Each school year is packed with lessons, activities and memorable moments. Encouraging students to reflect on those experiences can help them end the school year strong and give you a chance to fit in one last creative writing assignment that’s purposeful and poignant.
Here are four end-of-the-year writing assignments you can try out:
Create a roller coaster
A writing assignment can help students create a metaphor for the school year’s ups and downs.
- Ask students to build or draw a roller coaster that represents what this year was like for them.
- Encourage them to get creative with materials and colors to represent different emotions and specific moments.
- Have them write a personal essay or brief statement describing the specific meaning of each aspect of their roller coaster.
This activity helps students visualize their journey from the beginning of the school year to now, recognizing their struggles and accomplishments. Having time to share can also open up a meaningful class discussion about getting through difficult times, trying to learn from mistakes and understanding how a year’s worth of emotions and experiences help shape us.
Make an advice-filled music video
This is a new take on the classic “write a letter to the next class” assignment.
- Organize your students into small groups.
- Have each group choose a song and rewrite its lyrics to give advice to the next class.
- Guide each group in planning their music video and recording it.
- Share the videos with the class, discussing recurring themes and interesting gems of wisdom.
If some students loathe the idea of singing or rapping, have them rewrite a famous poem and record that performance in a unique way. Both approaches give students an opportunity to write, reflect, express themselves creatively, collaborate and demonstrate what they’ve learned this year.
Write a found poem using old assignments
If you’ve asked students to save certain assignments like journal entries, essays, projects, etc., then this is a fun way to use them.
- Have students lay out a variety of old assignments and tell them to circle 30 words or phrases that jump out at them. They can be words tied to memories or emotions.
- Tell them to make a list with those circled words.
- They must use all of them to create a poem that expresses how they feel about this year.
It’s also fun to have them actually cut the words out of those assignments to create a collage effect, but this might be difficult depending on what types of old assignments they use.
To make it more challenging, require a certain number of lines in the poem, or only let them add a certain extra number of words. It’s an interesting way of connecting what they’ve done throughout the year with poetry and self-expression, and it helps them see their work and the words they choose in different ways.
Build a memory wall
This activity is less writing-intensive, but it still gives students an opportunity to look back on the year individually and as a group.
- Cover one of your classroom’s walls with butcher paper and divide it into four sections: Academics, Personal, Laughs, and Lessons Learned.
- Give students four colors of sticky notes so they write at least one sticky note for each section.
- Ask them to think back on everything they’ve learned in their classes and in life during this school year and have them write down words or phrases about those key moments or concepts learned.
- Collect all of them in four baskets and then post the notes up in each category for the class to see and discuss together.
Giving students four categories directs their thinking in different ways so they can remember the good times and the struggles. Keeping it anonymous allows them to share a bit more than they might if they had to put their name on each sticky note.
In the Academics section, specific tests or projects can be recalled fondly or with groans, but it’s nice to see what sticks with students when the year comes to a close. The Personal section might increase students’ awareness of their classmates’ feelings about the year if they see notes about personal struggles and triumphs such as losing a pet or working hard to improve bad grades.
The Laughs section can remind students of funny and enjoyable moments like field trips, contests and games. The Lessons Learned category is a great way for them to learn from each other — whether they say they’ve learned to always ask for help or to never binge watch shows online when it’s a school night.
Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and an MEd from University of California-Santa Barbara. She has worked with adolescents for a decade as a middle school and high school English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, and a curriculum designer for high school and college courses. She works with 13- to 19-year-old students as a project manager of a nonprofit organization.