Concluding the School Year: Ideas/Summative Assessments

Posted by PCJE Alumni on May 30, 2018
Topics: School Year Cycle, Classroom Techniques/Activities

By PCJE with thanks to the following Pardes Educator graduates: Michal Cahlon, Elizabeth Corlin, Ron Einhorn, Shayna Goldberg, Hayley Delugach, Sarah Margles, Donna Rudolph, Jamie Salter, Adam Tilove, Jessica Lissy Trey and Jen Truboff.


  • Students have an opportunity to appreciate/grasp all that they have learned over the course of the year in terms of content, text skills, thinking skills.
  • Students have an opportunity to realize that they have grown emotionally and have developed new relationships.
  • Students will have an opportunity to transfer what is in their short-term memory to more enduring understandings.
  • Students will be poised to set realistic goals and expectations for the upcoming school year.
  • Teacher will better be able to assess student learning and growth.
  • Teacher will get vital input/feedback about the effectiveness of teaching over the course of the year (based on students’ long term understanding of the concepts, thinking strategies and utilization of the skills).
  • These closures provides an opportunity for parents and administrators to share in and celebrate the students’ learning.


  • Different subjects need different types of review and reflection. For example, Rosh Hashana was taught a long time ago. In contrast, Hebrew builds on itself, as would textual skills.
  • The review will only be as good as the specificity of your guidelines.
  • Think about which of the above goals are most important to you, as this is likely to shape the types of activities or projects you choose.

Using this document:
The projects or activities are loosely listed in order from elementary to high school, but we suggest you read through them all as you might think of ways to adapt them to your age group. Make sure you look to the very end, where we suggest emotional closures for all grades, as well.

Ideas/Summative Assessments:

1. Board Game Reviews
You (or your students) can design your own board games or an easier approach is to buy
ready made games (like Trivial Pursuit) and have the students make up questions. (Their questions might not be as good – you can add in some of your own – but their thinking of their own questions is a much better way to reflect on their learning, than simply having them play the game – which you’ll do at the end.)

2. Cooperative Game Reviews
[Note: What’s nice about this game is it allows students to think carefully and cooperate
– as opposed to rewarding individualism and speed.]

Prepare questions (or better yet have the students do it) that review what was taught over the course of the year. Divide the class into teams of 3-4 and give each team a magic slate. You ask questions and have each team consults with its members, recording the answer on the magic slate. they hold up their answers. They get point for correct answers. Alternatively, you can periodically go around and give a question to each team separately to answer orally.

3. Relay Summary
Students are divided into teams of 4 of 5. The teacher starts the relay with a sentence like
“One thing I know about Sukkot is…” (Keep writing more things that show what you know together.) or “Abraham was a righteous person.” (Prove it as you build a summary of his life.) For older students, it could be “David was problematic as king, because…” or “One thing I know about Rashi is…” The paper keeps getting passed around in each group until the whole team has added something or until the number of statements the teacher asked for are complete. The answers can then be read aloud and shared.

4. Sorting Activity
Prepare fact cards or pictures (or better yet have the students do it) connected to each holiday or parsha. Have the students do a sorting (onto tables or in boxes that are labeled
with the name of the holiday or the Torah portion/story). When they have finished sorting, check back by reading what is in each box, to make sure that they have actually sorted correctly.

5. A “Foreshadowing” Project
Tell your students they will be preparing an introduction to what they learned this year to put into a booklet for the incoming grade. Let them work in groups to prepare information on:
-Main characters
-The setting
-Major stories
You could have each group do all aspects (so that they have a chance to review everything), and then choose one part from each group that they did well to put into the
booklet. (Binding a book – even a spiral book – is very exciting for students, especially if there names are listed in the front. They feel they are making a real contribution.)

6. Round the Year in Holidays/Parshiyot Mobile
You could make a round flat plane of sturdy cardboard divided into 12 sections. Above
each section would be the name of the Hebrew month. From each month would hang the holidays that take place in that month, and from each holiday, maybe some cut-outs or words that reflect important aspects of the holiday (parsha). This could be something that is also worked on over the course of a year, but if you use it as a review tool now, perhaps the finished product could go into their classroom for the coming year.

7. Dioramas
You could have individual students or pairs create a diorama (a 3-D scene in a shoe-box)
for each holiday or for each story they studied in the Torah. You’d need to give exact guidelines as to what needs to be included (all the characters that would appear there, or the ritual objects, etc.) This could be a great display for the school – as well as for the classroom.

