5 Easy Ways the End The School Year

It's been the longest teaching year of my life! We were lucky enough to be face-to-face in my school district for the entire year, however, I know that many of you have experienced a year of online or hybrid (and every possible variation!) teaching.  It has been exhausting. I am exhausted. The students are exhausted.  We are all exhausted.

Looking for some easy activities to wrap up the year?  
Here are five easy activities to end the year on a fun note.

1.  Countdown Activity - FREE

One of the activities I have students complete at the end of the year is this review activity.  It can be used with ANY topic and includes a blank one for you to add your own reflection questions to.  This is a fun strategy for any topic - I ask students to list 5, then list, 4, then list 3... all the way down to one big takeaway idea for the year / the unit / the topic.  It's a quick and easy way to assess student understanding.

2.  Monthly Summary  

Put students into groups of 3-4 and assign each group a month of the school year or a unit of study.  Each group must come up with something (one-pager, poster, video...) to represent their learning for that month or unit of study.  Groups can present their creations to the rest of the class for a fun wrap-up activity.  

3. Print / Digital End of Year Activities

Use these ready-to-go activities (available in print or digital) to wind down the year.  There are many options to pick from and they are all print/share and go!  Pick the activities that will work best with you and your students... or give them 5-6 to pick from so they feel empowered with a choice.  I've successfully used these activities with grades 6-10 as they're easy to differentiate and adapt.

4.  Poetry Wrap-Up 

Given that we have had such a chaotic and stressful year, I think it is important to have some fun as we end the year.  Have students complete haikus or limericks that summarize their learning, the challenges we have faced during the year, or something positive they can reflect on.  Click HERE for a free limerick template.

5.  Tik Tok Summary 

Just when I think the Tik Tok craze is waning, my students show me their latest creations!  Why not capitalize on their love for the video app and have students think of the top three things they have learned this year and show them in a Tik Tok video?  Or teach each other a concept to review? A message to next year's students? A class dance? 

For more ideas and inspiration check out...

3 Ways to Incorporate Quick Writes into the ELA Classroom

3 ways to incorporate quick writes into your classroom


by Tracee Orman

We all know that the more students write, the better writers they become. The struggle we as English teachers find is reading and grading ALL these writing assignments! This time of year is especially hard to balance it all and still have a life.

One of the best tips I’ve ever received from a colleague was during my fourth year of teaching. I was complaining about not having enough time to grade my students’ essays thoroughly and adequately–I felt like I was failing them as a teacher. She responded, “You know you don’t have to mark every little thing when you grade the essays, right?” Umm, no, I did not know that. I had always assumed that when I assigned essays I should be looking for EVERYTHING. Having a background in journalism and copy-editing probably contributed to this, but somewhere in my training to be an English teacher, I missed that memo.

With this newfound knowledge, I began to experiment with how I could provide better feedback to my students while simultaneously cutting my grading time. I started using “quick writes” (short writing assignments) with more focused objectives. I cut back to assigning just three full essays per year (one narrative, one expository, and one argumentative) and concentrated most of my writing instruction on the shorter samples. I used prompts and gave my students less time to respond in writing (hence, the “quick” part). In doing so, the students responded with shorter (but more focused) writing samples.

Here are some ways you can incorporate quick writes into your curriculum:

1. USE  JOURNAL PROMPTS  ON A REGULAR BASIS. Require students to respond in complete sentences (you may even want to require a minimum number of sentences such as three to five). Then, choose ONE thing you wish to grade the prompts on, such as proper punctuation, capitalization, or something very specific like one of the language standards for your grade level. For example, using the Common Core Language standards for grades 9-10, I may choose standard L.9-10.2A and only grade their response on how effectively they used a semicolon. Make sure to tell students ahead of time that you will be grading it based on that criteria. Using this technique, you could practice all of your language standards several times throughout the year.

2. USE TIMED WRITING ASSESSMENTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. Depending on your students’ grade level, you can offer quick 5, 10, or 15 minute response times (older students will need less time). You can use any prompt (journal or quote prompts are great for narrative and expository writing; debate and argument prompts work well for persuasive and argument writing). I typically just give a completion grade for these: full credit for completing or zero for not completing at all. However, if you choose to grade these, you DO NOT have to mark every little thing. Choose one, two, or maybe three different areas you wish to assess. The point is to get students writing more often but alleviate YOUR grading load. 

3. USE BELL RINGERS AND EXIT SLIPS PERIODICALLY. Bell ringers are short activities that take place at the beginning of class. Exit slips are activities that take place toward the end of the class. These can be related to the content you are currently teaching (such as a novel or short story) or not. You can simply prompt students at the beginning or end of class to respond in writing to the question “What is one thing you learned today/yesterday?” or “What is something you hope to learn more about today?” 

