It's hard to believe the end of the school year is right around the corner. Warmer weather is here and another school year is almost in the books! Now that we are diving into May, I wanted to share some of my favorite classroom activities and teaching ideas to keep students engaged and ready to learn during this often challenging time.
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Holidays & Events to Engage Learners in May
If you're looking for May teaching ideas, look no further than the many holidays that arise during the month. Here are just a few of the holidays and special events to include in your classroom:
Teacher Appreciation Week – First Week of May
It might seem strange to talk about incorporating Teacher Appreciation Week into your lesson plans, but I found my students were typically aware and talking about it anyway. Therefore, why not incorporate it into my plans?
One of my favorite projects for Teacher Appreciation Week is to have my students write a letter to a favorite teacher they've had in the past. This requires them to use a friendly letter format and is always a hit with colleagues when they are delivered later in the week.
I loved having a class conversation and then using a quick pre-writing template to help my students brainstorm who they wanted to write to.
I'd create a model with them about my favorite teacher growing up, then I'd model taking ideas from my organizer to write my letter. From there, the letter creation process came pretty naturally.
You can grab my templates for free.
Cinco de Mayo – May 5th
Cinco de Mayo is a great way to learn about the Mexican culture, as well as, a holiday that is celebrated by many in America. Celebrated every year on May 5th, it is a way for people to celebrate the heritage of Mexico. The holiday was created to commemorate the Mexican militia's victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
One of my favorite May teaching ideas for Cinco de Mayo was Creating a Piñata Project with my students. After reading The Piñata Maker by George Ancona, we discussed the life of the Mexican piñata maker and the significance of this custom in Mexican culture.
After that, we used our imaginations to design and create a miniature piñata. While this project was messy, it was also a LOT of fun. Plus, it gave us a good reason to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather to minimize the mess inside.
If you're not into making piñatas, here are 10 read-aloud options you might enjoy:
- Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Cinco de Mayo by Carolyn Otto
- Fiesta Time! Celebrating Cinco de Mayo by Sandi Hill
- Chicks & Salsa by Aaron Reynolds
- Mañana Iguana by Ann Whitford Paul
- Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Mexican Hat Dance by Alma Flor Ada & Isabel Campoy
- Cinco de Mouse-O! by Judy Cox
- Marco's Cinco de Mayo by Lisa Bullary
- P is for Piñata by Tony Johnson & John Parra
- Cinco de Mayo by Emma Carlson Berne & Geraldine Rodriguez
- How to Fold a Taco by Naibe Renoso
You might also consider having your students complete this fun (and free) Cinco de Mayo Web Quest. Together these activities will help students learn more about Mexican culture and the celebrations associated with Cinco de Mayo.
Mother's Day -May 8th
Many of us spend the week before Mother's Day working on projects to take home to Mom that weekend. However, it can be stressful trying to blend the requirements to keep students focused on academics with the task of finishing these in a timely manner.
That's why I created a couple of resources that blend the two. Both of these resources combine the writing process with a fun and lovely gift for Mother's Day.
I love to start these projects by reading either Bedtime for Mommy or Love You Forever. The former is a little sweet and silly while the latter tends to get kids into a sentimental frame of mind. From there, we brainstorm special things about the moms from the story and then transition to our own moms. For students who don't have a mom, we pick a mother figure or other special adult to write about.
Both of these projects turn out absolutely adorable and are well-loved by moms each year. Even better, neither requires a ton of prep or a huge investment in supplies!
Many of us also end school in May or early June. If that's you, then you surely want to include some activities and projects that wrap up the year in your May lesson plans. I've got several favorites, but here are two May teaching ideas that help you end the year on a great note.
1. Writing Letters of Advice
This project is fun, incorporates writing, and makes a great back-to-school bulletin board. Have your students write letters of advice for the upcoming group you'll have in the new school year. Students brainstorm “must know” information for the new group and write them letters to share.
You can learn more about this project in this blog post: Advice to Help You Shine
2. End of Year Memory Books
Memory books are a great way to reflect on the year and keep students engaged as the school year comes to an end.
As I'll share below, I like to use my memory books in conjunction with student-led conferences. I find they offer a great hands-on way for students to share their progress.
Memory books also create a great keepsake. I give students a chance to get autographs and also write each student a personalized note. This also helps equalize things for those students who didn't purchase a yearbook, if your campus does that.
Other Great Themes & Teaching Ideas for May
Of course, many of your May lesson plans get filled up with end-of-year preparations. From parent-teacher conferences to Field Day, you're probably inundated with things to do. If you're looking for more May teaching ideas that won't add stress to your plate, here are a few of my favorites.
Student-Led Conferences & Planning
I absolutely love doing student-led conferences for the end of the school year. I find it is a great chance for students to build self-awareness regarding their progress, and it offers a chance to practice public speaking to an audience who is eager to listen.
Typically, I combine this with the beginning stages of our end-of-year memory books as well. However, the main presentation is done in Google Slides so students can present as many times as they want both at home and at school.
Here are a few of the slides I make sure my student's presentations include:
- Top 10 Favorite Activities from the School Year
- Data on Beginning of Year Goals
- Ways I Grew and Changed
- Things I Want to Work on This Summer
- Why I'm Excited for (Next Grade)
Before our conference day comes, I typically have students practice in different formats. Partners and small groups are both helpful for overcoming stage fright. I also check each presentation and add a short note about something I loved about having the student in class at the end for parents and students to enjoy together.
Keeping students engaged & eager to learn in May…
I hope you've found these ideas useful as you consider how you'll get your learners excited while you create your May lesson plans this month! While it may be challenging to keep students engaged in learning, this month offers so much possibility. With testing wrapping up, you've got newfound freedom to allow students to dive deeper into learning.