The End of the Year in ELA:
13 Last Minute Lesson Ideas
As the school year comes to a close, you might be looking at your calendar thinking, what on earth am I going to do with these random extra days? Or maybe you have room on your calendar for a final unit, but no idea what to do with your students. I’ve got your solution right here! Here is a roundup of 13 ideas for ELA mini-units and lessons that can effectively and meaningfully fill between 3-5 days at the end of the year. My friends Amanda, Melissa, Danielle, Caitlin, and Jackie helped contribute to this list and I love what they had to add! Have other favorite ideas? Share them in the comments below!
1. Skechnotes Reflection:
I love using a visual, artistic way for students to reflect on their learning and their lives. These sketchnotes are the perfect kick off to a quick, mini-unit to end the year. Spend one day reviewing and brainstorming what students have learned and how they’ve grown during the year. Then, introduce the sketchnotes and let student start designing. Finally, have students present their sketchnotes on your projector at the front of the room for a quick speaking and listening grade. After each presentation is done, hang them up on a string of twine with a clothespin to make a great backdrop for an end of the year class picture!
2. Cento Poem & Performance:
This poem is essentially the poetry version of making a patchwork quilt. Think about the school year and all of the characters you’ve met, books you’ve read, and experiences you’ve had as a class. Using this blog post to help you, send students back through their favorite moments of the year to create a cento poem that reflects their fondest memories of a particularly powerful theme that ran through the course. From reflecting, drafting, writing, and then performing or design a printable version of the poem, there’s an inspiring, reflective, and meaningful end of the year week!
3. How to Be a Person:
This is a great poem that can be used to have students set goals for the future. Use this post to guide students through a several day lesson that has them analyze the poem, write their own imitation, and potentially even create their own video to accompany their new creation.
4. Check out Netflix documentaries and films:
Netflix is constantly coming out with new, beautiful documentaries that are appropriate and, in some cases, important for students to see. Using a simple KWL (what do you know, want to know, and what have you learned) for a handout, your students could end the year learning something brand new. Some of my favorites include: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Our Earth, 13th, and Miss Representation.
This one’s only a one-day lesson, but it will have your kids up, moving and making one last memory together! Throw together a quick and easy photobooth, use up all of the paint chips you promised yourself you were going to use for a lesson, and copy these handouts for a station rotation activity to tame those little squirrels. For another idea and approach to end of the year stations, be sure to check out the option from Room 213 - these involve a bit more classwork review!
Using the metaphor of summer camp, Caitlin & Jessica from EB Academics use their classroom transformation skills to motivate and excite students to review their learning at the end of the year. Check out the fun summer camp decor and games they’ve put together!
I love the idea of ending the year on a personal writing project. They’re meaningful, rigorous, and can be paced out in a way that keeps students focused on a daily task up until the last day of school. One mini-unit that I’ve particularly enjoyed is one that I do on the concept of LEGACY. I begin the unit with a lesson on what legacy is and the famous legacies that many well known figures have left behind. I have the kids then choose a person whose legacy they admire and then participate in a short “speed-dating” activity. Next, we start brainstorming, drafting, and writing our own memoirs. Depending on how much time you have, there’s then plenty of time to submit, revise, peer review, and publish!
I’ll admit it - in this blog post, I actually suggest planning a senior prank WITH the seniors. I also have some other, less reckless ideas for how to bond with and support seniors as they’re making their way out the door.
This super cool project comes from the Amanda Write Now blog. Here, she gives detailed instructions for how to guide your students through this creative project where students create a memoir using the letters of the alphabet as a guide for their writing. She has an example and simple, easy to implement instructions on her website! This could be such a fun week: spend one or two days drafting and brainstorming ideas, another few days designing the pages of their encyclopedia books, and the remainder of the mini-unit presenting and having a publishing party to share the end results!
10. CROT Poetry:
This poetry activity comes from my buddy Melissa at Reading and Writing Haven. She told me, “At the end of the year, I love throwing some creativity into the mix. Students are often involved in passion projects, mini research assignments, or fun reading units. This creative response to nonfiction is the perfect way to blend research with abstract thinking. With this assignment, students research a topic of interest and convey what they have learned by synthesizing multiple sources. The final product is a combination of prose, poetry, and art. Students analyze white space, fonts, colors, and alignment as they combine fragments of thought to craft an overall theme. This lesson is icing on the cake for research, poetry, and author's craft units. Because of the short snippets of thought, it provides an opportunity to add rigor to creative writing. Not only are students synthesizing research, but also they are using crots and blips (purposeful fragments of thought) to create an overall emotional impact and thematic message. If you have a few extra days at the end of your school year, try this outside-of-the-box activity with your junior high or high school students.”
11. Start the college search:
The College Board website (referred to as Big Future) has some amazing college search planning tools. Have students create an account, go through some of the guided tutorials, begin the search process, and write or speak about what they discovered by the end of the week.
12. Create Vision Boards:
When I talked to my friend Danielle about the end of the year in her classroom, she shared this with me, “In the classroom, you can use the vision board many times during the year. Think about times when there are ‘new beginnings’ in the classroom. Do you end the school year in May or June? Instead approach the end of the year as though it’s a new beginning. Create a vision board at the end of the school year to create goals for the upcoming school year. Students can use this tool periodically during the summer to “check in” to make sure they’re on the right path for the future they want for the upcoming new school year.”
13. Take Class Outside:
Embrace the great weather with these fun ideas from Room 213. From writing lessons to creative projects, here are some great ways to open the walls of your classroom. And here’s another cool writing project that takes students through a park looking for items to describe and write about!