    Some additional activities you could use as bell ringers or exit slips include:

• Summarize a passage from the content

• Write definitions to vocabulary words in their own words

• Write a list of questions about the content or the lesson

Whether you are crunched for time or just overwhelmed with grading essays, quick writes are a great way to provide meaningful writing assessments without the heavy paper load. 

You can download FREE writing prompts HERE and HERE

Check out these additional resources for using quick writes:

Narrative Writing Picture Prompts by Presto Plans

Journal Writing Prompts by Tracee Orman

Thanks so much for reading!


8 Books that Highlight Japanese American Stories during World War II

by Staci, Donut Lovin' Teacher

It is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) and we should all be checking our curriculum to see where and how API (Asian Pacific Islander) voices and stories are being centered in our classes. There are more and more API books for secondary students that are coming to the forefront as well as API authors. You’ve likely heard it before, but the API community is not a monolith--there is diversity within and among each culture.  

Take the Japanese American community for example, there are a multitude of experiences, histories, and perspectives to be looked at--past and present. Our teaching should reflect that.

Although Farewell to Manzanar contributes valuable lessons and context to the Japanese American experience during World War II, it is not the only text that students should have to learn about this time.  Let’s take a moment to check out some other books that share the experiences of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II. Whether you incorporate them through book clubs, add it as a novel study, or give these books space on a shelf in your classroom library, remember to provide multiple perspectives for your students to learn from. 

Here are 8 books (at varying reading levels), that your students will love. 

  1. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee: Follow the story of 14 teens from the same community that are forced into incarceration camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Executive Order 9066. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective while the story continues to advance through the war. It serves as a strong reminder of just how many ways individuals experience one event.

  2. Displacement by Kiku Hughes: Ever wish you could go back in time and see a family member in the past? Kiku finds herself among other internees who were forcibly relocated, including her late grandmother. This is a graphic novel you’ll definitely want to have in your classroom!

  1. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei: This graphic novel tells the story of George Takei’s family and his journey towards understanding what it means to be American when your own country sees you as the enemy. If learning about Japanese American history as a class, any of these novels also can be paired with George Takei’s Ted Talk.

  1. Four Four Two by Dean Hughes: Main character Yuki enlists in the army though he and his family are behind barbed wires in an internment camp in Utah. Follow the story of a soldier in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the segregated all Japanese American unit that are often described as fighting two wars: one against Germans in Europe and one against racial injustice in the U.S.

  1. Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai: Written in free verse, this story offers the perspective of a teen girl from Seattle before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It also offers a glimpse into the lesser discussed assembly centers that many were hastily forced to move to prior to one of the 10 internment centers.

  1. Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban: Whenever looking back at the past, students begin to ask a lot of ‘What if’ questions. What if you had a pet? What if you brought something you weren’t supposed to? Both are questions that can be discussed when ten year old Manami isn’t willing to say goodbye to her grandfather’s dog, Yujiin.

  1. Sylvia and Aki by Winifred Conkling: The Japanese American experiences did not happen in isolation. This book tells the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family’s legal battle towards desegregating schools while living in the home of a family interned in Poston, AZ. Read as the two young protagonists build a bond during uncertain times. (Sylvia and Aki Teaching Resources)

  1. Fred Korematsu Speaks Up: Another ‘What if’ question that comes up when looking back at this time period: What if you didn’t go? Focusing on the resistance of the incarceration camps is important in showing that every voice makes a difference. This informational book focuses on the true story of Fred Korematsu and the timeline of events surrounding his resistance.

This Japanese American Book Recommendations List might also help you find some picture books that can support student learning, if you’re working on a specific unit.

Lastly, as students learn about injustices of the past, it is important to make connections to more recent injustices and ways to take actions. Tsuru for Solidarity is an organization that is working to end inhumane immigration policies such as detention sites and calls for our country to ‘stop repeating history.’

Additional Japanese American History Resources:

Fred Korematsu Institute

Learning for Justice Article 

Facing History Educator Resources

JANM Education Resources - Scroll down to the Web Resources

Densho’s Examining Racism and Discrimination Through Oral History

Densho’s Campu Podcast -Make sure to check out the resources available in the transcripts

Find Staci on: Instagram, TpT, or her Website

No Prep Whole-Class Novel Study Project

 Are you tired of the same old paper and pencil tests at the end of a text? Are your students struggling with remembering the details from a novel or play that you've studied in class? Are you searching for a fun, collaborative alternative? Look no further, I have the solution for you - check out this whole class novel study project!

