Ending Well

In the last month of school, I find myself and my students coasting in for a finish. To help us all continue to do our best, rather than doing the minimum required, I give them a challenge. Last year I called it “Sundae Best.” This year it’s “Let’s Taco Bout Good Work.”

Each day has a separate challenge. These include things like neat seatwork, tidy desks, and not missing more than ___ on a math page. I repeated some challenges. Once they completed the day’s challenge, they could draw a slip from their cup. Each person’s cup had the same riddles in it. The riddle led them to a certain object where I had hidden a word. For example, “The more I dry, the wetter I become?” led them to the paper towel holder in the classroom. Hidden there was an ingredient to their sundae or taco. Once they’d found the word, they could add that ingredient to their menu.

It would be easier to have a certain clue for each day, but I was afraid I’d have students who only worked hard on ice cream day. This way they didn’t know when they’d earn each ingredient, regardless of when their classmates found their clues.

On one of the last days of school, I bring the ingredients, and we have a party. I keep a list of the ingredients each student has earned. Those are the things they are allowed to have on their sundae or taco. They may choose not to include all the ingredients, but I don’t let them switch ingredients.

I love this challenge because it requires very little setup. Once all the clues and words are hidden, my work is basically finished until it’s time for the party. Besides encouraging them to keep working diligently, it adds an air of mystery and anticipation to the final weeks as they hunt for ingredients.


The more I dry, the wetter I become? towel

I don’t go out and play, I just stay home all day, I’m nice—you might agree, but mostly your feet just rub me.    mat

Stiff is my spine and my body is pale, but I’m always ready to tell a tale.  book

What has a ring, but no finger?   telephone

My words number quite many (like pen, pent, and penny); My title you will discover, is explained under my cover.    dictionary

If you were ‘able’, you’d add a ‘T’.   table

Look for a rainbow in a box.   crayon box

What invention lets you look right through a wall?   window

What I did last year

Sundae Ingredients

(I taped these to the place the clue led them.)

Vanilla ice cream

Chocolate ice cream

Fudge sauce

Caramel sauce


Whipped cream



This year’s challenge

Taco Ingredients




Sour cream


Hot sauce


I found the clip art on Etsy from the shop CarrieStephensArt1. The cups hold the clues, and the envelopes hold the clip art ingredients.

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