making
- Episode #3: Constructive Criticism: How to Change Your Mindset and Be Open to Feedback