It’s getting close to the end of the school year. The students are antsy for summer vacation; you, the teacher, are probably even more restless. Only one thing stands between you and sweet, sweet freedom: final projects. (And grading. And data entry. And end-of-the-year professional development meetings. Okay, lots of things stand between you and freedom.)
Do yourself and your students a favor and assign a final project that isn’t a book review or analysis paper. Below is a list of projects I’ve assigned in the past. You can choose one or mix-and-match. (I usually ended up assigning two or three of them for a portfolio kind of project.)
1) Two characters walk into a
bar coffee shop…..
Write a 5-page creative paper where two characters from different novels sit down together and have a discussion about a common theme in the books. For instance, Edna from The Awakening and Hema from “Hema and Kaushik” could talk about the social and cultural pressures of being a woman, Hamlet (from Hamlet, obviously) and Milkman from Song of Solomon could talk about their mommy issues, or Jake Barnes from The Sun Also Rises could talk to Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse-Five about the scars leftover from war. Even when books are written in very different time periods and about very different places, there are still a lot of common elements (a good way to demonstrate the universality of literature!).
This project should be written like a short story with scenes, settings, movements, descriptions, dialogue tags, etc.
2) Write a chapter from a different perspective
Take an event from a book you’ve read in class and re-write it from another character’s perspective. How does that change things? This project is great for demonstrating narrative bias and understanding characterization.
3) Three-panel books
Someone re-told a bunch of Shakespeare plays through three panel comics. I had my students do this for books we’ve read in class. They had to pick three books and illustrate/write the plot in three panels– harder than it sounds!– and they also had to use their vocabulary words in the dialogue.
4) Write a missing chapter (+explanation of author’s style)
Students write a missing chapter from a book in the style of the author. This is actually incredibly difficult and requires a nuanced understanding of what makes each author’s voice and style unique. I also made my students turn in a short (1 page/3 paragraph) essay explaining the voice and style they used.
5) Write a literary analysis of a song of their choosing
Okay, this one is cheating a little because it is an analysis paper– but the subject of the analysis should at least be a bit more interesting to the students than assigning a book or poem to write about. Using the literary/poetic devices you’ve covered in class like imagery, alliteration, slant rhyme, mood, tone, metaphor, etc, students can analyze a song like a poem. There are so many wonderful songs out there that are very literary and perfect for this project. You can have students turn in their song choices beforehand to make sure they’re literary enough to work. (The first time I did this, one student chose “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” as her song and another student chose “Party in the USA.” Let’s just say I didn’t make that mistake again.)
The end of the academic year is tough. Why not make it a little less tough by choosing a final project that’s fun for the students to do and fun for you to grade?