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8 Motivating Lesson Ideas for the Last Days of School

The countdown to the last days of school is upon us. You may be ready to ride the wave right into summer break, releasing any stress or responsibilities until next year. You may also be trying to figure out how to spend those last few days of school with your art students. Not only do you want to squeeze in all of the fun art lessons before you part ways, but you also know some of your students have already checked out for the year. Figuring out how to engage students in the art room when it seems everyone is ready for summer can be tricky. If you are looking for motivating ideas to fill the final days of the school year, keep reading!

Whether you are teaching little artists, graduating ones, or any in between, AOEU has you covered for the last days of school. Check out this list and try them for yourself!

phone taking picture of a leaf

1. Photo Scavenger Hunt

Photo scavenger hunts provide a fun approach to the creative process. This activity involves little preparation and keeps students engaged. Whether you are shooting inside or outside, you will want to establish some ground rules and boundaries. You may want to direct students to remain with partners or in small groups, stay within predetermined boundaries like a playground or outdoor courtyard, and make sure they respect other classes without interrupting them.

Your scavenger hunt topics can be as specific as you want, from photographing red flowers to looser concepts open to interpretation such as delicious, or reflection. The lesson can be simple and open-ended or it can incorporate some photography techniques as part of the lesson. Save yourself prep time and jump over to this article for a complimentary scavenger hunt download. If there’s time to share the images, take advantage of the opportunity! If time doesn’t allow it, remember the point of the photo scavenger hunt is to simply have fun.

2. Chalk Drawings

No matter the age, chalk drawings can be a quick go-to activity with the bonus of making art outside. Making sidewalk chalk can be its own lesson, or it can be infused as part of a larger themed activity. You can introduce artists such as Julian Beever, a 3-D pavement artist, or street artist, David Zinn, who works with chalk and charcoal. Check out this idea for pairing chalk and digital photography for an engaging lesson you and your students will love!

hand drawing with chalk

3. Art Games

Games are always an entertaining way to end the school year. Not only are they fun, but they are also low prep and hands-on. Trying games during the last few days of school can give you the opportunity to see if your students will be receptive to new ideas.

One of my favorite games is Skribble Head. I have it on hand for any time my art class is shortened. It also comes in handy when we are close to a holiday break and need something light and fun to do. You can head to your local dollar store to pick up handheld whiteboards, dry erase markers, and sand timers to make your own kits and have multiple games going at once.

Megan M., an elementary art teacher from Illinois, loves to play Whatchamadrawit with her young artists. This game can be saved for the end of the school year. It’s also a fun and engaging way to practice with thumbnail sketching or drawing exercises. You can easily give it to your students as an early finisher activity.

game pieces

Do you need some ideas for games in your art room?

4. Marker Appreciation Ceremonies

Markers are one of the hardest working tools in your artists’ toolbox. When the ink runs dry, consider having some fun by ceremoniously showing appreciation. Save your markers over time. At the end of the school year, have your students share some words of gratitude towards the treasured markers. It may seem silly but the students can really get into it!

markers

5. Digital Art Center

When most of the art supplies are packed away, a digital art center may be a convenient option for you and your students. Link your students’ favorite online artmaking websites to your virtual classroom, post QR codes to snap, or hand out a printed menu of options. If you are looking for websites to use, ask your students. Some go-to sites in my digital art center include Pixilart, Silk, or Canvas. Take advantage of offering a digital art center to teach about online safety or 21st-century learning.

Here are some additional resources to check out:

students on computers

6. Repurpose Artwork

What do you do with the unwanted artwork left in your art room? Naomi P., a middle school art teacher from Tennesee, holds onto some artworks to showcase as project examples for the following year. Use the artwork left behind to create an art display to decorate the halls at the start of the next year. Or, repurpose the artwork into something different for the last few classes. In this article, you can find lesson ideas to repurpose leftover artwork into usable materials such as bookmarks or sketchbook covers.

hand holding patterned bookmarks

7. Try Out Choice

If you have tossed around the idea of offering choices to your students, now might be the time to test the waters. When students have an option to choose their creative path, their engagement can increase. That’s always a bonus in the last few days of school! We have a variety of resources for you to explore, ranging from pop-up centers and creativity exercises to ways to increase student choice on a regular basis.

Take a look at these choice-based resources:

8. Create For Next Year

While you may be thinking about ways to close out the current year, some art teachers are already thinking ahead. Kaitlin D., a K-12 art teacher from Wisconsin, works with her students to paint large signs or banners to hang in the school to welcome everyone back after the summer break. Cassie Stephens, an elementary art teacher in Tennessee, shares a paint-by-color artwork for her school’s field day in this video.

You or your students can design these large-scale artworks and choose a theme that welcomes everyone to participate. Creating large-scale artworks connects directly to national standards. The national standards align with the creative process, so concentrate on one or two areas within your students’ learning.

create classroom signs

The final stretch of your school year should be an enjoyable time for you and your students. If planning begins to feel overwhelming, try out one or more of the suggestions in this article. You will find even more ideas when you explore these one-day resources along with PRO and FLEX resources. Remember, no matter what time of year, your students can always learn and have fun at the same time!

What are your go-to lessons to share with art teachers at the end of the year?

What motivating ideas engage your students?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.

Jess Madenford, an art educator and department leader, is a current AOEU Writer. She believes in the magic of personal and professional development and coaches others to rise to their potential.

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