12 Ideas to engage students in the final weeks of school
{with bonus ways to sneak in content} 

If you are a parent or teacher you know that getting students to complete assignments at this point in the virtual school year is like pulling teeth. It’s painful. It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. but  is it any wonder why we are all feeling this way? I will spare you that soap box~ I think we can distill it down to three explanations for why students aren’t completing assignments at this point: 

  1. They have sniffed out they don’t have to (if they live in a state like CA ), or they have mastered what the bare-minimum needs to be to move forward next year.
  2. The end is in sight ~ it’s almost summer in case you aren’t counting the days. 
  3. The work isn’t engaging. PERIOD.

So what do we do? 

In the words of Van Wilder, now is the time to “inspire the uninspired”(Yes I quoted Ryan Reynolds-judge me if you like). If we have nothing to lose and our only hope is to get kids to care, now is the time to try a 2 week PBL-lite experience. And while your mind might jump to all the reasons you can’t do PBL right now, what I’m suggesting (PBL lite) doesn’t have to mean more work for you as the teacher, learning new tools, or an overhaul of systems and structures you finally got in place ; it’s just shifting the entry points for teaching and learning-more on that HERE. 

So if you are willing to give PBL-lite a whirl, here are some ideas for meaningful learning presented as a context with a hook AND bonus content that you can sneak in under the guise of “fun”: 

  1. Plan a summer dream trip or virtual vacation tour– Our family did this for Spring Break and we had a blast. Each day the kids researched where we were going to travel, collected what we would wear, made a grocery list for meals that night and helped cook an international dish.  *Sneaky content: Research, geography, money math.

  2. Conduct field work in your community – We did a biking local history tour last week, visited a construction site to take photos for a geometry activity, and also went to home Depot to collect samples and pricing for another project. You can send students safely to places in their community to get them learning outside the house right now. *Sneaky content: ELA speaking and listening, info writing, math-data, stats. 
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  3. Business plan for a small business to launch this summer. Students can side-hustle with a shop on Etsy this summer. *Sneaky content: info or opinion write, speaking and listening, budget math
  4. Create a social media campaign on health awareness issues-There are so many health issues right now related to COVID-19 and awareness is a critical part to our collective safety. Have students think about how they can help keep their community safe.  *Sneaky content: VAPA, research, data,  production and distribution of writing5d625889 6326 4e9d Bd66 Ebe5d99215cb
  5. Reimagine a cancelled event due to COVID-19– Check out  scenario planning via d school to use as a framework for students to rethink how to celebrate closing ceremonies for little league, graduation, or the Olympics [ Scenario Planning for Uncertain Times — Stanford d.school]  *Sneaky content: research, opinion write, engineering and design. 

More ideas…

  • Create a class library on Padlet and share at a virtual author event.
  • Learn about the wilderness and host a virtual camp out. 
  • Remember career week? Do a virtual one and coordinate guest speakers, write dear future me letters, and develop career profiles and job descriptions for when students will be entering the workforce.
  • Want students to actually review and remember content from the year? Lean on Chatterpix for fun final products to bring history to life or teach personification.
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  • Lean on sports. Your little athletes and sports fans are missing sports right now and sports are a great context for learning!

U-T sports for kids: Sports Moms and Scholar Ballers

Using the NFL draft to inspire learning

Sports for Kids: The NBA Playoffs

Babe Ruth and baseball ideas for kids to learn about STEM, SS and ELA

Winning Stanley Cup Shot 1970

NASCAR promising female 

  • Safety this summer is a REAL issue-sun, water, play, helmets, etc. Your students can create a Public Service Announcement to share their research and help keep the community safe.
  • Hey maybe even use Design Thinking to do an egg drop competition or a race car track virtual competition with student created race cars.