Hooray! We made it! It’s almost summer vacation! Some of you lucky people are already finished with school. You can sit back, relax and read this while you think of those of us who are still in the classroom—it’s OK to smirk a little bit! We’ll join you soon, ready to savor the low-key pace of summer! Of course, you’ll be heading back to school before us—we’ll do our smirking then!
I love to end the year with activities that engage and involve my suddenly wild students and help them reflect on their year in my class. Of course, I want these activities to be educationally sound, fun and not extra work for me at this busy time of the year. Here’s my list of easy ideas to wrap up the school year:
Letters to Incoming Students
Everyone loves to receive mail! Have your students write letters to incoming students. The greeting is Dear ____ Grader. Encourage your students to write about the highlights of the year. They can offer tips about your classroom, recess, field trips, etc. My students always like doing this fun writing project. You’ll find that your students do a better job with the letter writing if you first brainstorm with them ideas and write them on the chalkboard. Kindergarten students can draw pictures and write or dictate a few sentences. Or, younger students can dictate a group letter that you jot on chart paper.
Save the letters and pass them out to your new students on the first day of school. Your new students will love getting mail from the big kids.
Welcome to School Bulletin Board
This idea has a huge built in bonus for you! Not only do your students reflect upon and write about a favorite moment in your class, you end up with a bulletin board that’s ready to go for next year!
Have your kids make a “Welcome to ____ Grade” bulletin board. Make a generic talk bubble and run it on heavy white paper. Your students write in the talk bubbles about a favorite moment in your classroom and then sign their names. Cover a bulletin board with bright paper and add the caption “Welcome to 2nd Grade!”, “Sixth Grade is great!” or something that works for your grade level. Collect the completed talk bubbles and pin them on the bulletin board as your students complete them. You might want to let your students draw a small picture in the talk bubble to accompany their writing. Early finishers can make extra talk bubbles for the bulletin board.
It's WONDERFUL to have a back to school bulletin board up and ready to go on the last day of school. In the fall, your new kids will love to read what last year's class enjoyed. [Editor's tip: cover the completed bulletin board with newspaper or fabric to protect it during summer cleaning & maintenance activities.]
Easy to Make Yearbooks
Making yearbooks is a favorite activity with students. I've done this yearbook activity with 2nd through 6th graders. Here’s the easiest way that I’ve found to make yearbooks:
Divide a paper into headings labeled:
[Whatever subjects you teach...]
Special Field Trip
and any other categories you think of!
Run off sheets of the headings for your students.
Students cut the headings apart and glue them one heading per page onto blank white and/or colored pages.
Students arrange the pages, staple them together and add construction paper covers to their yearbooks.
The first year I had my 5th graders make yearbooks without a lot of instruction. Some kids "finished" theirs in 15 minutes. Avoid the problem of kids rushing through this project haphazardly by teaching a whole class lesson in how to complete the yearbook pages. I find that when I give the kids some ideas and we work together on a few pages, they really do a great job on their own yearbooks. For example, on the “Special Field Trip” page, students write about their favorite field trip and draw a picture or two. The kids added samples of their best work from their portfolios on the reading, math, and other subject specific pages.
Some of the kids want to include every heading and then include additional headings for pages of their own ideas. Other kids might not choose as many. I usually "require" certain pages and let the others be optional.
If possible, make color copies of your class picture so everyone can include one in their yearbook.
Yearbooks are a perfect "I'm done" activity!
No Stress Field Trip
What better way to wrap up the year than with a field trip! This is the world’s easiest field trip to plan. There are no permission slips to collect, bus request forms to complete or chaperones required! Take your class on a field trip to the next grade level.
In June, I take my kindergarten class on a "field trip" to visit the first grade classrooms. The first grade teachers introduce themselves to my students. Then they have their students show us around the room and tell us about the grade level. Sometimes the first graders recite a poem or sing a song for us, or the teacher might read aloud a fun book. The “field trip” is a great way to alleviate some of the fears your students may have about the next grade.
If you teach the oldest grade level at your school, see if you can take your class back to kindergarten to revisit the place where their school experience began. I love it when the sixth graders come on their field trip to my class. They all marvel at the tiny chairs and the fat crayons! One highlight of their visit is always the kindergarten playground. I get a kick out of seeing giant sixth graders climb on the kindergarten play structure and ride the kindergarten tricycles! The other highlight is watching them build with the kindergarten blocks.
Talk to the teachers at your school and see if you can arrange a field trip for your class! Your kids will love it and I bet you will too!
Field Day the Easy Way
Field Day has become a tradition on the last day at my school. The whole school participates and it is wonderful! The 6th graders run different games and activities at different stations for the kindergarten through fifth grade students. Students look forward to the day when they are sixth graders and old enough to be in charge of the activities.
The activities can be simple ones that don’t require a lot of explanation. Here's a list of some of the activities that are available on field day:
3 legged race
crab soccer (kids scramble around on all fours with their tummies facing up and kick a giant ball into the soccer goals)
relays where kids balance balls on tennis rackets
water balloon toss—of course this is the most popular activity!
partner toss and catch games using tennis balls and cut off bleach bottles
sidewalk chalk drawing
tricycle races using the kindergarten bikes
There needs to be at least as many activities as there are classes participating in field day. Kick off field day by assigning each class to their first activity. After that each class moves to other activities randomly as they become available. Field Day is all about having fun as a class and sharing the experience with the entire school. The best way to end field day is with popsicles for everyone!
Teaching can be so demanding. By the time the last days of school roll around all of us are more than ready to unwind and relax. Here’s to making it through the last days of school with a smile on your face! Enjoy every minute of your summer—you deserve it!
Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber are a mother-daughter writing team who share a passion for teaching and writing. Barbara is a former teacher who was employed by Frank Schaffer Publications from l980 to l996. She developed and presented curriculum seminars nationwide for K-6 teachers. Barbara was involved in product development and was a freelance writer exclusively for Frank Schaffer Publications. After “retiring,” she continued writing best-selling products for other publishers. Barbara and her husband live on a farm in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, California. She has four grown children and four grandchildren. Barbara earned her M.A. at Santa Clara University in California.
Sue Gruber taught grades three, four, five and currently teaches kindergarten. Sue, her husband and son live in Sonoma County, as well. Sue’s first experience as a writer was helping Barbara write a science book for Frank Schaffer Publications. Sue has a degree in geology and a strong science background. They continued as a writing team and created dozens of products for Frank Schaffer Publications, Scholastic and other publishers. Sue earned her M.A. at Sonoma State University in California.
Barbara and Sue are partners in Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers. They personally write each course with today’s busy teachers in mind. Teachers can do coursework completely on their own, or, if they wish, interact on line with others. They can earn one, two or three semester units from University of the Pacific. Barbara and Sue present information on a practical level. It can be put into action immediately in classrooms. Barbara and Sue provide instructional strategies and management ideas without creating more work for teachers.
The internet allows Barbara & Sue to do the work they love most—work directly with teachers. They are thrilled with the response by teachers to their courses. They have a fresh, teacher-friendly approach to affordably-priced courses. Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber have created exactly what today’s teachers are looking for! You can find out about their courses at www.bgrubercourses.com