It's that time of the year again! The birds are singing, the sun is out, and the school year is winding down. I've found myself becoming a little bit tear-ier than usual when I think about saying goodbye to this years' batch of kids. At times, they were a really tough group, but I've loved the adventures we have been able to have together.
There are so many ways that you can celebrate the end of the year in an elementary classroom. I thought I'd share a few of my favourite ways to mark the end of a successful year together.
1. Now and Then Bulletin Board
On the first day of school, I always take a picture of my kiddos holding a sign that marks their first day in a new grade. For me, it's important that this happens on the actual first day of school. (Not the first week, etc.) I love the nervous/shy/apprehensive smiles I get when I take their photos on Day 1. Then, towards the end of the year (usually 2-3 weeks from the end), we take another photo. This time I ask them to scream out "I am done grade three!" I love seeing the difference between their beginning and end of the year photos. They grow so much in third grade.
2. Birthday Party for Everyone
The theme for our year end class party this year is "Birthday Party for Everyone".
I have to admit, I am not the best at celebrating birthdays in class. I'm great at holidays, book studies, literary events, science projects... but birthdays...notsomuch. This year, we are having an in-class birthday party for all of my students on a day that is no one's birthday. Each student is in charge of something: planning games, making invitations, setting up colouring stations, organizing food... even washing the dishes afterward!
A fun way to celebrate with their friends, and make sure each child feels valued during the school year.
3. Slideshow (Class Movie)
I love ending the year off with a class movie. I am an iPhone and camera addict (Nikon girl!) so I am constantly snapping pics and quick movies of my kiddos. This is my chance to snip them all together into a short (ok... 10 minutes... not that short) movie to watch.
When I first started teaching I always waited until the last day of school to show them the movie. Last year I stopped doing that. Why? Because they love the movie. They love it so much that they could watch it every day for a week. So now I usually show it to them 2-3 days before the end of the year. It gives them a chance to see it a few times before they have to say "goodbye" to each other for the summer. Then, if they want to talk about it, process it, or suddenly *remember* someone that they need to play with on the playground... they can!
4. Beach Field Trip
I know that this one isn't possible for everyone. I feel so fortunate to live in British Columbia, and only 30-45 minutes away from more than a dozen world class beaches.
Each June my grade three class heads to the beach with our grade one buddies, their siblings, and all of our families. We celebrate the end of a successful year family-style with a beach BBQ, sandcastle building contest, and little toes in the sand!
5. 'About My Year' Project
I always try to finish out the year with a project that helps students to reflect on their time in Third Grade. It's a great way to help students to remember all of the fun you had, and think back on how much they have learned and grown! Last year we wrote letters to future Third Grade students. This year, I created a flipbook template that let us think about the best parts of the year!
6. Award Ceremony
In the last week of school I always hold my annual 'Grade Three Award Ceremony'. We set up the classroom like a mini-auditorium and each student is given an individualized award certificate. I invite parents to come watch and try to make this a special part of the end of our year. This is such a chance to honour the unique parts of each student in my classroom. I love how students light up when they hear how they are being honoured. Teachers Pay Teachers has many pre-made award certificates. I use this pack from 'Teaching with a Mountain View' because it has so many different options and is a great time-saver. (I do still have to come up with a few awards on my own - but she has an editable template as well).
7. Maintain Routines
This one may sound odd... but stay with me. Sometimes the end of the year in an elementary classroom can be so much fun that it gets a little chaotic. Field trips, parties, school-wide events, parent visits and evening concerts can mean that their last few weeks in a certain grade look almost nothing like the rest of the year!
Last year, I remember one of my bright-eyed little third graders coming up to me and asking "Mrs. P, will I ever get to do read-to-self with you ever again?" She was heartbroken at the thought that regular grade three was over.
In the hustle and bustle of the "fun" of the end of the year, I've learned that sometimes the best gift you can give to your students is the gift of keeping things as normal as possible. They like it. They like you, their teacher. They will miss so many parts of the grade they are in, so why not let them hold on for just a few more days?
How do you and your class celebrate the end of a year of learning? Any traditions you have carried forward from year to year? Anything you are hoping to try out next year?