While this project is quite informal in its presentation, the final outcome is very fulfilling! Below, you will find a detailed analysis of the project. This project is posted in my TpT store, so if you're looking for a no-prep project with all of the necessary and editable documents, you can click HERE. The information below, will give you an in-depth look into the project.

What is the whole-class novel study project all about?

The entire class will create a comic book-like outline of a text, so that anyone who may have not read the text, could read through it and gain an understanding of what took place in the book or play, in less than a few minutes.

The process:

1. Assign groups: Assign your students into small groups or have them choose their own groups. I have found that 5-6 students in a group has been an effective number, but it can definitely be done with more or less (there may just be more or less responsibilities for a group). In my classroom, I have found it helpful to create the groups myself; this ensures that productive students are a part of each group, while giving everyone an opportunity to work together in a fun and creative way.

2. Create sections: If you are using this for a whole-class novel study, divide your book into sections. I have found that 5 sections has been an effective number. For example, when I have used this project for a Shakespeare play, I divided the sections into the numbers within the acts of the play.

3. Prioritize scenes: Once students are within their assigned groups and the sections are in order, students can begin reviewing their specific sections (or chapters) and identify the key plot points. Their goal is to choose the scenes with the greatest importance (including those that will lead up to it).

Once they have their list created of the most important sections, parts or scenes, they can begin organizing them in consecutive order from least to most important. I have found that a list of 6 scenes has been a sufficient number, but that can definitely be changed to suit the needs of the class size and/or age of the students.

4. Select text: Once the scenes are in order, the students will come up with one or two sentences that best illustrate that scene or section. Students may need to review a page or two, in order to fully grasp what they are wanting to capture in that particular scene.

5. Paraphrase: This is where the students will truly need to understanding what they are reading. If they are using a Shakespeare play, students will need to identify the meaning of the original text and translate it to modern language.

6. Create scenes: Once students have a good understanding of what they have read and want to capture for their scenes, then the real FUN can begin!

(1) First, students need to brainstorm ideas on how they want to physically capture the scene.

(2) Next, they can plan out where they might like to take their photos. If you have the flexibility of extra supervision for the groups, you can send along someone to monitor the students, while they take their photos. (They may also need an extra person to take the photos, in the event all of the students need to be in the photograph!)

(3) Finally, take the photos! Cameras will be required to take the photos - cell phone cameras work just fine! This way, the photos can capture the variety of scenes, emotions and thoughts required for each scene.

7) Incorporate text: Once the students are finished taking their photos, they can use a variety of editing apps and software to enhance their images (although, this is not really necessary). I suppose it depends on how much time you have and the technology available, but I honestly prefer when students incorporate their own props with images that have not necessarily been enhanced. I think it adds to the authenticity of the final product. Students can then add the descriptions that they brainstormed (Step 4) and their respective speech and thought bubbles.

Here is an example from Act 4 of Macbeth:

(We added a bit of blood spatter clip art, which I think added to the overall effect!)

Here is an example from Act 3 of A Midsummer Night's Dream:

Why this whole-class novel study works:

This end-of-novel project is successful because students are responsible for both knowing and understanding the facts and information from a text that they have just read.

In addition, they have an opportunity to work collaboratively with their classmates, they get to use technology to re-create scenes, and they will likely have a better understanding of a text through this group process.

Lastly, I print out colored images of each group scene for every student in that particular group. It makes a great keepsake and a fun addition to and end-of-the-year portfolio, where reflection can take place.

Here are some photos of what these projects look like when they are complete!

Check out these other great alternative end-of-text ideas and assignments

Novel Projects for ANY Novel

3 Reasons to Use Multi-Genre Projects

Creative Book Reports for Any Novel or Short Story 

Creative Activities for Any Novel 

ELA Escape Room 

Literary Analysis Mini Flip Book


5 Tips for Hosting an End of the Year Student Awards Ceremony in ELA

By Presto Plans 

The end of the school year is well in sight and it calls for celebration.  One of my favorite ways to end the year in my ELA classes is to host a student awards ceremony with some literary touches to make it specific to English.  A little commemoration goes a long way to acknowledge students for their personal qualities, interests, or growth.  Below are some tips for pulling it together! 


First things first, make your awards ceremony official by giving students an invitation or a ticket as they leave the classroom the day before! You might consider making the invites or tickets include a literary element with images of books or imagery from texts you read throughout the year.  Download a free ticket template here!  Giving students invites or tickets can add a fun layer of formality to your award ceremony and build anticipation. 


You'll want to put some thought into the types of awards you will give out at your ceremony, and in an ELA class, using literary terms to your advantage is the way to go.    Here are a few ideas for incorporating awards that are themed around a particular literary device: 

Idiom Awards

You can give your students poignant and meaningful awards while simultaneously teaching them about idioms—phrases whose established meanings are not deducible from their individual words. 

