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All the nervous jitters of the first day and weeks of class are gone. Papers are turned in. Exams completed. Everyone’s tired yet restless. Vacation looms, as do final grades. It may be tempting to let the year end with a whimper rather than a bang, but there’s still potential in the last class meeting. Finishing strong, in addition to being a good model, is a way to make your class more meaningful to students, and an opportunity to recognize students for their course-long efforts.

The last class should, by all means, adhere to teaching pedagogy. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a smart little list with targets for a meaningful last class:

  • Identifying the purpose of the course
  • Connecting the course to future coursework or professional careers
  • Demonstrating how student learning aligns with the course goals
  • Rearticulating your pedagogical approach to the class
  • Creating reflective opportunities for students
  • Creating predictive opportunities for students
  • Applying key concepts to future learning contexts
  • Reinforcing long-term learning

So if you’re up for it, the above is scaffolding for a last class lesson plan. But to make things even easier, here are some ideas for what to do on the last day of class—all of which meet the above student learning outcomes and even create the space to have a little fun!

  1. Have students write a letter to next year’s class with advice and insights on how to succeed in the classroom. Share these letters with students in the next class. Students who write the letter feel empowered and students who read the letters are often delighted and comforted.
  2. Assign students short presentations or a final portfolio. This is a wonderful way to get students out of seats and end the year with an interactive experience.
  3. Ask students to share what they’ve learned. Ask students for their takeaways from the class—this helps them process ways in which coursework can be applied to their lives and futures.
  4. Hold an open Q&A for students to ask you questions on anything they’d like to ask you as their instructor. FYI—they might get personal, so you may want to lay down boundaries and specify subject areas that are off limits. I.e., “You can ask me anything about writing, teaching, or my cat.” Ask them to come prepared with one question each, so you’re not confronted with bewildered students.
  5. Thank the class. What have they done well as a cohort this semester? How have they surprised you? What have you, as an instructor, learned from your students from this cohort?
  6. Get up and do an interactive exercise, such as “Talk Behind Your Back": each student has a blank piece of paper taped to their backs. Students then circulate around the room and write positive things about each other on each other’s papers. They can mingle around for as long as it takes. Then they remove the papers from their backs and read all the wonderful comments. It’s a heartwarming way to end a class.
  7. Host a potluck! This has never failed me, especially in my higher education classes. It’s nice to share a meal and kick back and reward yourself for a semester of good work. You can even put a twist on a potluck: one semester, I taught a unit on “how to write directions clearly” for a basic-skills writing class. This involved students writing recipes, and compiling a class cookbook. We celebrated with a potluck, during which copies of the cookbook were shared.

However you celebrate and acknowledge the last day of class, we hope you have a wonderful time.

*virtual pat on the back to all teachers and students!*