3 Easy-to-Prep Activities for the End of the Year

We all know to expect the unexpected at the end of the school year. Between field trips, ice cream socials, and other special activities, your daily schedule is bound to get mixed up at least once. That’s why I love to have a few simple activities on hand for days when I see my classes for less time than usual, or when my rotation of classes gets off. The three activities I’m going to share require little to no prep and can be whipped out at a moments’ notice. In addition, all provide a way to practice valuable art skills. Win-Win.



1. Blind Contour Drawing

Blind contour drawing is a great activity for the end of the year. Students partner up and draw one another without looking at their papers. Besides developing observation skills, blind contour drawing helps your perfectionists get outside of their comfort zones in a fun way. Because the faces turn out so silly, I like to read “When Pigasso Met Mootisse” as a fun jumping off point for my elementary students. A short discussion of Picasso’s work makes the mini-lesson even more meaningful. To take it a step further, use Sharpies on heavy drawing paper and paint with watercolors.

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2. Gesture Drawing

Who doesn’t love to stand on the table at school? Like the previous activity, gesture drawing is a great way for students to loosen up while practicing drawing skills. Students take turns being the models while standing on a table I have set up at the front of the room. After a short demonstration of different ways to gesture draw, students have two minutes to capture the first model. Over the class period, I decrease the time frame down to ten seconds. The kids are extremely engaged, which is a great thing on those days when everyone would rather be outside! Which brings me to my last activity…

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3. Drawing From Observation Outside

If you can round up some clipboards, taking kids outside to draw can be a great activity for the end of the year. I’ve done different drawing prompts over the years ranging from sitting and drawing one object in great detail to a drawing scavenger hunt (example: draw something yellow, draw something that fell from a tree, draw your favorite piece of playground equipment). Drawing outside can help keep kids calm on those zany last days of school.

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So we’d love to know, what activities do you keep on hand for those crazy days near the end of the school year?

Share your favorites in the comments below!

Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • Art Teachers Hate Glitter

    And if you can’t find enough clip boards, improvise with student white boards and binder clips. That’s my go to outdoor drawing solution.

    A side note: Ordering a bunch of white boards for the art room has saved a TON of sketch paper. Students love to use them for drawing activities, and they’re great when you want students to work out some ideas before jumping into their project. Something to think about as we’re all preparing our orders for next year.

    • Charmaine Boggs

      I love that idea. Will have to see what my budget will be this year, though.

      • I’ve seen some really inexpensive “whiteboards” made with pieces of heavy cardboard and white pieces of computer paper slipped into page protectors. I haven’t tried it, but it seems like a great, cheap solution!

      • watercat

        Another inexpensive whiteboard is to buy shower board at Home Depot or Lowe’s. It comes in 4 foot x 8 foot sheets for around $13. Some stores will even cut it for you.

    • jj

      love your user name, i tell kids that glitter is evil in my art room!!!

  • Joe Hall

    3 great ideas, especially no. 2 – will keep that up my sleeve for sure!

  • Chris

    With elementary students, I like to do a beginning of the year self portrait and an end of the year self portrait. We make a folder out of construction paper, decorate the front, & put the student’s name, grade and school year on the front. Inside, we mount the 2 self portraits. On the back, I put a reminder that the student’s portfolio can be seen on Artsonia (I have this printed out to glue on). At the end of the year, this takes 2 35 minute classes with almost no prep & no clean-up. It makes a nice artifact to take home as well as showing the growth of the student from August to May.

  • Amanda Novak

    End of the year for me includes: Stop Motion Animation, Light Graffiti, and Origami Paper Airplanes. ALL these lessons are HIGH engagement, fun, and don’t consume much/if any products. I can clean up the room, do these lessons, and end the year stress free. The students look forward to these projects every year – it turns into a type of tradition. I also love doing this at the end of the year because if you miss a class or two it doesn’t really matter. (msnovak.blogspot.com)

  • Steph

    Zentangles! I print out a few design ideas and have different “backgrounds” for different grade levels (i.e. op art designs, checkerboards for the youngest ones, mandalas or block letter names for the older ones…) They love it and I only need paper and markers!

  • Beth Carter

    I have done something similar to option 3. Instead of drawing outside, I put a still life object at each table/chair. I show a quick youtube on contour drawing, then we do round robin drawing. I set my iphone timer on the projector for 1 minute, they draw the object then when the timer goes off they rotate to the next chair and object. The students will have a still life drawing completed when they have rotated around the entire room. I use big clip boards, news print and ebony pencils.

