The end of term is looming and attention spans are decreasing. Basically, summer is around the corner, and you have no idea how you could still engage your students before the school holidays kick in! Read on to find out more about 5 different functions that a final lesson (or lessons) could have and 5 activities that work well for these functions.
What is the role of final lessons anyway?
Starting a course always seems so easy because it’s so obvious that you have to get to know your students. To learn about each other, find out interesting things, and discuss needs. What about final lessons, though? They typically cause a headache since most of the time you’ve already finished everything important and you also instinctively feel that you should end the year or course on a high note. That high note usually doesn’t mean a grammar-heavy class! But what else can it be then? You still want it to be useful, of course, and that’s why we need to become familiar with the typical functions a final lesson can have.
When a group disbands, it is a very good idea to reflect on what has happened during the course, both in terms of language learned and the relationships formed. Another element could be to look forward and plan what students would like to do in the next course and in the summer break. Finally, it’s always a good idea to have some fun, but it’s even better if it still has a useful communicative purpose. Let’s now take a look at some specific activities for these functions!
- Emotional reflection – Creating our yearbook
- Linguistic reflection – Playing Charades with our own wordlist
- Planning ahead – World cafe
- Planning ahead – Guess whose summer this is
- Having fun – Summer Task Based Learning (TBL) lesson
1. Emotional reflection – Creating our yearbook
A great activity that can be done in the good old traditional way, with lots of colourful pens and paper! Or, in a digital format, using Canva. As Hadfield says, ending a course can be a very emotional experience for many students who have been part of a group for such an extensive amount of time. So, creating an outlet for remembering good memories, funny stories, and memorable words can be a good way to let students move onto one phase from another. Canva is becoming more and more popular among teachers because of its design features, but it also lets you share and collaborate, so you can create together like the images below.
2. Linguistic reflection – Playing Charades with our own wordlist
This, again, can be done on pieces of paper. However, I have found that students love playing with the app called Charades (which is another version of the popular Heads Up). The main advantage of this app is that you can create your own wordlist, which students then can play with by explaining, acting out or drawing it to their peers. It’s a fast paced and exciting game that can be great for revising some of the topics you’ve covered during the year.
3. Planning ahead – World Café
Another important function of final lessons is looking at the future. Think about your learners’ long-term plans with English, such as taking exams or getting a new job, or thinking about how they can still work on their skills during the summer break. The World Café method involves students working in smaller groups, with large poster papers, colourful markers and a number of guiding questions or sentence heads for each group. Here are some examples:
“By the end of summer, I would like to/I will have…”
“Every day I’m planning to…”
“I am going to read/watch/listen to…”
Students move from desk to desk (or from café to café) in small groups. They discuss the question, put down their main ideas, and move on. The major advantages of this activity include the chance to discuss your ideas with your peers and to gather new input from others, by reading their thoughts on the posters as you’re moving from desk to desk.
4. Planning ahead – Guess whose summer this is
This activity is more about wishes for the summer and less about professional development. You can create an enjoyable project lesson for your students. Ask them to prepare a short video or photo collage of the things they would like to do this summer. When they have finished, you can watch the collages or videos together and guess whose summer plans you’re looking at. You can also encourage your students to ask some follow up questions once they’ve found out whose project they were watching.
5. Having fun – Summer task-based lesson (TBL)
Now comes the best function of all – pure fun! Now, of course, you can play any boardgame or watch a movie with your class but having a go at a summer themed TBL can not only be enjoyable but also useful in terms of communicative competences. I can highly recommend the Fluency First blog for TBL ideas, such as their amazing “Staycation” lesson, which was highly relevant during the covid lockdowns.
Here’s another quick activity you can try:
My students heard me saying that I got an escape room experience for my birthday, which I thoroughly enjoyed. They thought that they would organize an event for the group as well. Let’s take this context as our starting point. Students would get the task of presenting their program plans by the end of the lesson. As part of this, they would have to do their own research, think about the expenses, and how they would keep in touch and organize everything once the course is over. A true TBL lesson would repeat the presentations with some upgrade in language but this depends on your aims and the length of the lesson.
Consider integrating these activities into your final lessons to finish your course or school year with a nice combination of looking back, looking forward, and having fun. We would love to hear your experiences either with these particular tasks or with any others that you have enjoyed in the comments!
Fluency First blog by Neil Anderson and Neil McCutcheon
Hadfield, J. 1992. Classroom Dynamics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
World Café method, ANU Center for Learning and Teaching.
If you’re already planning your first week back, Dan Vincent has some great ice breaker activities you can try.
Jo has been teaching business, general and academic English for more than 10 years in Hungary, Poland, and the UK. Having finished her DELTA, she became actively involved in teacher training. She is a regular presenter at TEFL conferences, an assistant lecturer of methodology and education technology at Karoli Gaspar University (Hungary), and a content creator for several English teaching websites and video channels.