Ensuring a Tremendous End to a Memorable School Year

By Victoria Jasztal on May 19, 2010

In just three weeks, the 2009-2010 school year will be coming to an end, and prior to then, I plan on doing a few things to ensure it is a memorable time. This week, I invite for you to read about my plans, some of which you can incorporate on your own. Some you will be able to incorporate this year; others you can try for next year!

Field Trips

Some teachers enjoy field trips because they provide a hands-on opportunity to learn about concepts their students learn in the classroom. We have been on two memorable field trips two weeks apart.

The last day of April was an incredible opportunity for our class as well as the fifth grade advanced class to enjoy the Florida Museum of Natural History and the University of Florida in Gainesville. Our class toured a science lab (the Energy Technology Incubator) and walked through the butterfly garden at the museum as well as saw the many exhibits there that anyone can see for free. Perhaps the greatest moment was visiting Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Florida Field) and taking a group picture.

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As many of my colleagues, and even some of you know, my students just went on a field trip to St. Augustine this past weekend. Students climbed the 219 steps of the St. Augustine Lighthouse, went on a trolley tour through the city, explored St. George Street with their chaperones, toured the Castillo de San Marcos, and had a tremendous time exploring Ripley's Believe it or Not. They also met their pen pals from W.D. Hartley Elementary School in southern St. Augustine while enjoying their lunch. It was my sixth time taking students to St. Augustine, and the field trip could not have gone any smoother. The photos and videos from the trip will be used for a variety of purposes, from inserting them in a thank you care package for the pen pals to giving them to parents in the next few weeks.

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No, it was not a bird or a plane; it was one of my students still climbing the lighthouse.

Video Making

Recently in preparation for the bus ride on our St. Augustine trip, I made videos with music that incorporated clips of them I filmed over the course of the school year, from watching Barack Obama's speech in September to their trip to the environmental center in November to reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to their kindergarten Book Buddies. To make the videos, I used Adobe Premiere Elements 7.0, and I recorded my voice over in parts using Audacity. I was surprised by the clarity and quality of the video when I transferred it to DVD. I highly recommend the program.

Of course, you can burn DVDs for parents, but it takes quite some time. It is your choice. I have never burned DVDs for parents because the process sometimes takes as long as twenty minutes.

End of the Year Celebration

Additionally, the end of the year awards ceremony and celebration will be held on June 2. As soon as the students come in that morning, they will be served a delicious breakfast the parents and I will be preparing that includes pancakes with maple syrup, bacon, muffins, and juice. From there, they will be sharing their published blank books they have been working on this month that includes their own illustrations and special touches. Students will share excerpts from their books.In essence, I came up with my celebration from Beth Newingham's website, though I decided to incorporate the breakfast as well.

The room will be adorned with their own photographs from over the course of the school year, which will be hanging in displays on the board and be placed on desks covered with tablecloths (possibly nice fabric purchased from Wal-Mart) in budget-friendly wooden frames (About five in a package for approximately $3.00 each) from Home Goods.

I have been working on a PowerPoint presentation all year that includes over 500 slides and lasts about 45 minutes long. Memorable songs are played with the pictures. My favorite parts of the slide show are always the beginning and end: the beginning includes shots from when they were younger, and the end always includes a dedication slide for each student. Here is an example of a photo I have had for many years of a few of my current students as well as a dedication slide from last year's slide show:

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A few of my students in kindergarten, 2005

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Slide from last year's slideshow

I also have been preparing a yearbook at Mixbook.com the past few months. Though the book itself is private online, here is one of the screen shots:

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Though the book will cost at least $20.00, this was a far easier way of documenting memories than scrapbooking this past year. The website includes various layouts, backgrounds, and graphics to include on your pages, though you can come up with your own layouts as well. Your book can be as many pages as you desire (why mine is costly is because it includes over 30 pages). When you print your book, the covers can either be hard or soft. If I have the book ready by the end of the year celebration, it will be out for parents and students to flip through. Parents will be provided with a link to purchase the book if they desire for their child as well. 

I also write each student a one-page letter and have them write me a letter as well. Additionally, they make memory books a few pages long with group pictures from the class that other students sign. They use construction paper, white paper, and photos I provide for them.

Movies

I will be having a few substitutes before the end of the school year due to meetings. My students will be watching movies a few of those days, but just not any movies- they will be watching movies that are based on chapter books such as The Tale of Despereaux and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. A few months back, they watched The City of Ember, which they enjoyed. On the days they watch the movies, they will also read a short excerpt from each book and fill out a form where they will be required to summarize the movie to an extent, name characters, note character traits, and determine the theme.

