I know that this is a wild and woolly time of year. The kids are ready to check out and check-in to summer!  And well…so am I!!! Unfortunately, we still have some learning and assessing to do. And more assessing.  And even more assessing.  Did I mention assessing, yet?  Was that just my school?
So, how can you keep your kids from checking out?

Literature Circles

I loved using literature circles.  I used them in my 2nd, 3rd, AND 4th-grade classrooms. Some years ARE better than others, but it was fun (most years LOL!)!
I just created a packet to help with literature circles for some of your little learners.  This packet is appropriate for end 1st and 2nd-grade students.
I think some of the most important points for literature circles are STUDENT CHOICE and HIGH-INTEREST TEXTS. Before I ever jumped into lit. circles, I made sure I had enough books that kids would like.  The novelty of meeting with other kids will only last so long if the book stinks! LOL
I am a firm believer in letting students choose which books they can read.  Now, it was choice within the boundaries I selected, since I controlled the books that were choices and ultimately put the groups together. I had kids choose their top three books and that made it much easier to put groups together.
I have a pretty in-depth blog post planned for literature circles.  If you have any questions, I would LOVE to hear them, so I can make sure to answer them in that post!

Modified Literature Circles

My kids loved literature circles, but there can be some drawbacks.  They can use TONS of paper and students can lose interest if the book takes too long.
We always discussed the books over snacks-this was a HUGE motivator! Students would ONLY get their snack if they finished the assigned reading for the literature circle. I am sneaky like that. 😉
Then, students would discuss what they noticed as they snacked. Some years my kids had a stack of post-its in their books.  They marked them in areas they wanted to discuss and made notes on the post-it. Other years, the students needed more guidance so I provided a sheet.
This is a simple half sheet for students to record their thinking.  You can run off as many sheets as needed and create a booklet!  A cover is included. Get your free copy here!
Students met and discussed the pages. I will give one hint- you need to carefully balance how often students meet.  If they meet too often, they may lose interest in the book because the book will take forever to read. If they don’t meet often enough, then they read SO MUCH it may be hard to keep events and thoughts straight!

Reader’s Theater

Another FAVORITE way to end the year is Reader’s Theater.  My students always loved Reader’s Theater and it was perfect for practicing fluency.
Generally, we made a big deal of the Reader’s Theater.  We invited parents and younger grade levels.  We even performed it in the library to accommodate a larger crowd! One year we painted “backdrops” on butcher paper.  I made copies of illustrations from the picture books on an overhead.  Students traced the picture.  Then, we just used tempera paint and painted the pictures.
These are our “backgrounds” for How I Became a Pirate by Shannon.


You can snag a free copy of the Reader’s Theater here!
This goes perfectly with my Pirate unit.  This is a cross-curricular unit with ideas for writings, math, and more! My kids LOVED it!  We used the art projects to decorate the walls before the performance.


If you are looking for some other Reader’s Theaters I also have these freebies:
These go perfectly with my Cowboy End of the Year unit.

Reading Contests

Have you ever heard of the nonprofit organization Read to Feed? In concept, it is like the Relay for Life fundraisers, but instead of sponsoring a child by the distance they run, a child is sponsored by the amount they read.
The website is gorgeous.  I like the philosophy of the organization-it mimics the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a dayteach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Instead of just giving the community food, they provide the community with animals (among other things) so they can learn a trade and sustain themselves.
The site also has FREE lessons AND a beautifully illustrated book that can be projected.
I did this with a teammate several years ago.  We didn’t do it exactly as the site suggests.  We did a contest between our classes.
We challenged students to read at home.  Parents wrote down the time in the student’s agendas and we totaled the time (great life math lesson) daily. We had the large thermometers (like you see in many fundraisers) blown up on butcher paper. We added to the thermometer daily.
 The class that met (or exceeded ) the goal first got to choose the animal donated.  My friend’s father donated the money for the animal and we stayed under $100! I think it was even under $50!  They have animals as cheap as $20! The kids LOVED the competition!
I hope this post gave you a few ideas to make your end of the year more fun and engaging!