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May 4, 2015 Treasured End-of-Year Gifts That Won't Break the Bank By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2

    May 1 has been my sister’s birthday for . . . well, I better not say how many years, but since I began teaching it has another significant meaning. May 1 signals the end of the school year. Even if you have students well into the month of June, as my district does, something in my head still “clicks” into countdown mode starting at the beginning of May.

    The end of the school year is a very sentimental time for teachers. Even if you have had one of those years, you still have developed relationships with your students who you are sad to see move on. I love giving my students a gift that I hope will mean something to them in future years. Here is a list of end-of-year gift ideas that take just a little time and a few sentimental feelings.


    Framed Tagxedo Word Clouds

    Word Clouds were all the rage in education for a while, and Wordle was my favorite. In fact, fellow blogger Genia Connell just posted about using word clouds in her easy-to-make bookmarks post. I was all about Wordle until a colleague introduced me to Tagxedo. Tagxedo allows you to take your word cloud and choose the shape of it.

    To make each student's individual word cloud, I begin by typing their name a minimum of ten times. Since frequency determines size, this ensures their name will be the largest word in the cloud. I then list favorite things of the student, characteristics of the student, and positive attributes that I observed through the year. Hit the "Create" button and voilà: you have a great word cloud! I print them in color and then frame in simple black frames that I buy for $1 each from my local Dollar Tree.

    I will often use the same shape for several students, but I make sure that they are individualized in color and font. I also love the feature that lets you create a white space picture by creating the word cloud around the perimeter of the shape. It's as simple as clicking the Invert option button.

    Maddy's Tagxedo Shooting StarIan's Tagxedo Shark


    Classroom Published Book

    I shared our Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe book in an earlier post. Creating an end-of-year classroom book is another great gift. I work one-on-one with each child to create their page in our What I Learned in Kindergarten book.

    Each student comes up with something that they learned in kindergarten during a big class discussion. I write each item down, listing the fact or skill they named in the order that we experienced them. Next, I have each student write about the item they named on a page in pencil and add a picture. I allow each student to do their best, which means that some pages have a simple sentence and others contain several complex sentences. I am just there to answer any questions that they have and help them remember our classroom resources for spelling. My level of intervention ranges from helping them sound out a word to just encouraging them to write more.

    After drawing their picture in pencil, they each trace their words and picture outlines in black magic marker, and then color in their pictures. I write an end-of-year message to put in as the last page, make a copy of the book for each student, create a cover, and assemble. Using a class picture makes creating the book cover an easy task.

    Ian's Picture Page Ian's Page

    Maddy's Page Esther's Page

    Hayden's page


    Inscribed Book

    $1.00 BookOne of my best resources as a teacher is Scholastic Reading Club. My kids get great books for home, and I get great books for my classroom library. I am more than a little obsessed with my classroom book collection.

    Every April, I anxiously wait for the May sales catalogs to come to my school mailbox, and I immediately flip through them to find the dollar book selections. The Reading Club editors are phenomenal at selecting amazing books and offering them at very affordable prices. Not a huge fan of the $1 book? Don’t worry. There are always other great end-of-year options for $2, $3, or $4. (Don’t forget that you can use those Bonus Points to purchase a book for every child!)

    No matter which book I buy, my favorite part of this gift is when I sit down with my fine point Sharpie and write a special note to each child. I love having the opportunity to let each child know what they brought to our class as an individual, and how much I loved being their teacher. Each inscription is personalized and one-of-a-kind . . . just like my students.

    Whitney's Inscription

    I love all three of these end-of-year gift ideas! Because they are each so affordable I often give some combination of these options.

    Find me, dad2ella, on Pinterest and Twitter.

    I can’t wait to see you next week.


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Susan Cheyney