It can be a good idea with the idiom awards to include a short explanation of why the student is receiving the award to avoid any chance of confusion.  For example:

  • The Social Butterfly Award goes to a student who easily makes friends and loves to socialize.
  • The Class Act Award goes to a student who displays excellence. 
  • The Down to Earth Award goes to a student who is realistic and practical person who is sensible in all situations.
  • The Tough Cookie Award goes to a student who is self-confident, strong-willed, and resilient. 

Not only will students feel recognized, they will also learn a variety of idioms that they can incorporate into their speech and writing.  This is particularly useful for students who are learning English as an additional language.

Pun Awards 

Pun awards a are sure way to get your students to roll their eyes, but they're also a sure way to make them smile, however reluctantly. You'll be smiling, too, as you assign these to them.  Each award includes a funny pun that relates to the student's traits.  For example: 

  • The Donut Award goes to a student who is determined.  They donut give up, no matter what.
  • The Taco Award goes to a student who you can go to when you need to taco-bout something.
  • The Ice Cube Award goes to a student who always remains cool in all situations. 
  • The Sunshine Award goes to a student who lights up the classroom with positivity. 

Alliteration Awards

Alliteration awards are particularly fitting for the ELA classroom. These awards use the same consonant sounds to form the award title .  For example 

  • Fantastic Friend
  • Talented Techie 
  • Sensational Speaker
  • Remarkable Reader 

Metaphor Awards

Metaphor awards use a metaphor (direct comparison) to describe a student's personality. For example

  • The Puzzle Award goes to a student who is a problem-solver.
  • The Yoga Award goes to a student who is a flexible thinker. 
  • The Butterfly Award goes to a student who has transformed or changed this year.
  • The Balloon Award goes to a student who lifts others up when they are down.


Student awards are tokens of recognition. Above all, they should serve to make your students feel special and recognized by their peers. The award selections should aim to get at the heart of your students' distinct personality traits. They should also be lighthearted and entertaining.

Whether you choose to make your own awards from scratch, or you use end of the year student awards that are ready to use, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind:


These awards should not be an opportunity to poke fun at any individual students. Give out awards that will genuinely make the recipient feel special and appreciated. It's ok to be a little cheesy, but make sure that the award is not a way of poking fun at students, but rather celebrating their unique positive qualities.


Try to make each of your awards are personable enough that they resonate with the recipient, but also broad and concise enough so that creating and assigning the awards doesn't overtake the whole event planning process and you can use the awards from year to year.


This is an optional step, but you might consider having students review the list of awards that are up for grabs (and what the awards mean if an explanation is required), and have students vote on who is the best recipient.   This will make your job simpler with choosing students while also making students a part of the selection process.   Doing it this way does take away a bit of the fun with explaining what the awards mean as students would have previewed the awards in advance, so this is a personal preference.  


Consider allowing your recipients to give a short acceptance speech (less than 1 minute), but I would suggest that you do not make this a requirement if it is an impromptu speech.  Some students might feel uncomfortable and nervous about receiving the award if they know they must follow it up with a speech without any preparation, but allow those who are willing to jump in and say a few words to do so. Your event will benefit from the social energy of your more outgoing students who are willing to participate in that way.   If you want all students to share a speech, you might consider doing a short mini lesson on writing an acceptance speech prior to the awards ceremony to give students some tools to use.  You could allow them to bring up one cue card to use while they share their short acceptance speech.  


Make the event extra special by having entertainment included in the ceremony.  To continue with the literary theme, have a student volunteer to read an original poem or sing or perform a song with original lyrics.   This works best if it is a student in the class, but if you can't find anyone willing, you can always ask someone outside the classroom as well!  

You might also consider having a surprise guest come to share a few of the awards or give a short speech!  Try reaching out to an author that you studied during the year to see if they would be willing to pop in via Zoom to give a few awards out.  It never hurts to ask!  If you come up empty there, you might also invite the principal, the librarian, or the administrative assistants to come to give out an award.   Is there someone linked to your school or local community who your students would all be happy to see? Maybe it's a retired staff member or a sports coach. Whoever it is, just make sure they are on board with the sincere nature of the event and invite them to participate.

Teaching online?  All of these tips will still work, but you may want to check out this post on how to share student awards digitally.

Preparing for the end of the school year and need some resources to help you through?  The bloggers at the Secondary English Coffee Shop have you covered: 

End of the Year Memory Book by Tracee Orman

End of the Year Activities by Addie Williams

End of the Year Puzzle Card Student Gifts by Nouvelle ELA

Awards for English Class Bundle by Secondary Sara

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