Activities and Lessons
As another school year winds to a close, you may be wondering how to spend your last days with your class. After several years of on-and-off virtual celebrations and parking lot goodbyes, an in-person party or themed day for your students is the perfect way to welcome the summer.
Although the last day of school is usually a time of high-energy, marking the occasion is important not only to welcome the summertime, but to celebrate your class and everything they've accomplished that year. To make the moment memorable, try out some of these end of the year celebration ideas.
Find Ways to Celebrate the End of the School Year
There are several elements to consider before setting your party plan in motion:
You shouldn’t have to break the bank in order to celebrate the summer. If your grand last day of school celebration ideas involve any amount of spending, then make sure to look into options like donations from parents or funding from administration before snagging that extra package of 500 balloons.
Food and Drinks
Before planning your menu of snacks or themed drinks, double-check on student allergies and diet restrictions in your class. Then, decide if you would like to provide the snacks yourself, or plan a potluck with your class.
Themed parties or classroom transformations can be an excellent way to make a memorable day for your students. Easy ways to add some color to the classroom include balloons, streamers, and disposable tablecloths.
Add a hands-on element to your last day of class with games, art stations, and projects to keep your students moving and engaged. Consider rearranging desks into different activity stations for group work or competitions.
Memory books, photo collages, or art projects can provide something for your students to remember your class by. The last day of school is the perfect time to summarize their year and make sure that they have a memento to take into the future with them.
Themed Last Day of School Celebration Ideas
Having students bring their own foods to share is an affordable solution for any end-of-year event. Is there something that their family usually makes that they would like to share with the class? Encourage students to teach others about the dish they brought.
Depending on the spaces available to you and your students, this potluck can take several forms. If you have green spaces available, set up blankets outside and turn the potluck into a picnic or a garden party. Set up a biology scavenger hunt for your students, or have them sign each other’s year books while they eat.
A keepsake can take several different forms, depending on your resources. A small photo album, a stapled booklet, or even a T-shirt that the students can sign can commemorate the occasion. To get started, print the Memory Book Page below, and have students either illustrate memories from their year, or else tape in printed pictures. This can be added to a binder or folder for them to take home on the last day of school. Also consider having students sign the backs of these pages or add personal messages for their friends.
Summer vacation is approaching, and a beach party can provide the perfect transition between the school year and the holiday season. Encourage students to come to school with sunglasses and beach towels. Be sure to bring snacks and drinks for the occasion as well. Introduce beach-themed crafts as well! You can have students paint sea shells, make fish out of paper plates, or turn clothespins into snapping sharks.
If there is space outdoors, then students can set up their towels for one last lesson outside. Have students compete in a water balloon toss competition, or a game of water gun freeze tag. Provide hula hoops, frisbees, and inflate a few beach balls for elementary students to enjoy as well.
As a special take-home gift, consider gifting your students a summer treat along with a special goodbye message from you!
Even if your students aren’t planning to travel any time soon, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the world to them on the last day of class. Group desks together in vacation stations around your classroom and select locations that interest you or your students. They can be general places like “The City” or “The Beach,” or they can be more specific places, like “Washington D.C.” or “Paris, France.” These locations can be based on places that your students have learned or read about that year. They can even be fictional!
Then, use the resource below to track your students’ classroom travels. Have a different activity set up at each station, and once students have completed that activity, have them get their Classroom Passport–or Classport–stamped or stickered to show that they’ve completed it.
The activities at each station will be based on the locations that you choose, and can be tied back to previous lessons. Did your students spend time this year learning about the history of Greece or Japan? Or can you take them to places from your science lessons, for example deep in the ocean or on top of a volcano? Did they read about any places in their classroom library that interested them? Incorporate these familiar topics into your vacation stations for an added layer of personalization. You can even provide treats to represent that location as well. For example, you might have pizza slices at a New York City station.
Examples of Vacation Station Themes
- General Locations: beach; city; mountains; zoo
- Cities: Cairo, Egypt; Mexico City, Mexico; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Tokyo, Japan
- Wonders of the World: Taj Mahal, India; Colosseum, Italy; Great Wall of China, China; Macchu Picchu, Peru
- Fictional Locations: Mr. McGregor’s Garden; Narnia; The Hundred Acre Wood; Wonderland
Look towards the future with this last day of school idea. To mark your students’ last day, try having a graduation ceremony complete with student awards certificates. Kick off the event by having everyone share their favorite moments with the class. Write each good memory on the board behind you so that it can act as a backdrop to your awards.
Seniors in high school sometimes choose to decorate their graduation caps before their own ceremony. As an activity, you can either have students bring in a graduation cap of their own, or else purchase some inexpensive ones so that they can decorate the cap as well. Make sure that the caps are a light enough color to decorate, or else decorate papers of the same size and shape as the cap and attach them. At the end of the day, you can have them throw the caps into the air.
Finally, announce each student’s name and present them with an award certificate. Say a few words about the student before presenting them with their award as well. Award categories can be anything from “Most Likely to Read the Entire Library” to “Most Likely to Become a Famous Musician." Focus on student passions and interests and don't forget to take a picture!
Decorations can include lots of balloons in school colors. If you are up for the challenge, you can even attempt a balloon arch or half arch over the board or doorway. To construct an affordable balloon arch, follow the instructions below:
- Balloons (2–4 colors)
- Plastic wall hooks
- Blow up your balloons. Make sure to make them several different sizes, with some larger than others. Avoid over-filling them.
- Cut a piece of thread to the size you would like your balloon arch to be. Leave a little extra room. Tie off the end and thread the needle.
- Sew the tied ends of the balloons together, being sure not to pierce the balloon itself.
- Once you have your arch at the desired length, attach it to the wall by hanging the string from the hooks. Adjust with painter’s tape if needed.
Class Portrait Project
Turn your classroom into an art gallery for this end of school year celebration by providing lots of canvas space and different art supplies for the students to choose from. For this idea, separate desks into groups to space out the art options. One table can be for self-portraits, while another can focus on a group drawing that includes everyone’s artwork on the same large piece of paper. Hang a large roll of paper on the wall for a mural activity the whole class can participate in, or provide chalk for an opportunity to go outdoors. Create a collage corner where students can build themselves a vision board with goals for the future beyond your classroom. Adapt or replace the crafts above to best fit your space and student interests.
As each student finishes with a project, have them hand it in so that you can add to your growing gallery of art on the walls. Once the final bell rings, the classroom will be filled with student art, a dedicated museum to your students and their creativity. Have them bring their “portfolio” home as well as a memento for the year.
Celebrate the Summer
As you approach those bittersweet final moments with your class, leave them with one last memory to take home with them for the summer. However you choose to celebrate the last day of school, remember to have fun! Both you and your students have earned it.
Celebrations need not be restricted to the last day of school. Find more in-person and virtual celebration and reward ideas from Shaped below.
Keeping your class motivated is a lot easier with a celebration on the horizon. Liven things up for your students with these 9 free or low-cost classroom rewards.
Pizza parties might be a no-go right now, but there are still plenty of ways to keep class joyful and set up an online reward system your students.
School will soon be out. Give your students a special send-off with these virtual end-of-school-year celebration ideas.
Shaped Executive Editor