8. Roll that Scroll
You can do a holiday scroll or a Bible scroll. Have the students decide in advance how
many panels they will need (by generating the stories they covered or the number of holidays). Let each student or pair of students choose a panel to work on. Make sure they include pictures, words, etc. that will give the reader a clear idea of what that story/holiday is about. (This is very similar to the dioramas, simply in a different format.)

9. Raps or songs
If they are old enough, they could try writing a rap, song or poem. Again, you need clear guidelines as to what would go in. For example, if it was to review a holiday, it should include the date it occurs, other names for the holidays, special prayers recited, rituals performed, customs, special foods, etc. That gives you a clear rubric for grading.

10. Newspaper
Make the front page of a newspaper (or an entire issue) that has the students being reporters, reporting on the Biblical stories. Together you could generate headlines (for example for Noah: “What is He Building?”, “Strange Animal Sightings”, “Weather Forecast”, etc.)

11. Portfolios
If you have kept student work over the course of the year, you could ask them to go back and go through what they did and choose X number of examples (of artwork, homework, worksheets, etc.) that they are proud of and feel represents their best work. This would give them a chance to read/look over their work, be reminded of what they did, and make some decisions regarding quality. The portfolios could then be sent home with them, or put on display, etc. [Some teachers keep portfolios throughout the year, having students place work they are proud of in the portfolio periodically. This could be a good Rosh Hodesh activity. If you haven’t kept student work, you might want to think about doing this in the coming year.]

12. Siyum
This is a wonderful custom whether the group has completed a parsha or an entire book of the Torah. (This could/should be an annual ceremony in each class that students look forward to.) Depending on the level of the students, you could have them present divrei Torah, a play, or exhibit some of the closing projects or their portfolios. One of our grads had each student choose a favorite character from the stories they had studied, explain why they thought the person was special, and then recite a verse to support the statement. It is a nice idea to invite either parents or administrators or the class below to be at the siyum to see the presentations.

13. Inventory
Prepare a list of names, places, rituals, concepts, etc. that you have taught over the course of the year. Divide the students into groups of 3. (Three allows for lots of participation, but also makes it more likely that at least one person will remember.) If you have too many in the group, not everyone will be active.) Ask the students to go through the terms one by one and make sure they know what the name/place/ritual/concept is. If no one in the group knows, they should ask for your help. When they have all finished (or mostly), call on students to give you the answers. (You can “assume” that if they didn’t ask for help, they know the answers.) An example of listings for a Hanukkah review for middle school students could include: Modiin, Macabees, al ha-nisim, nes gadol haya sham, Mattathias, 167-165 BCE, 25th of Kislev, Antiochus, Hasmoneans, etc. You wouldn’t
want to do all the holidays separately – it would get terribly boring. But this could be a way to either review a couple of holidays, the texts they learned, or other topics covered.

14. “X (Book of Samuel/Shavuot/Midrash, etc.) for Dummies”
It is a great way to review either a Book of the Bible, what Judaism says about a particular topic, a holiday, etc. Tell the group that Jim Smith in Alaska has just discovered he is Jewish. He knows nothing. You want to give him “fool-proof” information – either of a Jewish holiday or a book of the Bible. Your job is to send him everything he needs. For example, if it is the book of Samuel, he’ll need to know what happened before (briefly), maps, introductions to characters, etc. They’ll need to be as clear as possible. (As the teacher, you’ll need to make a rubric of what they need to include.)

15. Design Their Own Test
Let them come up with good questions for a final test. They need to give you the answers as well. They get credit for how thorough their questions are as a review. You’ll need to go over with them what is involved in putting together a test, and be very clear about what you want; putting in this time is worth it because designing a test is a great review!

16. Powerpoint
Have students put together a Powerpoint review (Moses as leader) or even a presentation that could go up on the school’s website.

17. Art Project
One of our graduates had his students do a Moses head sculpture showing his development as a leader.

18. I Learned…
You can give each student a large poster board with the words “I learned” in the middle. Then give the students sufficient time to do a serious job filling in the poster board – with words, quotes, pictures – whatever conveys real understanding. One would need to be very specific as to a minimum number of ideas, what kinds of entries would be acceptable or not, etc. You might want to help them out by asking certain questions which would allow them to focus. (Or this could be done after other reviews, such as game reviews, inventory, etc.)

