30 fun ideas for teachers and families to celebrate the end of a chaotic school year

With school campuses closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, educators, families, and students are getting creative when it comes to year-end celebrations. From local car parades to social media yearbooks to nationally broadcast graduation events, we’re finding ways — big and small — to recognize students’ accomplishments and give them a sense of closure at the end of a disrupted school year.

In practically every teacher network and PLN, educators are sharing ideas for how to recognize and celebrate their students. To help you plan your year-end activities, our editors and regional managers put together this fun list — with a special section for celebrating the class of 2020. Many of the ideas here are digital, but we’ve mixed in some offline options as well.

We hope these activities bring you and your students some much-deserved joy as we close out the 2019-2020 school year.

1. Post a Flipgrid asking students to reply and share one accomplishment from the year that they’re proud of. Make a Flipgrid MixTape of the responses, and share the video with students and their families.

2. Create a virtual yearbook using Google Slides or any other presentation tool: Add a student’s name and photo on top of the slide and have classmates contribute their favorite qualities and memories about that student.

3. Create a word cloud for each student by asking each of their peers to submit one word they would use to describe the student. Streamline the process by sending students a Google Form that lists all students’ names with space for each where students can type in their one-word response.

4. Use iMovie or Animoto to stitch together photos from the school year into a video celebrating your students.

5. Plan a dress-up or themed virtual meeting on Zoom(or whichever video-conferencing platform your school is using). Try one of these fun theme ideas: pajamas, superheroes, funny hat, school colors, crazy hair, Disney character, or favorite animal!

6. Have your students dance along with this GoNoodlevideo: Celebrate from Blazer Fresh.

7. Make your students a celebratory playlist of favorite songs from the school year.

8. Create a series of “Good News” videos (inspired by John Krasinski’s Some Good News) celebrating student and teacher accomplishments. Post on the school or district website and social media feeds.

9. Host a virtual talent show using Zoom or another video-conferencing app, where kids can perform for the class. Use a polling tool to vote on winners for categories like funniest performance, best duo, best costume, best musician, and so on.

10. Use VoiceThread to create a narrative highlight reel of the year.

11. Record a podcast using an app like Anchor, and invite special guests (teachers or students) to celebrate them.

12. Collect brief audio or video messages from individual students giving shout-outs or gratitude to others in the class. Compile the messages into a podcast or video and share with students and their families. Consider assigning students a few peers to shout out to so everyone is included.

13. Randomly assign students “secret pals” in the class, and have them write a nice anonymous letter to their “pal.” Collect the letters via email or Google Classroom and distribute them to the recipients. Optionally, you could have students reveal who their secret pals were on the last day of school.

14. Send students on a scavenger hunt using GooseChase Edu (the Pro version is free for teachers until the end of the year).

15. Review the year’s key concepts and have fun by hosting a game show during your live-streamed class! Create fun game-like quizzes for students with Kahoot! or Gimkit.

16. Host a virtual trivia night for students and their families. Questions can touch on concepts learned during the year (kids love to show their parents what they know) but also include lots of fun stuff.

17. Hold a Zoom class picnic where kids all join at lunchtime and eat together.

18. Chalk your sidewalk or driveway with fun messages of congratulations for students or appreciation for teachers. Share photos on social media and use a school or district hashtag.

19. Mail handwritten letters or postcards to your students, highlighting their accomplishments and wishing them well.

For the class of 2020:

20. Create an Instagram Class of 2020 Yearbook page for your school, and have students submit photos to be included. Classmates, friends, and family can add congratulations via comments.

21. Spotlight seniors on social media channels for their accomplishments (athletes, scholars, special interests and achievements) and use designated hashtags.

22. Let your seniors know about the Graduate Together Yearbook so they can take part if they choose.

23. Create a special group on Facebook to highlight graduates. Schools can do this for all graduates, and/or parents can create a private group for their child’s friends and family.

24. Create an opportunity for community members to “Adopt a Senior” and send messages of congratulations and encouragement or care packages.

25. District-wide campaign #BeTheLight. Turn on the stadium lights at 8:20 (20:20 military time) for 20 minutes and 20 seconds and play the class song. Ask students and families to post photos using a designated hashtag to social media feeds or send to the district for posting on the website.

26. Have families (or graduating classes) coordinate a virtual graduation party using Zoom or Google Meet. Create school-themed virtual backgrounds all students can use at the event.

27. Get a “famous” alum of the school to record an inspiring video message for graduates.

28. Create a graduating class message for all by all. Write an inspiring statement that matches the number of words to the number of students in the graduating class. Then ask each student to shoot a short video of themselves saying the one word assigned to them. (An alternative is to write the word on a poster and hold it up for the camera). Students will not know the full message, just the word they are assigned. Put the videos together into a single video message and share with the graduating class.

29. Use school marquees to share a message of encouragement or appreciation for the senior class.

30. Organize a car parade of graduates through the school parking lot or neighborhood. Families can decorate their cars with the student’s name, and graduates can even wear their caps and gowns!

Special thanks to Vicki Saylor, mom of a graduating senior, who contributed many ideas to this article.