Well, it doesn’t really feel like it, but the end of the year draws near. Without the usual hoop-lah of graduation. The end of the year is usually a time to think about creative final projects, classroom cleaning, and meaningful goodbyes.
Everything’s different this year.
But really, when you think about it, it’s still a time for creative final projects, classroom cleaning, and meaningful goodbyes. It all just has to be framed and delivered and done a bit differently.
Here are some ideas for making these last few weeks fulfilling. Read on for all the details, or listen in on the podcast player below or the podcast platform of your choice.
Creative Final Projects
I’ve liked this idea for a long time, but this year it’s perfect! Have students design an app for learning the most important content from the year in your class. They can create mock-ups of buttons, content pages, gamification options, digital flashcards, whatever they’d want to include.
Well, I think we all know I believe one-pagers can be applied to almost every situation. Normally I wouldn’t think of them for a final exam, but since this year is so unique, it just might work. If you can’t give a major final exam, why not let students reflect back on the key ideas over many books through a grand finale one-pager? Have them choose a single coordinating theme and pull moments, quotes, characters, and real-world connections together into one piece of visual wonder. Give them the option to make it as big as they want. A foam board or giant piece of art paper might be just the ticket. Then display the final products on a digital bulletin board (more to come on that later!) for a beautiful digital gallery walk in your last class.
For a unique spin on the usual final exam, ask your students how they feel they’ve grown and developed as writers, speakers, creators and people this year. Then ask them to apply that to some small project for the betterment of their community and reflect back on how their ELA skills helped them to make a difference. Use this free project springboard or design your own.
If you’re not really allowed to test back on your material given the shifting nature of these last months, consider wrapping up with a genius hour project. Let students choose something they’re really interested in and dive into it for the last two weeks, blogging, podcasting, vlogging, or journaling about the experience as they go. Use this free project springboard or design your own.
I’ve had great success with letting kids write a final graduation speech based on our texts, with the theme that reading informs life in important ways. It’s such an important topic for kids to reflect on, so they grow a deeper understanding of why books matter. They’re not just for class, they’re for living a better life. You could either point kids toward a main idea, like building empathy, understanding other cultures and experiences, getting closer to history, etc. or let them come up with their own big ideas. Then they write their speech, using texts from the year to support that big idea. You can find my version of this exam on TPT.
Celebrating the Year + Meaningful Goodbyes
A Digital Gift
One nice way to end the year is to share something meaningful that your students can take forward with them to encourage their love of English. Crafting a “To be Read” list for each of your classes, with books you think they’ll like, would be a lovely way to say goodbye. You can print lists to fill in individually for a few graduating seniors who know really well, and send digital lists out to your class. I made these for you!
If you would like the printable PDF and editable Google drive versions of this fun TBR List end-of-year gift, just sign up below for my Friday emails. Your free download will arrive in your files folder as soon as you confirm your address so I know where to send it. (And if you’re already on my email list, you’ll get it in your Friday email!).
Digital Bulletin Board Gallery
A fun way to celebrate the year would be to create a digital bulletin board gallery of great work from throughout the year. That may be shown by screenshots or photographs, posted to these free digital bulletin boards I designed for you. Then you can celebrate on the last day with your students, meeting first on video and then sending them all to look at the amazing work they’ve done. You can also link these out to parents.
Send Postcards or Letters
Maybe a lot of your class has stopped showing up for virtual meetings, for so many reasons. This might be a nice time to send out postcards or letters to say goodbye and wish them the best. Print these free postcard designs on card stock and be ready to go.
One way to close with a little surge of hope and positivity would be to create vision boards of the future with your students on the last day. Let them create a digital or physical collage of ideas, words, and images that represent who and how and where they want to be in the coming year(s). Maybe let everyone show them on video at the very end or grab a photo to drop into a shared Google slide show. I’ve got a post-pandemic vision board project here or you could design your own.
Cleaning out your Classroom
On this one, I’m going to defer to my friend Angela Watson, because she’s already created a pretty great resource for you. She just put up some ideas for closing the year too, and you can also sign up for her Close-Out Checklist and 5 Step System for Cleaning out your Room. I already did, and I thought it was really helpful and thoughtfully put together to help you get in and out really quickly. Angela is a pro at streamlining systems for teachers – she has put all her effort for many years into making things more doable for teachers. And while we’re on the subject, she’s just opened up sixty scholarships for her 40 Hour Teacher Workweek club, and you just might want to apply!
OK, that’s a wrap. I hope you’ve found some ideas here that are helpful. What’s one thing you want to try as the year finishes out, from this list or the very long To-Do list I know is currently in your head? I’d love to hear in the comments!