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End of the Year Award Ideas

by Christine Bartsch

When a busy school year comes to a close, it’s time to pay special recognition to student achievements made above and beyond their report cards. It’s easy to identify academic overachievers by their high grades, but other student accomplishments merit appreciation as well. Highlight each student’s accomplishment with end of the year awards that honor success in behavior, improvement, civic responsibility, academics, athletics and even personality.

Academic and Extracurricular Awards

Perhaps the easiest to identify, academic and extracurricular awards highlight student accomplishments related to their grades as well as participation in school sports, clubs and activities. While you might choose the winners of awards such as Math Wiz or Insatiable Reader objectively by their test scores or number of books read, you can select some academic awards subjectively. Consider granting awards that recognize major grade and ability improvements even if those students do not achieve top grades. That best recognition will go a long way to boost the confidence of a struggling learner. The reverse works too when dealing with subjective subjects, such as art or creative writing; all students may be awarded top grades for their efforts, but gifted writers and artists deserve individual recognition to foster their talents.

Civic Social Citations

Beyond academics, school provides students with the opportunity to learn so much more, including appropriate social behavior and civic responsibility. Some end of the year awards can be designed to recognize those students excelling in areas not reflected in report cards. Single out students who consistently demonstrate positive behavior, such as helping their fellow students without being asked, or those who report and prevent bullying. Teachers may also consider recognizing positive behavior that takes place outside of the school. If you have students who make a habit of volunteering or donating their time or toys to local charities, reward them with recognition for their civic contributions. Just remember, recognition for appearance, behavior and personality that cannot be measured by academic standards may result in unhappy students or parents.

Humorous Honors

Recognizing serious accomplishments serves as a fine inspiration for end of the year awards, but some teachers prefer to give awards that provide a little more fun. Instead of handing out merit awards, consider recognizing kids for the personality quirks that make them special. Perhaps you have a student who’s always decked out in purple, or another who can turn the answer to a word problem into a riveting tale -- simply print out humorous certificates, such as the Purple Passion Award or the Talented Storyteller Award, that preserve these memories for years to come. These awards aren’t motivated by accomplishments but instead designed to celebrate student individuality.

Prize Ideas and Recognition Etiquette

Trophies, certificates, medals, candy, gift cards -- end of the year awards come in many shapes and sizes. When awarding tangible prizes, consider turning the year-end awards into a yearlong incentive program. These types of programs incentivize students to improve behavior and performance in order to level up to increasingly better prizes. However, these systems require a lot of time throughout the year, which becomes tougher to maintain when the school year gets busy. Some teachers prefer to recognize good work done for its own merit and let the prize be a happy surprise. Teachers should also consider whether or not every student will receive an award, if students can win multiple awards, and whether to give them publicly or privately. Positives and negatives exist for all of these options, which may shift from year to year due to varying classroom dynamics.

About the Author

A former art instructor, high school counselor and party planner, Christine Bartsch writes fashion, travel, interior design, education and entertainment content. Bartsch earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in communications/psychology/fine arts from Wisconsin Lutheran College and a creative writing Master of Fine Arts from Spalding University. She's written scripts for film/television productions and worked as the senior writer at a video game company.

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