4 Ways to Keep Middle School Students Engaged at the End of the School Year

You and your students have returned from spring break, and the smell of summer is in the air. How will you motivate students as you deliver rigorous instruction—and keep them interested when the sun is shining and they want to be outdoors?

Here are four tips to keep middle school students engaged with each other—and the curriculum—until the very last day of school. (But beware: students might enjoy these tips so much that they just may want to spend the summer in your classroom!)

1. Use Manipulatives

Children of any age love to touch things. Children are seemingly drawn to push buttons, touch textures, and feel the world on their little fingertips. To keep their hands busy—and learning—give students manipulatives to use. This may include the following:

  • Whiteboards and dry erase markers or response cards to elicit responses to Checks for Understanding (CFUs). Response cards are cards with multiple choice answers “A”, “B”, “C”, etc. preprinted on them, allowing students to share their answers to a teacher’s multiple-choice questions. 
  • Highlighters, markers, or colored pens to annotate during close reading exercises. 
  • Dice, game spinners, and cubes to liven up a math lesson for students.

Take a look around your classroom to see if you can rummage up a manipulative for your students to use individually, in a whole-group fashion, or in stations!

2. Hands-On Projects

Now that the season of standardized testing is over, you may have some wiggle room to reinforce skills with a more “playful” approach. Assigning hands-on projects can keep students engaged and interested in the content. Are you teaching or reviewing the life cycle? Have students plant seeds. Is your class reading drama? Give students time to work in groups to act out a scene and present it to the class. 

The end of the year is a fun time in the classroom to allow students to explore the curriculum without the pressure of testing looming overhead. Give your students the freedom to get their hands dirty as they reinforce the skills you’ve taught!

3. Keep Students MOVING (or Just Move Them Around!)

Students can get restless toward the end of the year, so channel their nonstop movement into productivity! For example, during an anticipatory set, you can read statements or questions connected to the topic of the lesson. Then, use each corner of the classroom to represent a response (agree, disagree, etc.) to the anticipatory set. Teachers can ask students to elaborate further as to why they chose that answer. 

Sometimes students—and teachers—need a change of scenery from the same four walls they have been surrounded by since September. Relocate your classroom to the music room, gym, computer lab, or even outside! Find an alternative to the classroom that fits the skills and objectives for the designated lesson. Your students will love and appreciate taking a local “field trip” somewhere around their own school! 

4. Games, Games, Games

As parents will confirm, children are born practically wanting to play games and be competitive: “Who thinks they can clean up the fastest?!” “I bet you can’t eat all those carrots!” “Let’s see if you can pick up your toys by the time I count to 10!” 

Use this parenting gem in the classroom to engage children in the curriculum by putting a “gamer’s twist” on your lessons. If you are teaching vocabulary, make it a game like Pictionary, where one student draws the definition on paper and another guesses the vocabulary word. Turn close reading into a scavenger hunt, and turn questionable historical events into a mystery that needs to be solved. There are also electronic gaming sites (like Kahoot) that keep students on the edge of their seats as they answer timed questions and compete with each other to win big. Students can even create their own games using the content of your lessons. Any way you slice or dice it, kids love games, so why not use this tip to keep them engaged until the end of the school year?

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If you use one of the tips provided in this post, tag us at @LeadAndLearn and comment on additional ways to keep students engaged until the last day of school.

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