19. Chalk Talk
Some of you have used chalk-talk (see our website, archive of newsletters, November 2008) as a way to introduce a new topic. Chalk talk can also be used as a review with either the same question (with the expectation that responses will now be based on what they’ve studied) or a well-written more specific question that will allow students to summarize their learning. This could relate to a thematic topic (such as “what is Biblical leadership?”) or a type of text they’ve studied (“what is midrash?”). Answers will (hopefully) be very different than what they gave when you were introducing the unit.

20. Essay
Take a stand on one of the essential questions raised in the course.

21. Venn Diagram
If a major element of the course was a comparison (for example the difference between early and late prophecy in a course on prophecy), a Venn diagram can provide an appropriate summative exercise. To review, a Venn diagram is 2 overlapping circles, or ovals (which create 3 spaces – one belonging only to each circle, and one space which belongs to both. Students can individually fill in their diagrams entering into the common area what elements of prophecy remained the same for both periods, and in the other sections, what was unique to each period. The teacher can then have a diagram on the board to fill in with the whole group.

22. ‘Authentic’ assessments
Depending on the content of your course, have your students apply the skills, content and big ideas of the course to unseen material or situations, or even their lives. Examples include:

  • Students create their own page of Mikraot Gedolot with various explanations on each pasuk.
  • Ask students to ‘teach’ an unseen sugiya from the Masechet you have studied.
  • Write a midrash.
  • Ask students to create their own ritual, symbol or ceremony for a holiday or life cycle event you studied.
  • Students create a study guide for material you covered or unseen material that is similar.
  • Run a moot beit din where students have to research and decide on a halachik question.

23. Articulating or Reviewing the Big Ideas/ Enduring Understandings
Hopefully, you’ve thought about the enduring understandings you want your students to
take away from the course you’ve taught. If you haven’t already done so, this is a good time to get them to articulate the big ideas. You can approach this in a number of ways:

  • Ask them to come up with 5 or 10 key statements that summarize what they’ve learned – as though they were giving chapter titles to the course, or
  • They can come up with 5 or 10 essay questions that would be good ways to summarize what they have learned. (They needn’t answer these.), or
  • You ask them the 5 or 10 key questions (you can build this upon #2, choosing from the questions they came up with or you can write the questions yourself) and
    have them answer them.
  1. You can decide if you want to let them answer only a couple (picking out
    of a hat – as opposed to what they know best.)
  2. You can have them do the work in pairs.
  3. Or, you can give them a week to prepare the answers alone or with whomever they wish, and then have an in-class final in which you give them two of those questions.

Emotional Closures:
In thinking of ways to wrap up the year, you want to make sure you are not only focusing on the cognitive. Transitions can be difficult for students of all ages. Will they be going
to a new classroom, a new teacher, a new school? How do they feel about the transition? What will they miss? What will they want to leave behind (in terms perhaps of their own behavior)? If they are remaining in the building, can you take them to visit their new teacher/classroom? What about students who might be moving away. How can the class bring closure to the relationships with that child? What about you? If you are moving to another school, you want to be able to tell the children that – not simply disappear from their lives, come September.

You want to also help elementary and middle school students think about how they have matured. For younger students, what are they proud of that they have done/become over the course of the year? (Have they helped friends, tried to work harder, be on time, etc.) You could ask them to write a letter, telling themselves how proud they are of …

High school students can also be prompted to reflect on areas of personal growth over the year. Here are a few examples:

  • Whether by journaling, sharing in small groups or as a class, have students consider what is something new they have achieved (driver’s license, getting a job, breaking out of a clique, moving to an honors class) and what did they learn about themselves?
  • What is something from the class that connects to their lives? In what way? Did it impact decisions they made or the way they thought about something? (You might need to scaffold this or provide some suggestions.) This could even be an essay as part of a summative assessment.
  • Ask students to fill out a ‘decision tree’ that maps out big choices they made over the course of the year and the impact that it had on themselves and others.

Teacher Reflection:
The end of the year should be a time for you, as teacher, to reflect as well. Take a couple of hours, a day or two after the end of school, and sit down to quietly reflect. Write. What went well? What was challenging for you? What can you do differently next year, so that when you get to this time of year next year, you’ll be more satisfied with what you accomplished? Is there someone who can help you think this through? Are there resources you need? Do you need to learn any material?

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