Make the most of those final summery days with your class by celebrating all that your students have accomplished throughout the school year. Here is a collection of fun finishers, wrapping-up ideas, and sweet stepping-up ceremonies.
The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is a perfect parallel to the gains your class has made over the last year. Have students make wings out of cardboard or by stretching stockings over simple wire frames. Then, hold a flying-up ceremony in which the students get their "wings." You can create a classroom chrysalis using a large box or pop-up tent. (The chrysalis is the protective covering from which the butterfly emerges.) Open the box or tent on both sides and decorate it with "We're leaving __ grade!" signs. Invite each student to take turns crawling inside the chrysalis and donning his or her wings. When each student emerges, congratulate him or her on a successful transformation, and encourage the class to applaud. This special ritual is one they will always remember.
Send your "graduates" off with a tool kit for the upcoming year. Talk with teachers of the grade ahead about what students will be learning next year, and what supplies they may need. Decorate large manila envelopes with cut-outs of hammers and saws, and the child's name. Then fill each kit with inexpensive items such as handwriting paper, a times table, a photocopied map of places kids will study, word lists, a mini-book or dictionary, a summer book list, pencils, and a button or sticker that reads "I'm a ____ grader!" Include a note to kids and parents about the upcoming year.
Send students rolling into the next year by making grade-number-shaped soft pretzels. Use the easy recipe at Spoonful.com to make the dough. When it is ready, cut the dough into small pieces and give one to each child. Have students stretch and roll the pieces into long ropes, then shape into the number representing next year's grade. As the pretzels bake, invite the class to talk about favorite moments of the past year, and to speculate on what next year will bring. Give classroom volunteers, office staff, and others a special thanks by inviting them in to your classroom pretzel celebration.
In The Important Book, Margaret Wise Brown reflects on the most important things about apples, spoons, shoes, grass, rain, and more. In Another Important Book, she reflects on what is important about being ages one through six. Read aloud these charming books to your students, then encourage them to complete this sentence: "The most important thing I learned in grade____ is...." As a class, put together your own "Important Book" with each child writing one page.
At your end-of-year party, give each student a slip of paper and invite him or her to write one goal for the future. Have students slip the notes inside balloons and then inflate them. Later, let kids toss balloons (like graduation caps), keeping one to pop and share its message aloud with the rest of the class.
End of year is a great time for kids to think about the future — next year, and when they grow up! Hold a What-I-Want-To-Be Day and invite students to come dressed up in clothing that represents a job that interests them. Have students research their chosen profession and report to the class. Take pictures of the event for kids to take home.
Famous Last Words
Before your students move on, invite them to leave behind some words of wisdom. Give each student a construction paper "brick" on which to record a piece of advice that they think will be helpful to future classes, such as "Remember to feed our fish" and "Don't talk during read-aloud time." Then tape the bricks on a bulletin board to make a wall. Next fall, share these "famous last words" with your new students.
Get together with the teachers in the grade above and host a Moving-Up Day. Children will appreciate the chance to meet the teachers and see their new classrooms. Encourage them to share the exciting activities next year's class will encounter.
Mural of Memories
Take the learning outside! Bring colored chalk and invite your students to create a mural illustrating the many wonderful things your class did, saw, and learned this year. It will be a great "advertisement" for next year's students. Back inside, have your class write about the favorite memories they drew.
Invite your students to write letters to next year's class. Remind them that they are the "experts" on your class, and can give great advice. Next year, place a "buddy" letter on each student's desk — it will help to ease first-day anxiety!
Our Class Time Line
Help students create a month-by-month class time line that celebrates the key events from the past year. Invite kids to work in groups to brainstorm important moments of the year, and record them on notecards. Then, lay the cards out and have kids work to put them in chronological order.