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28 Fun Ways to Celebrate the End of the School Year from a Distance

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

Erin Wilkey Oh | May 10, 2021

Last year, when school campuses closed due to the pandemic, educators, families, and students had to get creative about graduations and year-end celebrations. From local car parades to social media yearbooks to nationally broadcast graduation events, people found ways -- both big and small -- to recognize students' accomplishments and give them a sense of closure.

This year, depending on where you live, things may be a little closer to "normal" than last year. But as the pandemic continues to be a disruption, many educators are sharing ideas and creative ways to recognize and celebrate students. To help you plan your end-of-year activities, our editors and regional managers put together this fun list -- with a special section for celebrating the class of 2021. 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 2020–2021 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. Tip: Use this handy template from our friends at Wide Open School 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 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 GoNoodle video: "Celebrate" from Blazer Fresh

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

  8. 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.

  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 (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 your livestreamed class! Create fun game-like quizzes for students with Kahoot! or Gimkit

  15. Host a virtual trivia night for students and their families. Questions can include lots of fun stuff but 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.

For the class of 2021

  1. Create an Instagram Class of 2021 Yearbook page for your school, and have students submit photos to be included. Classmates, friends, and family can add congratulations in the comments.
  2. Spotlight seniors on social media channels for their accomplishments (athletes, scholars, special interests and achievements) and use designated hashtags.

  3. 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. 

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

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

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

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

  10. Host virtual awards ceremonies. Even if your graduation is happening in person, it's important to remember this fun way to celebrate seniors' accomplishments!

  11. 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 ... 

  12. 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, mom of a graduating senior, who contributed many ideas to this article.