  • Thanks for the blind contour idea! We always start and end the year with a self portrait. After reading your post I’ve added one more portrait to the mix. Each grade is doing a different style for their third one: cubist, blind contour, comic book, etc. We’ll mount all three together with a reflection on the year. Love it when things come full circle…and then get improved by something I read here!

  • cfrobeyinc

    I have cut card stock and let the kids create their own bookmarks then I laminate them. I encourage them to read over the summer and they love creating the bookmarks to take home. Easy project for end of year!

  • Eileen W.

    If you teach early childhood art there is an end of the year video that is worth it’s weight in Gold to me. It is called The Art House. It has fun drawing activities so the kids can draw while they watch. There is catchy music and the kids can even dance to it. I have yet to teach a K or 1st grade class that doesn’t LOVE it!

    • Grace Gruendler

      Hi Eileen, I can’t seem to find the video on youtube or vimeo. Can you share any additional information about this resource?

  • Suzanne

    Is the Art Room video available on the Web?

  • Rebecca

    I use to take my students outside to draw, until … my sister got eye cancer from the reflection of the white paper from the books she read while in the sun. If there is a shaded area I would feel more safe, but she has had to endure 2 surgeries and constructive surgery… all due to sun’s reflection from paper to face.

    • manofredearth

      That is unfortunate, for certain. Don’t let it dictate your outdoor reading/art time, however, as the situation is statistically unlikely to occur in most people. For instance, people living on the coast or near lakes or snow take in significantly more reflected light than someone occasionally looking at white paper in the sunshine. My point isn’t to downplay your sister’s tragedy by any means, but simply to prevent the spread of advice based on a statistical outlier. Art and reading in the sun are not generally dangerous, despite obvious exceptions.

  • sherrie silvio

    I take my students with buckets of water and pie plates of paints and let them dip dollar store water balls (the kind with the fabric on the outside and foam on the inside, usually found in the summer toy aisle) and throw the ball onto white large paper to create splatter paints. We have also done gesture drawing on the sidewalk and created positive messages on the sidewalk with chalk to practice the font of their choice. We also try many experimental ways to use different medium.

  • Dawn Kruger

    Funny. I just did blind contour yesterday. Question: Is it insensitive to use the term when there are sight-impaired students in the room, or for that matter, even when there aren’t?

    • Kristina

      What else would you call it? If that’s the term then that’s the term, right?

  • manofredearth

    Blind Contour at the end of the year is a significantly wasted opportunity, as it’s a practice that improves with frequency. Otherwise, it’s far more an exercise in frustration. The emphasis should be on encouraging students to mach their gaze speed and distance with their line speed and distance. That’s done through repetition. Best practice would include starting early in the year and repeating it weekly or on some other regular schedule.

  • Pingback: 4 Engaging End of the Year Projects To Keep You Sane | The Art of Ed()

  • Jonathan Kaplan

    This year I started .making rock stacks with my students. I show them a short PowerPoint where we talk about the various purposes for cairns and they get to see so.e of he made dblowi g work artists have done in the world. Then we go outside and Salk to the end of the bus ramp where there are thousands of rocks, perfect for stacking. This project is so different than the norm of my classroom. The student eat it up.

  • Viletngreen

    I do an end of the year Art scavenger hunt with 4th and 5th grade. It took a lot of time to collect about 100 small reproductions of art works ( of every kind and time period) and then look for things to find in each of them ( some easy, some difficult, and a few downright tricky ones), make the game sheets and generally get it all nailed down. The kids love the activity, it gets them talking about art and exposes them to art works we might not be able to cover during the year and once it’s made it easy peasy to do.

    • Jennifer Moore

      Would love a copy of this if you are willing to share! What a really great idea!

  • Luna Lovegood

    One of my favorite no prep end of year activities is friendship bracelets. I use my leftover yard and show them how to braid it. There are many different patterns based on the age and skill of your students and lots of youtube tutorials. The kids love it!

    • Yes! Friendship bracelets are great for the end of the year!

  • Stacy Hedrick

    I do a fun activity where we fold the paper into small boxes and in the upper left corner you draw a picture of yourself.( thats how you know its your paper.) then we pass it around the room with about 2 minutes each to draw and you add your picture to each persons paper in the next open box. At the end of the class you have a cute paper with everyone’s picture on it. I’ve had kids say they save them from year to year. I add mine too its fun and goes fast. It takes a few minutes to explain how to pass the paper though but once they get it its easy and fun.