Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


301: The Easiest Last Day in ELA
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Creative Exam Review Activities for ELA

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With exam season coming up, you’re probably looking for some creative ELA review activities.

Whether your school requires that students sit a traditional exam, or you have room for something like the graduation speech final or another type of final project, it’s helpful to look back over the big concepts, themes, and texts you’ve covered as the year draws to a close.

So what options do you have besides printing out a 20 page review packet and giving students time to study it? A lot, as it turns out. Today we’re going to explore five of them, in hopes that you’ll find a match that feels just right to you.

Before we get started, I want you to know that I’ll be running Camp Creative, The Easiest Roadmap to Student Podcasting, in June. Inside this (free) and fun PD, you’ll get access to the best models, easiest tech, and complete curriculum to get you and your students started with podcast projects. Everything arrives by email, so even if you’re busy the week of June 10-14, you can catch up whenever you get a chance. It just takes 10 minutes a day to go through the materials! You can sign up here.

You can listen in to this episode below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.


Use Dual Coding to Review with Sketchnotes or One-Pagers

If you’ve hung out with me for long, you probably already know how framing ideas into sketchnotes helps students apply their critical thinking to information and use both sides of their brain to process it and make it more memorable. Dual coding for the win!

Challenging students to look back over the term or year and create their own sketchnotes version of the MOST important thing they’ve learned, focusing especially on where they feel their memory is weakest, is a great way to review. Plus, it sets you up for an amazing review gallery walk!

For a fun twist, you might invite them to use large sheets of paper so they can really spread out with their ideas. Check out the huge sketchnote I made of the book, In Search of Deeper Learning, for a visual of a large-scale sketchnote.

sketchnotes example

For a similar option with a little more structure, you could challenge students to create a review one-pager, condensing their top takeaways into a single piece of paper.

Snag a variety of one-pager templates from my free set on TPT (here) and then create a list of components you’d suggest your students add to their review one-pager.

Go Classic with a Review Game

Next, let’s talk about low-key gamification. Who doesn’t love a good review game (especially involving prizes)?

Try going classic with your own riff on Jeopardy using this fun template. Add your own categories, then fill your questions into the slides already linked to each point total.

Want a whole week of games? Try Kahoot, Pictionary, or Trashketball, or let your students create their own review games.

ELA review game template

Let Students Review in their own Way with a Choice Board

Everyone benefits differently from different types of review strategies.

Some kids love to make it social by quizzing each other, some thrive on flashcards, some love sketchnotes, others want to re-read everything and talk it through.

One great option for review is to present some of these options and then give students choice over what works best for them.

ELA review choice board

This Choice Board is from the Spring Seasonal Activities inside The Lighthouse

Review with Hexagonal Thinking

What ISN’T hexagonal thinking good for? I haven’t figured that one out yet, but it’s definitely a colorful take on review.

Put terms, themes, and characters from your entire term or year onto your hexagons and get students groups talking about how it all connects. Encourage them to go back through their notes and materials as they argue for the connections they think are strongest, and they’ll be reviewing naturally in the course of conversation. Grab the free digital toolkit to get you started here.

Try Sesame Street Questions for a Quick Review at the Start of Class

You know I’m a big fan of attendance questions to start class, but May could be a great time to change it up with Sesame Street Questions as a way to quickly build creative ELA review into each class in small doses.

I first learned about this idea from the brilliant Amanda Cardenas of Mud and Ink Teaching, when she came on the show to talk about how to cope when students aren’t doing the reading.

Here’s a quick review: A Sesame Street Quiz gives students four items.

Three are connected and one is an outlier. In the example Amanda shared, if you’re reading Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby, you might give students the options: Daisy, Jordan, floating, red. Then you ask – which three are connected and why? Which one is the outlier and why? Amanda lets kids use their book and notes as they respond.

Now, how could you apply this to exam review? Well, as you lead up to the end of the year, start class by choosing four terms that get kids thinking back across your content. Maybe you choose characters from four different works and challenge them to choose the three that connect. Maybe you choose poets’ names, short story titles, or even different types of literary terms or aspects of historical context for a period you studied.

Frame it as a bellringer rather than a quiz, and take time to either do a partner, small group, or whole class share afterwards so kids have a chance to dig deeper into the connections and content.


You don’t have to try to cram all these ELA review activities into your final weeks.

Just choose what feels right for you!

Maybe you try a few Sesame Street question bellringers, a hexagonal thinking day, and a choice board. Or maybe you devote a week of full focus to a choice board or a review one-pager and grade the completed work. Whatever works for you!

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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