Teach on the Last Day of School

The last day of school is usually a blur of yearbook signing, room cleaning, and board game playing. I’d like to make a case for teaching something on the last day of school.

Students are about to leave your classroom for a summer of (mostly) unstructured activity. There will be plenty of time to watch movies and play games at home. Time for learning is precious, and sharing a special lesson together can create a lasting memory. Plus, it can only enhance your rep with parents if kids run home and talk about the cool thing they learned in school today.

Pilot Day: This is my traditional last day of school activity. My dad, a retired F-16 and F-4 pilot, puts on his flight suit and teaches the students about being an Air Force pilot. He starts with a simulation of all he’d say as he prepared for takeoff. He brings in his helmet, manuals, patches and insignia. He even shows an Air Force recruiting video about the awesomeness of jet fighters. Question and answer time can last over an hour. Questions about the ejection seat and bird strikes are always popular.

If you don’t have your own fighter pilot to create last day of school awesomeness, consider a lesson with an art tie-in. This way, you teach something cool, and then the kids can create art and chat.

Mythological Beasts: one of my students just loves mythology, and we did this lesson in his honor. He brought in his book of mythological beasts and my class was dead silent as he read it to us. Then, under his direction, we each created our own mythological beast. He wanted us to write a little about it—not too much—since it was the end of the year—and give it a clever name with a Greek or Latin flavor.

Starry Night: I taught students about Vincent van Gogh, and then we watched a slide show of his art while listening to Don McLean’s “Vincent.” Here is my copy of the lyrics (pdf), complete with vocabulary words. I recommend you teach the vocabulary before listening to the song. You can analyze the song for figurative language or simply treat it as a beautiful homage to Vincent. Then, color “The Starry Night” or create your own Vincent-style art.

Even if you teach on the last day, it’s probably good to leave some time for stacking desks and chairs, signing yearbooks and playing board games. Enjoy it, because you know that you also left your class with the impression that something important happens in this classroom—learning.


 

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