Last night I participating in a Twitter Chat about how to keep students engaged during those last weeks of school. While some tighten things up, increasing the frequency of tests and quizzes, and doing whatever they can to keep the excitement in check, there is another option. That is to embrace the excitement and leverage it for some playful but rich project-oriented learning experiences. With that in mind, here is six ideas to consider.
1. The Summer Debate
Do you want to have a lively, engaged project at the end of the year? Consider putting students in teams, having them create a defense for ending summer break (alternatives to the traditional summer break), then follow it up by switching sides and making their best defenses for a traditional summer break. This is a great chance to help students develop their research and information literacy skills, to refine their critical thinking skills, to refine their presentation skills, to work on or review how to write a persuasive essay, and it can pull from pretty much every content area. What is the history of summer break? Is there any poetry or literature inspired by summer breaks? What about the psychology and sociology of summer break? What are the approaches to summer break around the world?
2. The Summer Impact Challenge
Here is another fun project for the end of the year. Print up or create a fictional web site that offers a 1 million dollar prize to the best idea for having the largest impact over summer break. Start by finding and sharing some extraordinary uses of summer breaks by young people in the past. Then break students into teams (or they can go solo), and have them put together their best ideas, pitching them to the rest of the class. You’ll probably need to add a few more parameters to this one to get the most out of it, but it is a great way to get students thinking about the small and large ways they can use their summer break to be a blessing to those near and far.
3. The Learning Never Ends
Similar to the last one, challenge students to put together the ideal 30-day summer extravaganza. This is a combination of trips and experiences that allows them to learn the most while having as much fun as possible. Again, this invites students to start thinking about great ways to learn while having fun during their summers. Then you can have students vote on their favorites.
4. Making the Last Month / Week Count
Why not invite students into the planning for that last month? Have students put together proposals for how to get the most out of the last month/week of the school while meeting any necessary objectives along the way. You might be surprised to see the amazing ideas that come to mind.
5. The Family Interviews
Have students interview family members about their most memorable and impactful summer experiences. Parents, grandparents and great grandparents might provide wonderful insights into the past. It gives students an opportunity to connect with family or community members, practice listening and note-taking skills, and then they get a chance to practice writing and/or planning presentations of their findings.
6. The Perfect Vacation
Vacation planning is a wonderfully interdisciplinary task. Why not have students plan out and present their dream vacations. It can include math through budgeting; social studies through maps, cultural information, and historical insights; English through writing up the plans and an itinerary; planning for the weather, etc. Put together (or work with students to design) a list of questions that need to be answered in the plan and let the students loose to do their research. If designed well, this can be a rich an deep project that ventures into pretty much every content area.
Of course, you can also just continue on with your standard units, by why not take advantage of the