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It’s been my experience that students start to check out far before the final bell rings. I remember having a student ask me one year, “I thought we were just going to be watching movies this week.” as I started a regular lesson on the Monday of the last week of school. With the end of the year approaching, I wanted to share what I do during the last week of school to make the most out of the remaining time with my students while also having fun! I hope that this will help you with your own planning. From taking time to reflect to preparing for the next year to come, these are my activities of choice to help you keep your middle school ELA students engaged during the last week of school.
I like to spend the first two days of the final week giving students the opportunity to reflect on both their personal and academic growth using two activities. I start the week off on Monday with an activity called Passport Stations that allows students to reflect on the content and skills that they learned in the course
For this activity, students are given a blank passport template. I tell them that, in order to complete the course, they must get the following 4 stamps on their personal passports:
In order to receive these stamps, students must “travel” around the classroom stations and complete all four of the corresponding activities. For example, the comic strip stamp is attained by completing a comic strip that demonstrates what they have learned this year in your course. Each station has a different activity that prompts students to demonstrate the ways in which they’ve grown from your class and consider what they will take from the course in the future. They only have until the end of the class to complete the activity, so students must allocate their time wisely to ensure they get all their stamps.
The reflection continues into Tuesday with students now reflecting more on the personal memories that they created throughout the year. I give students templates, so they can create an end-of-the-year memory booklet. This gives students the opportunity to capture their best moments, the personal connections that have impacted them, their favorite movies, music, books, etc., as well as reflect on how they have changed.
The conversations in class during this assignment are always so meaningful as they highlight the growth, connections, and memories that students made throughout the year. Sometimes students may need a bit more time to complete this, so I do ask them to complete it after class, and I make time on the last day of the week for students to share their reflections with their peers. This also isn’t something I grade and is meant more as a fun activity that provides a great keepsake to look back on in later years.
I start Wednesday’s class by having students consider what advice they would give to themselves if they could go back in the past to speak to themselves at the beginning of this course. I use this as a springboard to have them complete the first activity for the day: to write a letter to next year’s students.
The last week of middle school ELA presents a really unique opportunity to set up next year’s students for success. Take advantage of this opportunity by getting everyone in your class to write a letter to an imagined future student entering your class. Their goal should be to provide useful information that they wish they had known at the beginning of your course. In their letters, have them address questions like…
The process of writing these letters will not only benefit next year’s students, who will be one step ahead as a result, but they will also help your current students to engage in a meaningful process of self-reflection. On the first day of school, I always pass these letters out to the students to have them see what their peers have to say about being successful in the class. You can grab this free letter-writing activity by clicking here.
After students have completed the letter, it’s time to make room for you, the teacher, to also reflect on your own practice. As mentioned above, the last week of the school year is the perfect time to engage students in self-reflection that will help students develop from, and beyond, your class. However, what your students say can be just as useful to your own development as it is to theirs, especially if you ask the right questions. I get students to evaluate their own efforts in the course and then I get them to give me feedback on my instruction and the course material. For this, I provide two types of evaluation handouts:
The first evaluation prompts them to reflect on their personal development in your class. These are questions like…
By asking your students specific questions that prompt students to look back and reflect on their learning over the past year, you are helping them to absorb key takeaways about the class content as well as their overall performance. This will have long-term benefits for your students, including the way they approach the next school year.
The second evaluation is meant to help you, as the teacher, develop the way you teach the class itself. Here are a couple of examples:
When you ask your students to answer course evaluation questions, you’re likely to get a few (perhaps overly) harsh responses. However, you might be surprised to discover just how genuinely helpful some of their responses are—especially when they are being asked to think critically about themselves at the same time with the self-evaluation questions. You can use your students’ feedback this year to make adjustments for the following year.
I talk more about these 2 types of questions to ask students at the end of the year in another blog post. You can grab a FREE self and course evaluation by clicking here.
Thursday is all about collaboration! During the last week of middle school ELA, students tend to be lacking in motivation. What better way to rekindle their energy than with a little bit of hot lava? Collaborative activities like the classroom floor is lava are great at keeping students engaged at the end of the year by getting them up and moving around the classroom.
With the classroom floor is lava escape room activity, students imagine that the classroom is filling up with lava, and they must move around different stations in the room to solve puzzles and challenges to escape to the roof! If it works for your particular students, you can allow them not to touch the floor between the stations except for designated “lava free” spots.
I even like to incorporate ELA skills into the puzzles and challenges in my collaborative activities so that students are still developing these skills, even while they’re bonding and having some last-week-of-school fun with their classroom community! Another popular collaborative activity that teachers love using during the last week of school is my zombie teacher escape room where they must save their teacher who has been transformed into a zombie.
It’s time to celebrate! The last day is the perfect time to give recognition where it’s due and to celebrate just how far everyone has come. What better way to do this than by hosting an awards ceremony? Whether you do it Oscar style or choose to keep it simple, an award ceremony is a great way to make your students smile at the end of the year. You can even incorporate ELA-themed awards (i.e. alliteration awards, idiom awards, metaphor awards) to keep it on topic!
Here’s a list of the end-of-the-year awards that I like to use to celebrate student successes:
Another way that you can celebrate your middle school ELA students during the last week of the year is by giving each of them a personalized card. You might also give your students this free writing gift, or a bookmark with a quote on it from a novel you’ve read in class, like these ones for Wonder and Freak the Mighty (both also free!). A small gift goes a long way, and you don’t have to break the bank. It’s really the thought that counts here.
There you have it! I hope that the last week of school in your middle school ELA classrooms ends on a high note! You can grab ready-to-use resources mentioned in this post by clicking the images below!
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