Meaningful Post-Exam Work

May 3rd has been looming large in most AP Literature teachers’ minds. What do we do with this class now? Popping in a movie for the last twenty days of school just isn’t the answer.

There are many factors to consider when planning for the end of the year.  How many instructional days do you really have? There are other AP tests, state testing, assemblies, field trips, and fire drills to plan around. Graduation may be at the end of May or in mid-June.  Do you have a class of juniors? seniors? or a mix?  

Use these ideas to help formulate your plan to make the end of the year, after the AP Lit test, engaging and motivating for students.

Commencement speeches

Watching and reading commencement speeches are great mentor texts for leading into students writing their own commencement speeches. Some crowd favorites are Ellen Degeneres’s speech Tulane University, the famously philosophical David Foster Wallace Kenyon College speech (audio here), Admiral McCraven at University of Texas, and Stephen Colbert at Northwestern.  Students compose their own speeches which can have a more creative flair (music, video, dance) and give students a way to say goodbye to their classmates.  Break out the tissue box for sure.

Choice Reading submitted by Elizabeth Matheny

Help students find a book to read for the remainder of the school year. Ask the students: What is a book you have always wanted to read? What book is sitting at the top of your to-be-read pile? For seniors, what book do you feel like you have to read before you graduate from high school?

If you have already implemented in class reading time, you can extend this time a little longer for each day.  Reading can be assessed in various ways from student blogging to simple teacher conferences.  

Senior Footprint Project submitted by Karla Hillard

This is hailed as a “no fail” project for seniors with a 2-3 week duration.  This idea was taken from David Theriault who describes this project in the following words: “If the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything is 42, than the answer to senior malaise and everything wrong with the last few weeks of school is #myseniorfootprint.”  Complete instructions and many fine examples can be found at The Readiness is All blog.

Portfolio Study submitted by Elizabeth Matheny

Teachers see the growth their students make in one school year’s time, but students may be less cognizant of this improvement. To help them realize their growth and potential as writers, students address the following questions and reflect on their growth by using evidence from their own writing as support. They dig out all their writing from the school year (daily journals, timed writings, published pieces, etc.) and survey them. Then, in essay form, students answer guiding questions such as:

  • Think back to your goals at the beginning of the year. How have you made progress? What have you achieved?
  • What work are you most proud of this school year? What skills do you want to continue to work on in the future? What are some of your personal pitfalls within your writing?
  • Overall, what is your biggest takeaway from AP Lang and why?

Teachers can often times see the growth in students, but this allows students to witness this development as well. This is a great way to end the year with reflection.

Passion Projects submitted by Karla Hillard

Ask students: What are you truly curious about? What’s something you feel passionately about?

Have students choose a topic that they truly want to learn more about and about which they have a true curiosity. A student may want to learn how to make a sushi roll, how to play “Stairway to Heaven” on the guitar, or how to execute the perfect baseball swing. If time permits, allow students 2-3 weeks of self-directed research with your chosen method of note-taking to learn about their subjects. It’s important to withhold any “final project” information from students, so they stick with their curiosities and their focus is learning. After an adequate research period, have students share their learning with the class in the form of a presentation or demonstration.

Establish a Canon submitted by Helen Kunick 

Students are given an opportunity to establish a canon of 10 artistic items. These can be novels, plays, works of art, albums, and so on.  Students must be able to reason why their selected items should be included. Find project details here: Creating a Canon.

Write a 5 year letter submitted by Roy Smith

Students compose a letter to themselves and place them in envelopes which will be mailed in five years.  Some version of this has been done on every teen-centered sitcom, but to receive that letter five years from now has to be an amazing experience and the reflection now is valuable.

Senior Scrapbook submitted by Susan Barber

Senior scrapbooks are a great way for students to create a personal keepsake which will last a lifetime. Scrapbooks are highly individual, but I ask that they include the following as a minimum: a name poem made from phrases beginning with the first letter of the student’s name, a photo collage of high school memories, a letter to someone who has had an impact on the student, a collage of favorite quotes, personal poems titled “Looking Back,” “Being Here,” and “Looking Forward,” and a creative cover. Most students add more than the minimum. Students pick up their graded scrapbooks after graduation practice with a personal note from me in them.

Deliver a Last Lecture submitted by Adrian Nester

Give your students one last send-off with your own version of a commencement speech. They have likely been soliciting advice from you for the past several years, so leave them with your last bits of wisdom. The topics can range anywhere from your own college experience, advice about finances, or things you wish someone had told you when you were 18-years-old.  Perhaps like your own 18-year-old self, they might hear you but not really listen, but may remember those wise words somewhere down the road.  

What is your go-to favorite project or assignment that gets you through the end of the year?  Please leave your idea in the comments below.


One thought on “Meaningful Post-Exam Work

  1. Every other year I have students create a visual essay which serves as their classroom final. Students select a novel of literary merit, or regard–those novels that aren’t found on the usual AP exam lists, yet have contributed to society in a significant way (F451, for example). During the remaining days students get in lit circles and share their novels and work on their presentations. This consists of pulling five essential quotes from the novel that affect or relate to the meaning of the work as a whole. Students include art, clips, photos to complement their quote. It’s a low-key, yet high value assignment showing what they know about lit analysis beyond a written essay. If we have time, they also create a book trailer to go with their presentation–students really enjoy this activity. Sometimes I make it a group timed competition event and everyone must select a novel we read in class.

Comments are closed.