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As the school year winds down, it can be tough to keep engagement high in your classroom. With summer just around the corner, I know my students are ready for a break (and to be honest, so am I!).
In those last few weeks of school, I find that competition-based activities and ELA games are great ways to keep engagement high and still “sneak” a bit of curriculum in, too.
Here are five of my favorite types of ELA games to play at the end of the year…
My students love escape rooms for many reasons, and so do I! In addition to incorporating elements from your unit of study, or review from the year, I also like that escape rooms encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I find that they really help to foster a sense of community in my middle school ELA classroom.
If you’ve never done an escape room before, think of a series of puzzles that your students need to solve, applying elements from their learning. Working in groups, your class solves the puzzles to “unlock” a code that lets them “out.” The puzzles can relate to specific texts or skills, or you might like to use them as a team-building tool! You can even incorporate movement by setting your classroom up as a series of stations!
At the end of the year, one of my favorite escape rooms is The Classroom Floor is Lava! In this activity, your students imagine that they are “trapped” at school, which is filling up with mysterious lava! Their only way out is through a password-protected elevator, and only their teacher has the key. They must solve a series of ELA-related puzzles related to spelling, capitalization, homophones, pictographs, and more in order to escape.
NOTE: I love adding the extra fun element of not allowing students to touch the floor during the activity! You can decide if this works for you in your space. Of course, you’ll want to make this a relatively easy task by adding “safe spots” for them to walk on to get to the next station. Please keep in mind that this may only be a good choice if you can be inclusive to all physical needs within your classroom.
At this time of year, I like to review content from the entire school year to help my students prepare for final assessments, projects, or exams. As a game show fan, there are a lot of different popular TV game show styles that work really well for this type of review. One of my favorite ELA games is a Jeopardy!-style game where I provide my students with a series of “answers.” Their task is to identify the “question” that goes with those answers.
Another review game my students love is inspired by Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Students can move through a series of multiple-choice-style questions that get progressively harder. I even offer them “lifelines” – they can “phone a friend” or “ask the audience” for some extra help.
You can even add prizes to raise the stakes. I like to keep a basket of dollar store prizes (fun pencils, erasers, mini pencil sharpeners, and even plastic dinosaurs) stashed in my desk for a game day!
As the year comes to a close, I love to incorporate tasks that encourage students to work towards a common goal. Reading mysteries, like ELA games, are a great way to practice a number of essential literacy skills, including close reading, critical thinking, inferencing, and justifying thinking with text-based evidence and examples.
One of my best-loved reading mysteries (which is available for free!) is the Mystery of the Missing Garden Gnome. Working in groups, students read the story of poor Mrs. Henry, whose beloved garden gnome, Gerome, is missing! As they pore through a variety of different clues, including emails, newspaper articles, and travel documents, they will develop a theory about who stole the gnome!
If you also teach social studies or your students are interested in history, you can also check out the Buried Ship Mystery, which incorporates skills of critical and historical thinking! In this activity, based on true events, students work collaboratively to create theories about why a buried ship was discovered beneath buildings in downtown San Francisco.
Have you ever been to a trivia night? I love them, and with a little creativity, they are pretty easy to replicate in a classroom! “Trivia Night” is one of my favorite ELA games because my students have to work together to find the answers. I prepare the questions ahead of time and usually act as the host myself. If you have a very dynamic special guest – like the principal or drama teacher – they could also do the honors!
What I love about a trivia task is how versatile it can be. Sometimes, I like to do a trivia activity as a one-off at the end of a short story or novel study to check for understanding. Other times, I stretch it out over a week or so at the end of the year to support my students as they review for exams. I usually choose a different unit or topic to focus on each day, but keep the teams the same.
To make your trivia event seem even more special, you could color code your teams. You can decorate your classrooms with plastic tablecloths or table numbers from the dollar store. If I can track down a toy microphone, I like to use it for my hosting duties. The sillier or more colorful, the better!
Leading up to the last days before summer break, I find board games are a great way to keep engagement high in my middle school ELA classroom. I think ELA games are really effective review activities. I incorporate them in a couple of different ways in my space.
Sometimes, I put students in the role of game designer. Working alone or in a group, I like to get my class to create games for their classmates to play. If I’m using games as an end-of-year review, I might assign each group a different unit of study to cover.
Another option is to create games at the end of a novel study, short story unit, or figurative language review. Once the games are complete, I like to keep the momentum going by dedicating a period (or more!) to allow students to play each others’ games.
Alternatively, you might prefer a ready-to-use game you can share with your students to enhance their understanding of a text. For example, when I teach Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” I like to have my students play a “less dangerous game” once they finish reading the story. In groups of three, students move around the printable game board, answering questions related to comprehension, vocabulary, and text analysis.
There you have it! I hope these fun ELA games give you some momentum as you wind down (or up!) to the end of the school year!
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