16 Easy, Low-Key Activities for End-of-the-Year ELA that Aren’t Movies
May 23, 2019
— end of year, june, may, teaching reading, teaching writing
The end of the year is upon us, and it can be a slow, slow crawl to the finish line. Grades are due and kids are checked out and admin has sent out yet another ‘friendly reminder’ about keeping kids learning until the last day. Fortunately, there are plenty of engaging, low-key, low-prep activities to do with your ELA students in the last days of the school year. Not only will they keep your kids productive, you’ll even get a head start for next year! Great, right?
You can do some of these activities as stations, create a hyperdoc for students to move at their own pace, or just have the whole class work through one at a time.
1. Tech Transfer
Take some time to have students transfer files that they may wish to keep from the school year to a personal email with cloud storage, such as Gmail. This is especially important if your students are in 8th or 12th grade, or if they won’t be returning the following school year. If you use EduBlogs, you can follow their handy directions to transfer ownership of your class’ blogs to students or their parents, and some other platforms you use might offer similar transfer options.
2. Book Reviews
Hopefully, by this point in the year each of your students has read at least one book. Hopefully. Turn that reading experience into motivation for next year’s readers by asking each of your students to review their favorite book of the year. You can use bookmark book reviews and have students leave them sticking out of the reviewed book, or do half-sheet or quarter-sheet reviews an use them to create a bulletin board display for next year. Here are some ready-to-go templates!
3. Author Advice
In a similar vain to book reviews, create a ready-to-go bulletin board display for next year by having your students fill out an index card or one of the templates below with their best piece of writing advice. Remind your students that they’ve learned a lot this year, and this is a chance for them to share some of the ideas that were most helpful to them with future students. Get a ready-to-go kit over at my co-store, Two Bs in a Pod! (And, check out our end-of-the-year writing activity bundle!)
4. Portfolio & Reflection
Have students put together a writing portfolio or general ELA portfolio with their top three or four pieces of work from the whole school year. Then, use Flipgrid or video recording software to have students reflect on why each of these pieces represent their best work, or why they are most proud of these pieces. Encourage students to consider picking pieces that show their growth over time. Students can put together their portfolios digitally using Google Slides, Google Sites, EduBlogs, or any presentation or website software. Ask students to share their portfolios with parents or family members at home! This activity is great because students can put as much or as little work as they want into their portfolios and reflections depending on the time available and your expectations. Below are tons of great options listed with grade level, price, and paper or digital format (as of this post).
5. Author Share
Don’t have the time (or energy!) for students to put together a whole portfolio? Ask students to pick their very best piece of writing from the year (or an excerpt, if it’s a long piece), and do an author share celebration. Each student shares their piece orally with the class (or in small groups), and you could bring in some cheap cookies and juice pouches to make it feel like a real party. Between students selecting, polishing, and rehearsing pieces before they present, this could easily take you 2-3 class periods.
6. Year in Review
Doing some year-in-review activities can be a great way to get students reflecting on all the positive and interesting things that happened during the school year. Here are some ready-to-go templates for one-page reflections and memory books.
7. Summer Bucket List
Have students make a summer bucket list of all the things they want to do over the break. They can create their lists either digitally (consider Canva or another graphic design software) or paper-pencil. Either way, encourage students to get creative and use color! You can get 3 free summer bucket list templates included with Two Bs’ end-of-the-year writing activity bundle (link below)! Here’s some inspiration and some additional templates.
8. End-of-the-Year Survey
Give your students an anonymous end-of-the-year survey about their experience in your class. It can be nerve-wrackingly vulnerable to open yourself up to this sort of feedback from students, but as teachers we know that feedback is essential to improvement for us as well as our students. Here is a copy of my end-of-year Google Forms survey to get feedback from my 8th-graders about their ELA experience, and some other pre-made surveys for elementary, middle, and high school.
9. Thank-You Cards
Have students spend some time writing thank you cards to teachers, staff, and parents who have had a positive impact on them this school year. It may be useful to do a quick mini-lesson with a mentor text or two on how to write a great thank-you card, which is an important life skill students of any age can take with them when they leave your class. After the mini-lesson, set out some construction paper or cardstock, markers and coloring utensils, any other crafty materials you’re itching to get rid of at the end of the year, and set students loose. Here are links to some ideas and mentor texts for an easy lesson, as well as some printable thank-you cards if your students aren’t feeling particularly artsy.
10. Buddy Reading
Find some picture books (you can check a bunch out from your local library for a few days!), poetry books, or high-interest non-fiction expository texts such as fact or world record books. Have students find a partner and a comfy place to sit and enjoy some buddy reading. Students can take turns reading aloud to each other and discussing the text. You might think older secondary students would find this a bit childish, but it’s so rare that they get the opportunity to enjoy picture books or read with a friend. Pick some high-interest titles (suggestions below!) and your kids will have a blast. For added fun, encourage students to try doing character voices as they read!
