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11 Engaging End-of-Year Activities for Middle School ELA

    11 engaging end of year activities for middle school ela

    Counting down the days until the end of the year like your students? We’ve all been there. But it might be a sign that it’s time to rethink your approach to end-of-year activities. Consider these 11 activities to stay sane and keep students engaged through the last day of the school year.

    It’s that time of year again…

    These final weeks are often filled with high energy and sunny days—a dangerous duo that can turn any classroom upside down. Students are starting to get restless with the anticipation of summer. And, hey, teachers feel it too. However, we also face the challenge of keeping students engaged and focused until that final bell rings.

    The good news? Those final weeks don’t have to be so painful or chaotic. If you’re looking for simple yet meaningful activities to fill up those last couple of days, I got you. Instead of ending the year fighting to hold students’ attention, you can focus on enjoying your last days together and celebrating all they learned throughout the year.

    Read on to learn 11 end-of-year activities that will help you keep students engaged while maintaining a positive and productive learning environment.

    Engaging Activities for End-of-Year Reflections

    Reflection is an important part of the learning process, and it happens to be one of my favorite ways to close out the year. End-of-year reflections encourage students to close out the year on a positive note, highlighting the progress they’ve made over the year. It doesn’t hurt that they hardly require any planning, either. It’s a win-win.

    Here are a few of my favorite activities to prompt end-of-year reflections:

    1. Literary Yearbook

    This activity puts an ELA spin on the traditional yearbook. As a class, create a literary yearbook that showcases students’ favorite books, characters, and memorable quotes from the year. Encourage students to include personal reflections on how these examples have impacted them. Students can design digital pages to create a virtual yearbook. Alternatively, take a more traditional route by having them create physical collages with images, text, and illustrations. It’s always fun to see what stood out to different students as you look back on the completed project.

    2. Highlight Reel

    What do students love more than being plugged in 24/7? Nothing. Play into their tech obsession by having them create an “Instagram” feed of their highlights from the year. Provide each student with a simple Instagram post printout. Then, let them design a post to reveal their favorite memorable moment, field trip, lesson, quote, novel, or character from class. Remind them to write a reflective caption and a fitting hashtag or two to complete the post. Hang all of the “posts” on the wall to put your classroom highlight reel on full display!

    3. Author’s Chair

    Why should you be the only one who gets to enjoy student writing? End the year by celebrating students’ writing by hosting an Author’s Chair session. Invite students to share an excerpt from their favorite pieces of writing with one another. Encourage them to select a piece they are particularly proud of or one that demonstrates their growth as a writer. Each student can read their chosen passage aloud, followed by a brief reflection on their writing process and why they are particularly proud of this piece. Give peers a moment to compliment one another’s work before moving on to the next author. This activity gives students an opportunity to celebrate their writing achievements, as well as the achievements of their peers.

    4. Letter to My Past Self

    While writing a letter to one’s future self is a popular end-of-year activity, I recommend encouraging them to look back and celebrate how far they’ve come. In this activity, students have an opportunity to reflect on their growth, experiences, and lessons learned throughout the school year. It provides a unique opportunity for students to practice self-reflection, celebrate their achievements, and offer advice to their younger selves. They can write about the books they’ve read, the writing assignments they’ve tackled, the obstacles they’ve overcome, and the skills they’ve developed.

    It may be useful to provide guiding questions or prompts to help students get started:

    • What are the most memorable lessons or activities that impacted you this year?
    • What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
    • What achievements are you most proud of from this year?
    • What advice would you offer to your past self to navigate this school year successfully?

    Literature-Focused End-of-Year Activities

    Another way to engage students until the end of the year is to incorporate literature-inspired projects and activities. These activities help celebrate the books students have read while also providing opportunities for creativity and critical thinking. Whether your students have spent the year reading novels or short stories, as a class or independently, you can find fun and engaging activities to help highlight their literary achievements.

    Here are a few of my favorite literature-focused end-of-year activities:

    5. Single-Sentence Text Summaries

    Single-sentence text summaries are a quick and engaging way to recap the texts students have read over the course of the year. Start by working as a class to make a list of all the texts you read in class over the year. Include everything from novels to short stories. Then, have each student write a single-sentence summary for one of the titles from the list. Have students take turns sharing their summaries with the class, letting their peers guess which title they are summarizing. Repeat this process for a few rounds until all titles have been summarized at least once. Worried about students summarizing the same text? That’s actually part of the fun. It’s a great opportunity to pause and discuss the differences and similarities between summaries for the same text.

