This post was originally published last spring. I am re-posting with updates. 

Here is a compilation of some of the best ideas I have found on the Internet for ways to keep kids of all ages engaged even on the last day of school! (Scroll to the bottom of this post if you are looking for award ideas, behavior management help, or resources to write positive and effective report card comments.)


This year, after the art supplies were put away and the kids helped me clean the room, I showed them the below video and they went to town! All my middle school kids loved it, even the ones who said they "didn't want to do a friendship bracelet" wound up making one:

How To Make a Friendship Bracelet With a Cardboard Loom, Youtube

Rachel Hessing Wintemberg, The Helpful Art Teacher, has a brilliant idea for the last day of school. She has her middle school students do a day of paper airplane engineering! She says, "There was a drawing center set up with books for kids to look at and get ideas from an origami center. I let kids choose. For the airplane center they had to pick new designs. They were not allowed to just build the 'dart'. I had directions downloaded off the internet for them to choose from. We had distance contests and aim contests. I make sure each kid writes their name prior to throwing. The distance winners got to continue the contest out in the hallway. The accuracy winners got to compete in the 'see if you can hit the teacher from the back of the room' final contest in the last 5 minutes on the last day. I sat in a chair where the garbage can is in the video. They had to stand behind a certain line. First prize in all cases was 'bragging rights'."

Check out her video on YouTube: 

Keeping Kids Going Strong At The End of the Year, Cassie Stephens, theartofed.com, elementary or middle school

3 Art Challenges That Are Perfect For the End of the Year, by Wynita Harmon, theartofed.com, upper elementary, middle, or high school

2 Pt. Perspective - Google Slide Show, by Cheralynn Johnston at Stick Figure Art, (5th grade and up)

Surprise Creatures for the Last Art Day, by Lauren Stacey, Elements Of the Art Room, elementary

Mascot Mural For School: Grids, by Eric Gibbons, artedguru.com ... this is a low-mess collaborative drawing that could be adapted to upper elementary, middle, or high school

4 Engaging End of the Year Projects To Keep You Sane,  by Tracy Hare, theartofed.com, middle or high school

A "Genius" Way To End Your School Year, by Jennifer Carlisle, theartofed.com, middle or high school

Feeling a Bit Like An Artist Magician, by Peter Sansom ... upper elementary, middle, or high school (this blog post is about repeated drawings in a pattern...)

5 Legitimate Reasons To Take Your Students Outside, by Lindsey Moss, theartofed.com ... upper elementary, middle, or high school

End Your School Year With the Art Olympics!, by Timothy Bogatz, theartofed.com ... middle or high school

5 Games To Put An Artistic Twist On Field Day, by Lindsey Moss, theartofed.com... elementary

Surrealist Games, Cindy Ingram, Art Class Curator, upper elementary, middle, or high school

6 Innovative Ways To Use Up Leftover Paint, by Abby Schukei, theartofed.com ... upper elementary, middle, or high school

How To End the School Year In Peace and Harmony (Or How To Keep Them Engaged Until the End!), by Amy Zschaber, artfulartsyamy.com ... middle or high school

5 Super Fun End of the Year Projects, by Michelle East, createartwithme.com ... middle or elementary school

End of the Year Activities, Cassie Stephens, Youtube ... elementary school

Floating On to _____ Grade!! End of Year Project!, by elementaryartfun.blogspot.com ... elementary school

Scrap Paper Art, by Sheryl Depp, primarilyartwithmrsdepp.blogspot.com ... elementary school

Best End of the Year Stuff, collection by Tracy Carey, Pinterest

6 Activities To Make Your Art Room Even More Fun, by Alicia Eggers Kaczmarek, theartofed.com ... elementary or middle school

Pre-K - K End of Year Art Projects, by Audra Wallace, scholastic.com 

How a Student Survey Can Improve Your Classroom, by Suzanne Capek Tingley, wgu.edu

Save The Best For Last, by Jessica Balsley, theartofed.com ... elementary school

Other ideas for engaging, low mess projects for the last few days of school: 