- 10 Picture Books for High School Students
- Top 10 Picture Books for Secondary Students
- 100 Picture Books for Middle School Students
- Popular Picture Books for Middle School Goodreads Shelf
- 20 Must-Read Picture Books of 2018
- Wordless Picture Books
11. Summer Reading Lists
Speaking of books, have your students make some summer reading lists! Students over 13 can use Goodreads to create a Want-to-Read list of interesting books they might like to enjoy over the summer, or you can have students use any of the neat reading list templates below to record titles of interest. Where will they find these possible beach reads, you ask? Have students chat as they work and recommend books to each other, but give your students access to some lists of great books for their age group by perusing some book blogs. Below are links to book blog posts about great summer reads for every age group! Bonus points- spend a few minutes making sure students know how to access and use their local library, including how to sign up for a library card.
- Summer Reading Booklists for Ages 0-12 from Reading Rockets
- Tons of great reads for reluctant readers of all ages from Understood.Org
- 100 Must-Read Middle Grades Books for the Summer from Book Riot
- The American Library Association’s 2019 summer reading book lists for students from birth through 8th grade
- The Ultimate Summer YA Reading List from ReadBrightly
- 2018 YA Summer Books for the Beach from Refinery29
- 40 YA Books You Need on Your Summer Reading List from Barnes & Noble
12. Listening Station
Because sometimes, we just need a break from hearing our students talk, consider giving a listening station a try. This works best as a center rotation and definitely isn’t something I’d recommend trying for a whole class period, but if you pick some shorter, high-interest listening materials and include a short graphic organizer or doodle activity, students can learn that podcasts and videos can be fun and engaging! Below are listening options for every grade level and sheets for students to doodle or color as they listen.
13. Six-Word Stories, Memoirs, Summaries
Have your students play around with flash-fiction and write some six-word pieces. Students who are over 13 and okay to view potentially YA material can publish six-word memoirs at SixWordMemoirs.com, or you can create a gallery walk of students’ work. You can have students give six-word stories a try as well; I like to prompt students by giving them a genre to write in (fantasy) or a word they have to include (balloon). You can also have students do six-word summaries of popular books or movies; students love to write these and then have peers guess what the book or movie is. No matter which option you choose, flash pieces are a great way to get students thinking about (and having fun with) word choice and tone. You’ll want to make sure students have access to a thesaurus, and my best piece of writing advice is to write long and then revise short, and remember the power of punctuation. Students who finish early can illustrate their pieces and rewrite their work in larger letters with their best handwriting.
14. Virtual Magnetic Poetry or Picture Books with Beautiful Artwork
Have your students create some virtual magnetic poetry on Storybird! With thousands of gorgeous pieces of artwork to serve as inspiration, Storybird is accessible for every student from about second grade onward. If your students have not used Storybird before, you will want to build in an extra 10-15 minutes for them to explore and get familiar with the site, but it is not a hard one to pick up. Choose the “Poetry” option to create magnetic poetry. You can also have students turn their short fiction into picture books using the “Picture Books” option. There are also various writing challenges your students can participate in. If your students are burnt out on writing, they can read other students’ work both in the class and the larger community. Storybird is super school-friendly and protects students’ privacy, only publishing work with first names.
15. Bring Your Own Book Game
This game is super fun and I never get tired of playing with students. Bring Your Own Book is a free print-and-play game that requires players to, as the title says, bring a book to play with. Best described as Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity for readers, the way it works is students in small groups take turns being the judge and reading a prompt to the rest of the group such as “The title of a murder mystery novel” or “Famous last words,” and the rest of the group has two minutes (or less, or as much time as they want- your choice!) to find a line in their book that fits the prompt. When time is up, readers share the lines they found, and the judge awards the best or funniest answer the winner. You can keep score or just play for fun- it’s engaging enough that students are fine either way. The game is best for 6th-12th grade students, and you’ll want to give a friendly reminder beforehand about school-appropriate responses. You do need to provide an email to access the printable game and instructions, but you’ll get access to four additional game sets that are a little more nerdy in nature if you have students who might appreciate that sort of thing! You can easily take up most of a class period with this game!
16. Kahoot, Gimkit, or Quizlet Live!
Finally, review some ELA terms (and maybe even some fun trivia) with Kahoot, Gimkit, or Quizlet Live. There are tons of pre-made questions or study sets- all you have to do is sign up for a free teacher account and search for the topic you want. All three are free for teachers and students, and if you have a candy or prize box you’re trying to get rid of before the last day, this will definitely help! Some possible suggestions to search for include Disney movies/ characters, general trivia, summer trivia, sports, clean popular music (Kahoot will have music quizzes with actual video), American history trivia, etc. You can also look for more academic topics such as figurative language reviews, vocabulary quizzes, parts of speech or other grammar topics, quizzes on specific novels your class has read this year, etc. Plenty of options to choose from, easy to set up and run!
Happy almost-summer! Hang in there, everyone!