    6. Literature Review Playlist  

    The Literature Review Playlist activity combines literature and music to create an engaging way for students to reflect on the books they have read over the year. Have students select 10 pieces of literature, including novels, short stories, and poems, they read this year. Then, have them create a playlist where each song represents a different text they have read. Students should select songs that they feel connect to the plot, theme, characters, conflicts, or overall mood of each book. For a more robust version of this activity, require students to provide explanations or short descriptions for each song, highlighting the specific elements of the text it represents. This activity can work for both assigned texts and independent reading. Either way, this activity is always a hit (pun fully intended).

    7. Student-led Book Tasting

    A student-led “Book Tasting” is an engaging and interactive way for students to share their favorite independent reading books from the year with their peers. On the day of the tasting, have each student bring in their chosen book to share with their peers. However, instead of presenting their book, students will be encouraged to walk around the room, “tasting” different books by looking at the cover, reading the back synopsis, and skimming through the first several pages or chapters. As students “taste” the different books, encourage them to jot down the titles that piqued their interest. This activity allows students to discover new books and expand their reading horizons right in time for summer reading. How perfect!

    If you’ve never hosted a book tasting in your classroom, I recommend starting with this post.

    End-of-Year Activities for Vocabulary Review

    If you take the time to teach vocabulary throughout the year, it’s worth taking the time to review it at the end of the year, too. Whether you incorporate vocab review ahead of a final exam or as a fun activity in the final days before summer, these activities will ensure your vocabulary review is anything but dull and monotonous.

    Engage your students with one of these interactive end-of-year vocabulary review activities:

    8.  Vocab Relay Race

    Who doesn’t love a little healthy competition? For this relay-style activity, start by creating stations around the classroom with vocabulary-related activities. Activities can include word definitions, visual representations, synonyms, antonyms, fill-in-the-blanks, or use of words in sentences. When you’re ready to begin, divide the class into teams of 2-3 students. Each team must complete the activity at one station before moving on to the next. However, they must get your stamp of approval on their answer before officially moving on. The first team to complete all stations wins!

    9. Vocab Charades

    Charades is a classic favorite—and a great way to review vocabulary at the end of the year. The best part? It’s fun, engaging, and effective without much planning. Simply write vocabulary words on index cards and have students take turns acting out the word without speaking while their classmates guess. Depending on the group and the volume of words, feel free to let students use their notes during the game. Note or no notes, this activity promotes collaboration and critical thinking. If you plan on using vocab charades as a way to review vocabulary from the entire year, I recommend giving students 5-10 minutes to review the terms before starting to play. Trust me, this will help you avoid a lot of blank stares.

    10. Vocab Bingo

    Vocab Bingo is a fun and engaging game that helps students review and reinforce their knowledge of vocabulary words from the year. Start by choosing your set of vocabulary words. Then, create bingo cards with vocabulary words instead of the traditional number setup. Just be sure to mix up the words on each card. Call out definitions while students mark the corresponding word on their cards. You can also include synonyms, antonyms, or examples to mix it up. Keep going until a student gets BINGO! After a few rounds, price it up by requiring special winning patterns, like four corners or a full blackout of all squares.

    Fun End-of-Year Activities for Middle School ELA

    Last but not least… (because who doesn’t love to be recognized for their strengths?)

    11. End of Year Award Ceremony

    The end of the year is the perfect time to recognize your students for all their hard work! I mean, grades are great and all, but they are only one way to reward students for a job well done. Besides, there are so many things standard grades don’t capture. For example, grades don’t always do justice to how students treat one another or how they add to the overall classroom culture. Consider including awards that recognize students for things like collaboration, kindness, and creativity, too. Whatever specific awards you choose to include, hosting an awards ceremony will ensure you end the year on a positive note.

    Trust me. I know how exhausting the end of the year can be. However, as the school year winds down, I encourage you to incorporate engaging end-of-year activities where possible. These types of activities can tap into students’ creativity while providing opportunities for critical thinking, collaboration, and self-reflection—-and help make those last weeks of school more enjoyable for everyone.

    So, don’t be afraid to let your creativity shine as you plan exciting end-of-year activities—or simply steal some of the fun ideas above.

    If you have any other engaging end-of-year activities to add to the list, please share them in a comment below. Here’s to making the most of those final weeks!

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