Play

Plays are an exciting asset of the school year when you are a fourth grade student in Jasztalville. Next Monday will be our end of the year St. Augustine play that will last about 45 minutes. We have been preparing for the play the past few months, and it will be performed on the stage in the cafeteria in the evening. Students will be wearing all kinds of costumes. Some students will have to wear dresses or shirts with ties and jackets to get into their role. After the play, the class will be having a "cast party" that includes a cake that resembles the Castillo de San Marcos. Displays from our St. Augustine trip will be out that evening, and there is going to be a formal "Who's Who" board that includes each student's photo with a short biography. Though our play is not on a professional caliber and our lighting or sound equipment is not the greatest in the universe, everyone enjoys seeing the play. Here are some photos from last year's play (some of these costumes are mine and will be reused, others were not mine and we have to seek other costumes this year):

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Make Math Hands-On

Very soon, I will have students work on model bedrooms soon to review area and perimeter. I have a surplus of cardboard the students can use. They will be making furniture to scale as well as paint their rooms or put "wallpaper" (scrapbook paper) on the walls. If I can acquire carpeting, they will have that as well. Extra cloth is left over from previous events where they can make curtains, and they can cut out pictures from magazines to make posters in their rooms. 

We may also construct bridges with straws to see if they can hold increasing weight in grams. I have done this second project twice, yet I have never tried the model bedrooms. I am going to take a risk in the last few weeks of school. 

Quiz Shows

The students also will compete in quiz shows in the classroom. I may do whole-class board games (which I made quite some time ago), games on PowerPoint, and games on DVD, such as Show Me The Wild from National Geographic.

Summer Science

I also host a science show on the lawn at recess the end of every year. The Totally Irresponsible Book of Science (recommended by Angela Bunyi this past year) is a fantastic resource for off-the-wall outdoor projects that draws large crowds of curious students. We create soda geysers with Diet Coke and Mentos and make baking soda bombs in bags, for starters. This year, I may also be making bubbles around students by using a hula hoop in a kiddie pool filled with a special solution. From there, we may also have a few events involving water. One very inexpensive water slide solution that I do not use but the fifth grade advanced teacher uses is with a slick plastic sheet, dish soap, and water. Students slide on laminated poster boards.

Here are some websites where you can find exciting hands-on activities. The Science Olympiad link requires paying for a booklet.

What do you do for the end of the school year? I would enjoy reading your thoughts.

Comments

The students build a 3-D building at home and bring it into to school. We spend the next few lessons using the completed buildings during math. They can create any building they would like, real or imaginary. Students use cardboard boxes generally, however some students actually create them out of wood. Most students paint the outside of their buildings - I am always impressed!

I have a whole packet that the students complete. One page reviews measurement concepts. They have to measure the height, length and width in both U.S. standard and metric units. On another page, students must count the number of faces, edges and vertices. Students must name the 3-D shapes that exist within their building (rectangular prisms, spheres etc.) They also have to draw diagrams of their building from different perspectives (top view, front view, etc.).

Krissy, I don't know whether I am giving each of them a CD, but they will always have our class Shutterfly website, where the memories are all preserved for them. I know you have been to the site, but I'll share it for others...

http://msjasztalsfourthgrade.shutterfly.com

What wonderful ways to end the journey of a school year together! The last day of school is always bittersweet. I think making a class DVD is one of the best memories you can give a student. Thank you for sharing these. :)

Kaitlin, thanks for sharing the architecture website! I found it last summer, but have not used it as of yet. It may come in handy; they've already designed blueprints, so they know about the basics of architecture. However, a website like that can be very exciting practice for them. What do you do for the 3-D buildings (like which type of buildings do the students build, and which materials do you provide)? Thanks for sharing.

Katie, I may drop by Lowe's or Home Depot tomorrow. I really like the idea of spending the $500,000, too... is this furnished or unfurnished? Thanks for sharing, also!

Hi Victoria! Thanks for all of the great ideas. I love the model bedrooms activity for area and perimeter review. If you want a connection to technology for that project, here is a good site: http://architectstudio3d.org/AS3d/design_studio3d.html

At the end of the year we are having our kids make 3-D buildings during our geometry unit, and I plan on using this site for that project as an extension about architecture.

Great ideas Victoria (as always!). :-) I'm actually doing a math project as well right now. Except mine is where the kids design their dream home with $500,000. I'm impresses with the thought that they put into the project.

I'm sure you can get carpet scraps from a carpeting store or like a Home Depot or something. They are usually pretty generous if you tell them you're a teacher.

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