It’s the end of the school year…. now what?

Hooray! You’ve made it to the end of a particularly difficult school year. Put this one in the books! It’s nearly over. Pat yourself on the back. There’s so much to celebrate and reflect upon.

Maybe your state tests are over. Maybe they’re still to come. Maybe you don’t have a test in your subject. It doesn’t matter, the end of the year gets squirrelly and it can be difficult to identify meaningful activities that still address standards, and keep kids engaged.

For many it’s a time for field trips (so fun!). For many it’s time for field days and games. For many it’s a time for projects. Whatever you choose to do near the end of the year it’s undeniable, there needs to be a shift to keep this kids entertained and motivated.

One of my favorite year-end activities is a project I call “The Textbook Project”. In this project, students try on the hat of textbook author and write their own textbook for the subject they just completed with me. When I taught 8th grade, they would write a textbook all about the 8th grade Math curriculum. When I taught Algebra it was all about Algebra. Etc. Each chapter is a unit from the year, but kids have the freedom to reorganize them as they see fit and explain them in their own words.

Students start with an outline listing all the units we studied, with examples of the sorts of problems we learned about in each unit. I put different textbooks in the middle of each table and we talk about the common elements of a good textbook. What do they have that helps us learn? Students point out pictures, examples, explanations, introductions, vocabulary, table of contents, etc. These are the things they will include in their textbooks.

I task students with making up their own examples (and solving them), and then explaining how they solved them. They are allowed to get ideas from their interactive notebooks, their folders, textbooks or the internet… but the problems in their project have to be their own, original problems, correctly solved. They must include word problems in every chapter, and pictures of real world connections to their work.

Explanations can be in paragraph form or bullet form, but vocabulary is required. There are a minimum number of problems for each chapter, but students can do more if they want for extra credit. Many decide to create a “you try!” section with an answer key in the back of the book.

Students also create a glossary for their textbooks, including definitions. They can decide if they want to put vocabulary at the end of their textbook, or in each chapter. A table of contents is also a requirement.

The project can be completed on a computer in docs or slides, or students can write the problems and explanations by hand and assemble the pages like a book with a cover. I have no preference, but found that those that work by hand have challenges when they make mistakes. That sometimes causes them to take longer. But for those who are artistic and like to physically create their work and hold a finished product, it was very gratifying. Those who created their books on the computer share the file with me in order for me to comment and grade it.

Students set about this task by looking through their interactive notebooks and organizing their thoughts. They open their folders and take out all their quizzes and unit tests and pour over the examples of all the different types of problems we learned. So many kids comment “Miss! Look at all this stuff we learned this year! I’m so proud of myself!!!” It took most kids a day just to think through how they were going to organize their books. There is usually some collaboration, but largely this is independent work.

Students work on this project in class (and a bit at home) for about 8 – 10 class days. (45 minute periods). During this time, I circulate and answer questions, help someone who is stuck on a problem they created but couldn’t solve, or help some with technical issues, but mostly this is a great opportunity for students to work independently. On the quieter days, I’ll log in to my drive and give feedback on their work in real time while they are working on it (for those working on the computer).

Over the years I have often found this one of the more gratifying projects I complete with my students. It’s great to hear them exclaim over how much they learned, and help each other to remember topics from the beginning of the year. I have also used this project (in an abbreviated form) for test review since it’s such a great way for kids to jog their memory on all these different topics. Or, it can be broken up into marking periods. When I do it this way I can keep it running as a background activity for early finishers and use Fridays as a “project day”. As Bloom’s Taxonomy tells use “create” is the highest level of learning, and having students create their own textbooks reinforces their understanding.

Link to this project on my TPT store:

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