Give your students closure and highlight their accomplishments with these creative ideas.

elementary school graduate

When the pandemic led to worldwide school closures over the past few years, educators, families, and students had to get creative about graduations and year-end celebrations. From local car parades to social media yearbooks and nationally broadcast graduation events, people found ways -- both big and small -- to recognize students' accomplishments and give them a sense of closure.

Though we're no longer in those circumstances, we can still be creative in recognizing and celebrating students' accomplishments. Use this list of ideas to help you plan some fun end-of-year activities. Many of the ideas here play out in the digital world, but we've mixed in some offline options as well.

We hope these activities bring you and your students some much-deserved joy as your school year comes to an end.

  1. Post a Flip asking students to share one accomplishment from the year that they're proud of. Make a Flip 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. Tip: Use this handy template we created to get started!

  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 where students can type in their one-word response for each student. 

  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 day (either in person or virtual). Try one of these fun theme ideas: pajamas, superheroes, funny hat, school colors, wacky hair, Disney character, or favorite animal!

  6. Have your students dance along with this GoNoodle video: "Celebrate" from Blazer Fresh

  7. Make your students a celebratory playlist of favorite songs from the school year. You can also ask your students to create and share their own playlists!

  8. Host a talent show (either in person or virtually) 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.

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

  10. Record a podcast, using an app like Anchor, and invite special guests (like teachers or other students).

  11. 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. 

  12. Randomly assign students "secret pals" in the class, and have them write a nice anonymous letter to their pal. Collect the letters by email or Google Classroom, and distribute them to the recipients. You could have students reveal the identity of their secret pal on the last day of school.

  13. Send students on a scavenger hunt using GooseChase Edu

  14. Review the year's key concepts and have fun by hosting a game show during the final days of the school year! Create fun game-like quizzes for students with Kahoot! or Gimkit

  15. Host a trivia night for students and their families (either in person or virtually). Questions can include fun facts, but can also touch on concepts learned during the year. (Kids love to show their parents what they know.) 

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

  17. Create an Instagram Yearbook page for your school, and have students submit photos to be included. Classmates, friends, and family can add congratulations in the comments.

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

  19. 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.

  20. Create an opportunity for community members to "adopt a senior" and send messages of congratulation and encouragement or care packages.

  21. Get a "famous" alum of the school to record an inspiring video message for graduates.

  22. 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 won't know the full message, just the word they're assigned. Put the videos together into a single video message and share with the graduating class.

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

  24. Seniors can collaborate and contribute to a scrapbook about their time together, which the school can keep for their 10-year reunion.

  25. Host virtual (or livestreamed) awards ceremonies. Even while graduations are happening in person, this is still a fun and accessible way for family members near and far to remember and celebrate seniors' accomplishments!

  26. Highlight seniors with a tailgate showcase: Families can line up cars in a parking lot, then seniors sit on the tailgates while others drive by to wish them all well. Or ... 

  27. 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 cap and gown!

Special thanks to Vicki Saylor, who contributed many ideas to this article.

Erin Wilkey O.

Erin’s work has focused on supporting students, teachers, and families for over a decade. As content director for family and community engagement at Common Sense, she provides parents and caregivers with practical tips and strategies for managing media and tech at home, and supports teachers in strengthening partnerships with families. Prior to her work with Common Sense, Erin taught public high school students and adult English learners in Kansas City. Her time as a National Writing Project teacher consultant nurtured her passion for student digital creation and media literacy. She has bachelor's degrees in English and secondary education and a master's degree in instructional design and technology. Erin loves to knit, read, hike, and bake. But who has time for hobbies with two young kids? In her free time these days, you'll find her hanging out at playgrounds, the zoo, and the beach with her family.