How to Show Off Student Growth at the End of the Year

By the end of the year, we don’t JUST want to measure student growth with a state test, final exam, or a report card. In fact, a lot of people are looking around for qualitative or anecdotal feedback of what went down this school year:
  • Students sometimes need reminders of where they started in order to realize how they’ve changed (and that they have, in fact, learned something in your class).
  • Parents want feedback of where their children are. (In my case, our school has end-of-year parent conferences, so we definitely have to share growth!)
  • Administrators want to show off the good things that have happened in your school (and have as much evidence as possible to back it).

Everyone benefits when students can articulate how they have grown in your class. So how do you highlight the gifts you’ve given your classes this year and celebrate what students have accomplished?

1. The Top 10 List

I’m a list kind of person (obviously), and one of my all-time favorite activities was when I asked students to list AND RANK the top 10 things they learned from my class. Their responses were surprisingly insightful, especially when I pushed them to be specific. (For example, don’t just say “theme”; tell me what you learned about themes.) Get the FREE activity here

2. Creative Final Exam Questions
Some of my all-time favorite final exam questions have looked something like this. (I usually let students know these are coming so they can reflect in advance.)
  • How have you grown as a reader of literature this year?
  • Persuade me that you have grown or changed as a writer this year. 
  • What are you now able to do as an editor that you couldn’t before?
  • In what specific ways have your public speaking skills improved?

Note that these aren’t just self-assessment questions; students are being asked to present an argument with specific evidence. 

3. Comparing Old & Recent Writing

Every year, I’ve had students compare their writing in some way - either comparing rough with final drafts or comparing their essay skills at the beginning of the year and the end. Students are usually quite surprised with the mistakes they used to make and feel better that they’ve possibly improved more than they realized. 

Download this FREE comparison sheet to help students identify their changes as writers, editors, readers, and/or speakers!

4. Make a Last-Minute Writing Portfolio

Don’t panic! Even if it’s just putting all their final drafts into a file folder, collecting their BEST and/or FINAL work into one place can suddenly become a treasure trove that they may keep. (My eighth graders often keep certain folders of writing to take with them to high school, where they will now have exemplars of essays, works cited pages, etc.) 

If you’re interested in a quick but more visually appealing portfolio, check out a writing portfolio starter kit here

5. A (Fun) Post-Test
Even if you didn’t do a diagnostic test at the beginning of the year, you can do a post-test that reminds students how much content they’ve learned and how much knowledge they’re taking away from your class. This post-test does not HAVE to be graded; in fact, it can be a review or study tool before a final exam. 

In my middle school world, I use a diagnostic/post test for grammar and for Greek & Latin roots. (The "fun" part is that the grammar test is based on song lyrics, so students can hum or tap their way through the sentences!)

6. Peer OR Teacher Recognition

Even big “kids” like teens and tweens like certificates and little forms of recognition. You can even share the work by letting students recommend peers for different ELA superlatives, like “Best Conclusion Paragraph” or “Best Use of Eye Contact”. Check out some certificates for essays, creative writing, and public speaking.

7. A Capstone-Style Presentation
Even if your students didn’t do 20% Time or Genius Hour, they can still do a presentation about what they learned, what they’re passionate about, or what they think is fascinating. You can EITHER emphasize what CONTENT they’ve learned, or release control of the topic and make the presentations all about showing off the public speaking SKILLS they now have because of you. 

If you’re interested in coaching students on a modern style of public speaking, check out my mock TED unit here.

You might also enjoy the other end-of-year blog posts in our Coffee Shop:

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How else can we show off student progress? Tell us in the comments!

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