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10 Engaging End-of-Year Reflection Ideas for Secondary ELA

    end of year reflection activities

    Don’t pack up just yet—learn why you should be planning an end of year reflection activity. Better yet, steal any of my 10 reflective activities that will keep students engaged in a meaningful way until that final bell rings!

    As the school year winds down, we teachers always seem to have a mixed bag of emotions. On the one hand, we’re excited for summer and dreaming of a break from all the planning and never-ending to-do lists. On the other hand, we’re tired, likely staring down that pile of ungraded final essays, and wondering how best to wrap up the school year.

    Hey, you might even be wondering, “Is there a way to end the school year that feels light while still engaging students in a meaningful way?” (We’ve all been there.)

    Luckily, the answer is yes—there is.

    So, before you start packing away the classroom and planning your summer getaway, there’s one more thing to do: give your students a chance to reflect on the past year.

    Why is End-of-the-Year Reflection Important?

    Reflecting at the end of the school year creates space for students to process their learning experiences, celebrate their personal achievements, and foster a growth mindset. Instead of settling for allowing students to go through the motions, end-of-year reflection activities inspire them to revisit their experience, think about what they’ve learned, and connect with the material on a new level.

    Whether they’re reflecting on obstacles and achievements or building new connections between content, reflection opportunities provide a sense of closure to the school year while engaging students in higher-order thinking skills. Oh–and they give teachers an opportunity to gain valuable insights and feedback that can help you better serve your next classroom full of learners in the fall. Wins all around!

    Before you start stressing about planning one more lesson, read on for my favorite (and fairly easy) end-of-the-year reflection activities that will keep students engaged until school is *officially* out for the summer.

    Engaging End-of-the-Year Reflection Ideas

    1. Reflective Free Write

    Before you think you have to plan an extensive reflection activity, think again. Sometimes, the simplest activities are the most powerful. For this reflective writing activity, all students need is a piece of paper and something to write with! All you need to prepare is a few questions (or simply steal the ones at the end of this post).

    Reflective free writing gives students the space to express their thoughts and feelings about the school year. Provide a list of prompts to help inspire those who might be stuck, such as “What was the most memorable moment of this year?” or “How have you grown as a reader and writer?”

    2. Six-Word Memoir

    For this fun (and surprisingly challenging) writing activity, ask students to sum up their school year in just six words. Yup–six words. This activity encourages students to take time to reflect upon their experiences and personal growth over the year while thinking deeply and intentionally about their word choice.

    Here’s how it works: Give students time to think about their experiences over the past year, encouraging them to jot down memorable moments, lessons learned, challenges faced, and instances of personal growth. From there, encourage them to experiment with different word combinations and to focus on capturing the essence of their year. Remind them to keep it simple yet meaningful. Every word should count.

    If your students aren’t sure where to start, provide a few reflective prompts to guide their thinking.

    Learn more about six-word memoirs here.

    3. Portfolio Reflection

    A portfolio is a great way to help students see (and reflect upon) their experience and growth as writers over the year. Ask students to review their work from the year, including narrative writing, academic and argumentative essays, poetry, and creative writing. Provide students with guidelines for selecting their work, such as finding a piece that represents certain categories (most creative writing, most improved piece, most proud of, most convincing, etc.) or simply ask them to choose a range of work that they feel showcases their growth as a writer over the year.

    Then, have them type up a one-page reflection on their growth as writers this year. They can highlight their favorite pieces, discuss challenges they overcame, and set goals for the future. This activity serves as a self-assessment while giving students a tangible record of their achievements.

    P.S. I find this works best when your students use word processors and cloud storage applications, like Google Drive, so they can easily access their work from the year. Otherwise, this could cause a lot of headaches.

    4. 5-Star Review Reflection

    Looking for another simple activity that helps students reflect on their reading choices throughout the year and gives you ideas for titles to add to your classroom library? Have students write book reviews! Start by asking students to write a list of all the books they read over the year. Then, have them select their favorites to highlight with a review. Provide students with a fun template where they can rate the book, write a short reflective review, and provide an accompanying illustration.

    You can ask students to write honest reviews on required reading materials to provide you with valuable insight or open it up to include independent reading books as well. Either way, encourage students to think beyond whether they “liked” the book or not. Instead, challenge them to consider how the book impacted them, what they learned from it, and how it connects to their personal experiences or broader themes studied in class.

    5. Letter to Yourself 

    As students think about the challenges, accomplishments, and lessons learned over the past year, invite them to capture their ideas in a reflective letter to their future or former selves. Ask students to write a letter to their younger selves, offering advice, encouragement, and reflections on what they’ve learned over the years. This introspective activity helps students recognize their growth and think about how they’ve changed over the years.

