As the weather warms and we rip April off the trusty calendar, it’s safe to say that the end of the year is near. Summer is within reach and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Therein lies the problem — so can our students. With this said, certain core content blocks become a bit more challenging to plan. Writing can be especially tough. I’m here to toss out a myriad of end of the year writing tips to help keep those learning and effort meters pegged.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating in this situation. If a student can slap something on his/her body, engagement goes through the roof. From super sentence capes and paragraph paper bag vests, to funky main idea hats, if you can wear it . . . they will come. There is just something about proudly displaying work on your body that encourages quality writing. I guarantee that assignments that follow this train of thought will produce some of the best work you have see all year.
MAKE IT A JOINT EFFORT
Independent writing is still a must in May, but why not make assignments a team effort from time to time? Try a partner retell interview activity. Provide each pair of students with an interview sheet and invite students to take turns asking questions about the beginning, middle, and end of a story. They will write their hearts out and not even know it . . . promise! Why stop here? Have students work in pairs to generate story ideas and summary work for just about any book . . . orally. Toss in a prop or two (fake cell phones, microphone), and they will be all about it. Follow up this oral work with a related write. These are easy to run on your own with a bit of prep on your part. If you are looking for a ready made pack, all of these ideas/activities are available in my Rockin’ Retell collection.
Another fun idea is a team paragraph. Provide each table group (4-5 kiddos) with a topic sentence writing template. Each group may have the same template or you may choose to roll with different topics. On your signal, the table captain reads the topic and comes up with the next sentence in the paragraph. When the sentence is finished, he/she reads what was written and passes it to the next student on the team. It’s the next student’s turn to draft a sentence that fits the topic and makes sense in the overall flow of the paragraph. Encourage interaction throughout — heads together and buns up. Be sure to take a moment to share these!
INJECT SOME TECH
Maybe you have incorporated this trick off and on all year, but it’s one that I often overlook. Toss computer work into the mix. This can come in the form of research via a safe search engine such at Kiddle. Simply present your students with a topic and let them dig for info before they write. Another way to increase engagement with a computer is to let them type up their work. Not only is this great practice for those testing days that will face our primary students in a few short years, but it’s downright fun for most kids. I will NEVER forget writing short stories in second grade and having the opportunity to type them out. Why? The teacher upped the ante and turned our work into a published book. That author angle stuck with me and I remember writing my heart out. By simply providing a “grown up” opportunity to type out my work, she had me . . . hook, line, and sinker.
JUST ADD AUDIO
Don’t stop at just computer work. How about some narrative writing with a little audio support? Let me explain. I am all about providing a story starter — students have practiced this all year. Well, why not make this narrative task novel again by presenting the story starter in audio form? I know what you are thinking. What is the best way to do this? You may just stand and delivering a story starter. In other words, read the beginning of a story out loud and have your students finish the tale. I strongly suggest that you turn off the lights and play a fitting instrumental while you read. Setting the mood is critical. Now, if you really want to see magic unfold, up the game a bit. How? I drafted a series of fictional story starters that got well under way, but were left unfinished. Think old time radio show cliffhangers. Then, I teamed up with Ron Brown’s Intelli-Tunes to add a bit more spice to it. Ron set each story starter to a quiet musical background and injected oodles of related sound effects. Here’s a little sample to show exactly what I’m getting at . . .
This is by FAR one of the most engaging things I have EVER tried in a classroom. You can hear a pin drop and students are so jazzed to write. Seriously. They write for days. I was actually booed in a 5th grade classroom a bit earlier this year when I called time on one of these. And, it had been a solid . . . AND SILENT . . . 45 minutes. These work smashingly any time of year, but they are an absolute no-brainer for May. I put all seven professionally recorded story starters together in a print and go packet form if you wanna give it a go. Check out my Audio Story Starter pack to learn more! It’s a perfect addition to any 2nd-5th grade classroom. I see it working well for first graders as well with a little support.
Afternoons can get long in May, but why not use them to support a challenging writing assignment. What am I getting at with this statement? Well, crafts can add just the right “hook” for kids to get into a writing assignment. I cannot tell you how many cheers a more challenging writing task has received because I simply added an engaging follow up activity. Not only do these crafts look awesome paired with those writing assignments you choose to pin to the walls, but they also serve as an incentive to complete quality work.
I have a handful of go-to end of the year write/craft combos. Here are details on just a few. What a Ride takes a look back on our fond memories from the school year, while incorporating a roller coaster craft. You can run with this idea on your own or snag this end of the year idea here.
A Screaming Good Summary asks students to produce a summary with an engaging as all get out twist — their screaming face. I know this sounds strange, but incorporating photos of students into their writing assignments is a stellar end of the year tip. For this activity, take a photo of each student pretending to yell something. Cut tightly around the edges and glue to a speech bubble writing template. This one is so much fun and they are an absolute “show stopper” when hung in the windows. Want this fun assignment? Snag a Screaming’ Good Summary for FREE.
The superhero theme always does well for me at the end of the year. (I think I have all of the Marvel movies to thank for this one!) From hero writing toppers on writes that outline the BEST super power and narrative writes in the form of comic books, to watercolor/photo art that encourages a writing about soaring into the next grade, the sky is the limit with a hero theme. Student writing will improve two-fold and the grins within your writing block will be miles wide. If you are looking for a packet to support this theme, check out my Superhero Reading & Writing Packet.
SELL THE SIZZLE
As we enter the “home stretch,” students have become much more proficient writers. We can expect more out of them. However, some students will start to cut corners on you. Those juicy paragraphs that were chalk full of details in March are now filled with “I like” and lame descriptions. My thought here is that you just have to stay ahead of them and “sell the sizzle” of assignments. You can do this by chatting up a “hook” into an assignment. If you are presenting them with a research based write, stock a center with non-fiction books and sell the angle of them being top scientists. If they are completing a narrative, try planting the bestselling author idea into their heads. I strongly suggest that you weave a grand tale about assignments to increase interest. If you are excited about a write, most students will be too.
In addition, it helps to pick topics that your kiddos can really get into (worst foods on the planet, dream vacations, perfect pets, junk food, toy shopping sprees, etc.) Putting your “kid hat” on in May is a must. What do I mean by this? Simply put yourself in your kids’ shoes and think of things they would enjoy as you are lesson planning. In my mind, the topics don’t always matter this late in the game . . . the target is getting a quality write that matches a student’s ability.
THAT’S A WRAP
Alright, so there you have it. A post dedicated to end of the year writing tips. I hope you were able to snag an idea or two to toss into the end of the year writing mix. Although I offer support for most of these ideas in my TPT shop via the links above, you can run with most of these ideas with just a little prep time 🙂 Good luck during this final stretch. I hope to see you again soon!