The last few days before spring break can feel itchy. Students may feel antsy, anxious, and excited about upcoming vacations or time off. Teachers are trying to pace their lessons strategically to wrap things up before the break while looking forward to vacations of their own. But what do you do when your unit wraps up earlier than planned? Or when you know you will miss several of your students because they have tournaments or other reasons to leave for break early? Saving your end-of-unit assessment or final project for the last day or two is a gamble, so today, I’m sharing a few fun and creative skill-building activities that you can easily plug in those last few days before spring break without overcommitting or adding more to your already full plate.
A creative and engaging activity can be the spark that your students need to remain excited about learning, even in the face of an upcoming break. Whether it’s an escape room that solidifies new learning, a podcast that enhances listening skills, or word games that encourage teamwork, this round-up can make the last days of school before spring break both fun and meaningful!
Boost Problem Solving with Classic Board Games
What’s the best thing you can have hiding in your teacher’s closet year after year? Word games. A wise ELA teacher never visits a garage sale without snagging word games for a dollar or two! Some of my happiest memories with students are the result of word games. If you can get your hands on any of the following tried-and-true games, your class is on track for having a hoot that last day or two before spring break!
- Apples to Apples
Some games can be played whole class, while others will need to be played in small groups. Give your students a choice or set them up in stations. Just be sure to set aside time to jump in on a game or two; you won’t regret it!
Invite Imagination with Storytelling & Art
If you don’t have word games and don’t have time to go on a game hunt, this list of creative whole-class activities might be a better fit. Plus, these activities require very little prep!
- “Continue the Story” – Students sit in a circle. Feel free to do one big circle or 2-3 smaller circles. Each student should have a blank piece of notebook paper. Give them a minute to generate the first sentence of a story. Consider giving them ideas like the story starters found here. Once everyone has written a “story starter,” they pass their papers to the left. They should now have a new story to “continue.” Every minute to 90 seconds, students should pass their stories to the left and add on to a new story until they return to their original story. This activity can be such a great way to promote creativity, imagination, and spontaneity!
- “Guided Art” – Invite your students to bring in their favorite colored pencils, markers, or crayons and a sketch pad. Provide a stack of white paper and extra art materials for students who forget or don’t have coveted supplies, and pull up a guided art video. We’re big fans of Art for Kids Hub on Youtube, and the Folding Surprise lessons are our favorites. Check out this surprise basketball or this surprise football. I also like the folding monsters like this strawberry surprise. While the videos are usually 8-15 minutes in length, be sure to add time to pause the video and let students work.
Boost Listening Comprehension Through Podcasts
“The Creeping Hour” is a short-and-sweet podcast I stumbled upon a few years ago. There are only five episodes in total, but each episode stands alone. This makes “The Creeping Hour” a perfect solution for the day or two before spring break, after state testing, those last few days of the school year, or all of the above!
Each episode is about 15 minutes long and tells a creepy (& somewhat weird) story. Younger students (5th-6th grade) thoroughly enjoy the tales. Older students might find them cheesy. While listening, encourage students to sketch out a particular element (for example, the setting, the climax, or the conflict). You can also have them complete a word search of key vocabulary words from the podcast while they listen. Afterward, pair some comprehension questions with a writing activity like “Finish the story…”
See my Creeping Hour Podcast Companion here for more ideas and information.
Test Problem-Solving Skills by Hosting an Escape Room
You didn’t think I would make it through a blog post on engagement without mentioning escape rooms, did you? It just so happens that the days before spring break are the perfect time to review key material in a fun and collaborative way, which is synonymous with escape rooms in my world. Escape rooms also have the added bonus of requiring absolutely zero grading if you choose. Students either make it out of the escape room or they don’t; it’s as simple as that!
If you’re likely facing state testing after your break, use this time to review content students will likely see on the test. I recommend escape rooms like the story element escape rooms I use for short stories (see below).
However, if your state testing days are over, your students might have more fun going a more authentic route with the escape room. I love escape rooms that incorporate logical reasoning or critical thinking with a mystery of sorts. These are a couple of my favorite ones:
Dig into Forgotten Knowledge with a New Topic
Getting the gift of a day or two to break free from the curricular map can be an opportunity to incorporate something that has been squeezed out of the curriculum over the years. Whether it’s cursive writing, analogies, procedural writing, or Mad Libs, this is the perfect time of the school year to give your students a crash course on topics that will supplement their learning.
- Procedural Writing – How well can students follow written directions? Set up a variety of stations like Origami, making a craft, weaving a Boondoggle keychain, setting up an electrical circuit (I’d bring in my snap circuits from home!), or something else. The sky is the limit, but students must try to figure it out on their own!
- Mad Libs – Another ideal activity to get students thinking outside of the box while creating funny stories with silly outcomes. Also, it’s totally instructional if students are putting their knowledge of the parts of speech to the test, right? Check out some favorites here.
- Analogies – Teaching students analogies truly is an instructional pursuit! Take a day to teach the different types of analogies, then give students a color-by-analogy activity to practice with. By using analogical reasoning, they can see how everyday objects compare with more complex topics.
- Cursive Writing – It may have been squeezed out of the curriculum over the years, but that doesn’t mean students don’t have an interest in learning! Show students the basics of cursive writing and watch them get excited about adding a unique flair to their handwriting.
Put Critical Thinking to the Test with the NASA Moon Landing Challenge
Last but not least, consider hosting a survival challenge on that last day before spring break. The NASA Moon Landing Challenge is a fun way to encourage your students to collaborate, reason, think critically, use reasoning to support their thinking, and so much more. In this challenge, students imagine they are a space crew member forced to make a 200-mile journey across the moon to the rendevous point after their ship was damaged during landing. They must rank which items are most important for survival. Once your groups of students have reasoned through the list and ranked their items, reveal NASA’s list and have them compare their answers. You can find the complete challenge here.
Giving your students something new and interesting to look forward to right before spring break can break up the monotony of typical routines. I hope the ideas in this round-up have given you some creative and engaging alternatives to use in your classroom this year! From classic board games to spine-chilling podcasts, there is something here for everyone. Take advantage of the extra time before break to create meaningful classroom experiences that will yield benefits for your students beyond the standards!
What are some of your favorite things to do before spring break? Let me know in the comments!