    Alternatively, have students write a letter to their future selves. Encourage them to think about how the past year has influenced their goals and aspirations for the future, providing words of wisdom and inspiration to give them toward their desires. Additionally, students can think about lessons they’ve learned and skills they’ve gained, writing about how these can help them achieve future success. This activity encourages forward-thinking and helps students think about how what they are learning now can translate into the future.

    6. Last Day Learning Stations

    I love learning stations for any time of the year. However, just as they are the perfect back-to-school activity, learning stations are a fun and engaging way to get students to think back on the year in those final days before summer break. While you may have heard of review stations for the end of a unit, these learning stations should all be centered around encouraging students to think back and reflect upon the past school year.

    Set up different stations around the classroom, each with a different reflective activity. Stations could include a free writing area, a drawing station, a letter-writing corner, a feedback survey, or a collaborative class collage—just to name a few. To be honest, you could probably turn any of the activities in this post into a last-day learning station! 

    This variety keeps students engaged as they move about the room. It also gives students a sense of autonomy and added meaning by allowing them to choose the reflection method that resonates most with them.

    More Creative End-of-the-Year Reflection Activities

    7. One-Pagers

    An end of the year one-pager project offers students a creative and engaging way to reflect on their favorite memories from the school year. These single page reflections combine words, quotes, written thoughts, symbols, and images to represent their “year in review.” It can also be a great place for them to highlight their future goals for the summer and next school year.

    You can ask students to incorporate specific reflections on or connections to pieces of literature, themes, authors, or characters studied during the year. Alternatively, you can let them run free, combining their artistic expression with reflective thinking.

    8. Year in Review Playlist

    Looking for a fun and creative way for students to think back on the literature, characters, and themes they explored throughout the year? Challenge students to create a playlist where each song represents a different piece of literature or theme covered during the year. For each song, they should write a short paragraph explaining how it connects to the work while reflecting on the broader messages and key takeaways from the literature.

    By combining music with reflective literary analysis, students might just forget they are doing schoolwork at all! Talk about a fun and relatable way for students to reflect on their reading from the year!

    9. Best Book Debate

    What students don’t love to argue? Keep that momentum going through the very last day by challenging students to a Best Book Debate Off. Start by reviewing the books you read as a class over the year. Then, have each student write a short argument for which was their favorite book. After sharing their arguments, hold a class vote to determine the “Best Book of the Year.”

    This activity combines persuasive writing, public speaking, and a celebration of all the literature students read over the course of the year.  As a bonus, you can lead with “students deemed this the BEST…” to generate buy-in when you teach the book the following year.

    10. Letter of Gratitude to a Character

    This just might be one of my favorite reflective activities as it requires students to think critically about their lives and the literature they read this year. Have students choose a character from a book they read during the year and write a letter of gratitude to them. They can explain how the character’s journey or qualities inspired them or impacted their own life. Additionally, they can explore the ways in which they resonated with the character or how they gained a new perspective. In mean, the options for reflection and connection here are endless!

    Feel free to narrow this activity down to characters from assigned books or to broaden the assignment to include characters from independent reading books. Either way, this activity helps students reflect on their own experiences while building deeper connections with literature.

    Questions to Inspire End-of-the-Year Reflections

    If you’re running out of time or looking for a simple activity that requires little to no planning, having students respond to reflective prompts is always a safe go-to. Asking the right questions can guide students toward meaningful reflection and discussion.

    Here are some questions to inspire their thoughts:

    • What surprised you the most about yourself this school year?
    • What surprised you most about what we learned this school year?
    • What is one thing you discovered about yourself this school year?
    • Which assignments helped you learn the best this year?
    • What assignments did you enjoy the most? The least? Explain.
    • What is one thing you learned about yourself this year?
    • Which character or story did you resonate most with this year? Why?
    • If you could relive one moment this school year or get one redo, what would it be and why? What would you do the same? What would you do differently?

    These questions encourage students to think deeply about their experiences while giving them enough context to get their brains churning and inspire their reflection. Besides, providing a little guidance and inspiration is always a good idea to help you dodge the classic “I don’t know what to write” excuse.  I recommend providing students with a couple of prompts to choose from, allowing them to reflect in a way that feels most meaningful to them.

    Looking for Engaging Activities for the Start of the School Year, Too?

    First of all, if you’re already thinking ahead to next year, kudos.

    Second of all, I’ve got you!

    Check out the following resources to help you stay ahead of the game and ensure an engaging start to the next year:

    Whether your mind is busy planning your first summer escape or thinking ahead to next year, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You made it (or almost made it) through another year!

    And that’s worth a quick pause to celebrate.

    For more ways to wrap up the year, check out these 11 end-of-year activities and student award ideas.

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