  • Online videos; here is an extensive collection for all ages.. sometimes it is helpful to have a little mess-free classroom time, especially at the end of the year! 
  • Stations: Have a variety set up for kids to choose activities such as drawing books, puzzles, games, Legos, etc. Also, you could get out a bunch of odd, mis-matched, or donated items and put these out on the tables for a "Make-It Challenge!" This idea isn't necessarily low-mess, but it is a great way to get rid of excess supplies! We all know those pom-poms seem to multiply in the closet....😜
  • Origami
  • Drawing Practice via the Anti-Coloring Book or found online: Worksheets and Printables, pinterest.com
  • Flextangles
  • Weaving; here is Nic Hahn's Pinterest collection of weaving ideas
  • Photography - alphabet scavenger hunt outside
  • Texture rubbing contest outside - all you need is paper and crayons; who can find the most textures?
  • Pop Up Cards or Books (link takes you to the Pop-Up channel on Youtube)
  • Flip Books
  • Art Games - link takes you to a listing of a variety of art games
  • Drawing Games (Exquisite Corpse, etc.)
  • Sculpture Games (Sculptionary with modeling clay, marshmallow challenge, etc.)
  • Paper Dolls or Characters: directions on craftsy.com or directions on jampaper.com (use patterned paper, wrapping paper, wallpaper samples, etc. for clothing and for younger children cut out templates to trace for shirts, pants, etc.)
  • Art For Kids Hub (elementary) or Mark Crilley (middle school), YouTube, students draw along with the artist (using white boards and dry erase markers is highly recommended; there isn't as much pressure on kids to make the "perfect" drawing)
  • Mini Matisse: End of the Year Trace a Troll, by Nic Hahn
  • Roll a _____ Games: (Below is a design by art teacher Hannah Smith - more designs can be found on Pinterest)
  • Scrambled Art Grid Puzzles: more examples can be found on Pinterest


Making Your Own Award Ribbons, by Anna Nichols

Makers' Kit Grab Bags, by Cassie Stephens

Handmade awards; gold spray-painted palettes, paintbrushes, mannequins, wooden candle sticks, and wooden plaques by Francisco and Janell Matas (for high school outstanding student in photography, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, painting, digital art, AP studio, adapted art artist, adapted art, jewelry/metal, and outstanding senior)

At our upper school awards day ceremony this year, I was asked to have something ready to give our 7th-12th graders. I decided to choose who would receive an Art Excellence award based upon these criteria:
  • a willingness to learn
  • respectful and cheerful attitude
  • confident in trying new things/ willingness to take risks
  • attention to detail
  • going the extra mile... working hard to go above and beyond what is assigned
  • consistently pursuing excellence in visual art
My 7th-11th graders received a beautiful certificate (see below) and my seniors received a trophy that I made with wooden manikins, paint brushes, round wood plaques, and gold spray paint, thanks to the Matas' idea above! 

Choosing elementary awards will be much more difficult - there are too many creative, talented, and hardworking  artists in our lower school! I read an idea on the Art Teachers Facebook group about having the students vote for who THEY think should receive the awards. Whew! That idea is going to save me this year! 
Certificate Designs by Leanne Godbee:

Abby found these plastic party favors in the party supply section of Hobby Lobby. She painted them gold and added the jewels.

Click on this link, Art Award Template, to download a DIY paper template to make this nifty art trophy! The design is from Leslie Gould at heythatsmyartteacher.blogspot.com 


    101 Report Card Comments To Use Now, by Genia Connell, scholastic.com

    100 Report Card Comments, educationworld.com

    Comment Ideas For Report Cards, by Chantal Latour, teachnet.com


    40 End of the Year Cleanup Jobs For Your Students, by Jennifer Borel, theartofed.com

    End of the Year Clean Up Strategies, by Patty Palmer, deepspacesparkle.com


    3 Ways To Make Sketchbooks From Scraps, by Amber Kane, theartofed.com

    What To Do With Old Art, by Jennifer L. Gironda, jenniferlovegironda.com

    Making Old Art Into Displays For the Band Room, Facebook post, by Anna Nichols (based on J. Love Gironda's idea from above)


    My plan for the end of the year madness fits right in with the ideas for developing intrinsic motivation in this edutopia article by David Palank. If one of my middle school students acts up, I pull them aside and tell them that they will not be participating in the sculpture project until they write a one page essay about HOW THEY PLAN TO BEHAVE from now until May 25. ("Self Persuasion")
    I ask them, "What are you going to DO? What are you NOT going to do in my class?" Then, I look the student straight in the eyes and say, "If this happens again, there will be a discipline assignment and a parent contact. Do you WANT that to happen?"
    I know, I know - consequences are technically a form of extrinsic motivation, but the above strategy works because it lays responsibility for misbehavior squarely on the shoulders of the students. There is no reason for ME to get upset with their behavior and lecture and scold. The one who should be getting upset with the behavior is the student!
    I have divvied out several of these quick essays in the last few weeks: students understood exactly what they were doing that was inappropriate AND they outlined specific ways to behave that were better choices! (There have been a few students who went home with a discipline assignment to be signed by their parents - they lost art participation time as well in order to write the discipline assignment.)
    So far, the end of year misbehaviors in my middle school classroom have been very mild - the kids have been respectful to me, are working hard, and are taking responsibility for their actions.
    I had been dreading these last few weeks of school because of the wild behavior I have seen in the past; not anymore! Mischief managed!

    Here are a few terrific articles by Michael Linsin (smartclassroommanagement.com) about handling kids right before a holiday: 

    "Wait... That's All?" Why That End-Of-Year Art Portfolio Isn't Thicker, by Mrs. Joanna Elliott, mrselliottart.blogspot.com

    article by Mrs. Anna Nichols

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