As the school year winds down, you may find it challenging to keep your students engaged. Adding new kinds of assignments into the mix may be exactly what you and your students need in the homestretch season. Let’s check out a few ideas that can be easily added to the mix, no matter what grade level you teach.
8 fun assignments to give to your students
1. Take it outside
Moving any lesson or activity outside, particularly on a beautiful spring day, can be a fabulous way to brighten up everyone’s spirits (yours included!). For starters, an abundant number of science lessons can take place outdoors — observing plants, animals, or insects in their natural habitats, collecting water samples to examine under a microscope, identifying micro-ecosystems near school grounds, and much more.
If you’d like to try something a little different, you could host a social-studies-based lesson in the form of a community walk. Younger students can take note of the important parts of their community (fire hall, police station, library, etc.) and then draw and write about what they saw once they get back to class. You can have students do the drawing/writing portion outside in the schoolyard, time and weather permitting. Older students can also do a walkabout as a class, perhaps with a specific goal in mind: What have you observed in the community that promotes health? How is the community designed, from the perspective of a city planner? Students can then write about, or develop a presentation for, their observations and analysis.
2. Tech it up!
Shake things up in your classroom by using some of the awesome educational tech options out there. For example, Classcraft provides a range of game-based learning opportunities in their Quests. Like a choose-your-own-adventure story, students play their way through each task, gaining knowledge and skills at the same time, all while having a blast doing it.
Bring a history lesson on ancient civilization to life through a colorful adventure, initiate a crash course on coding, work on honing teamwork skills with a cooperative game … the possibilities are endless! You can make your own quests from scratch or download (and edit) quests created by other teachers through the Marketplace.
Other tech options include firing up your SMART board or class tablets, depending on what you have available, and allowing students to try out some interactive math games.
3. Bring a story to life
Whether it’s a beloved storybook that your first-grade students can’t get enough of or a classic novel or short story about a social issue that appeals to your high school students, taking the action from the page to a production can be a memorable, fun assignment. Students will develop mini-plays (or lengthier ones, depending on your time constraints) based on a certain book.
You can assign a specific part of the book to small groups to re-enact, or student groups can choose their favorite part to act out. No need to worry about repetitiveness here — students are naturally creative and will likely put their own flair on their sections of the story.
This assignment gets students thinking about a book or story from different angles, promotes teamwork, and provides a low-pressure way to practice speaking and presentation skills. It’s definitely easier to speak up in front of the class while playing a role. The best part is that students will remember this activity for years to come because it’ll be a creative break from the ordinary routines that they’re used to.
You could also try out this idea for a reenactment of a historical event or a famous scientific discovery — again, the options are plentiful for this think-outside-the-box idea.
4. Debate this
Proper debate skills are very important, but they’re seldom developed in school, beyond dedicated electives on the subject. Incorporating respectful debate into your classroom can benefit students in any grade level, and in any subject area.
To get started, be sure to review the rules of the road for debates (adjusted for your students’ grade level, of course), provide resources for information, give them a little practice time, and then have at it. As the teacher, you’ll act as a moderator. Younger students can debate light topics such as the best ice cream flavor, or the pros and cons of an extra recess every day. Older students can debate social issues, larger school policies such as dress codes, or any school-appropriate hot-button issue of the day.
5. The artist’s corner
You can incorporate art into any subject as well. The zen quality of intricately detailed coloring pages appeals to all ages and you’ll have students working on important skills such as hand-eye coordination, small motor functions, stress relief, and creativity.
Another project may involve having the entire class contribute a major art piece on a giant sheet of canvas or paper. Perhaps students can create a detailed mountain range, a city complete with businesses and roadways, or a vibrantly colored map of the world or a particular country.
Another option is to assigned students a certain ‘puzzle piece’ of a large picture. You can do this by marking off equal-sized squares on a big sheet of paper and breaking down a landscape or picture into sections. Each student can add their own skill and creativity, and it’s a great lesson on how each member of the class contributes to the big picture — both literally and figuratively!
6. Model behavior
Sticking with an artistic leaning, consider having students develop models in order to illustrate a certain concept. Younger kids will have a blast creating a model town (or one of their school!) out of milk cartons and small boxes (I did this as a sixth-grader myself, and it was seriously a lot of fun). Students can also create a historical place in the same sort of fashion, whether it’s a specific landmark or a historically accurate fort or village.
For science lessons, have students make a model of an eyeball, heart, or any other body part or system. Blending creativity with technical knowledge will help to solidify the concept you’re teaching, and kids will be so engrossed in their work that the time will just fly by for everyone.
7. Student teachers
Every kid in your class will have something they’re passionate about — whether it’s a sport or game, a specific skill, a treasured hobby, or an area of history or science that they’ve read up on out of interest. Have students choose a topic or activity that they can teach the rest of the class, and then let them do just that. This is another way to raise the comfort level in your class around public speaking — talking about something that interests you is a bit easier and more natural than a prepared speech about something that you don’t necessarily enjoy. Frame this assignment as workshops put on by student “experts,” and consider doing a few each day until everyone has had a turn.
Bonus: These presentations may inspire kids to pick up a brand-new interest, or students may realize that they have a kindred spirit in the room in the form of shared interests.
8. Room for improvement
Have your class brainstorm (either as a whole or in groups) ways to improve their school or larger community. Narrow down ideas so that they’re feasible, help students carry out their plans, and then engage in a reflection either in the form of a conversation or a more formal written piece.
Track the ways that the improvement has helped — students will feel major pride in actually making things better. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Picking up litter around the school or local community
- Volunteering time or putting on a performance at a nursing home
- Teaching younger students about anti-bullying methods or the environment
- Brightening up space in the community or school with art
- Establishing a free library (look up ‘little free libraries’ — they’re awesome!)
Your students will probably come up with some creative ideas that you’d never considered yourself, from areas they’ve observed that could use some kind of improvement to ideas for how to make things better for everyone.
This type of assignment naturally lends itself to a health or social studies class, but don’t discount the other subject areas. How can we use science, or math, to improve our surroundings? How can we use math to quantify the effectiveness of our improvements, or to budget if we need to? How can we bring physical education to the community and encourage healthy lifestyle choices?
See what your kids can do and have fun!
The key to adding in some cool, memorable assignments is to think about what gets kids moving and excited to learn. Often, this will look like students expressing themselves and/or making a real difference, or both simultaneously. See what your kids are capable of, and have fun doing it!
Photo credit: Victoria Borodinova / pexels.com