The end of the school year is such a precious and busy time. This year we asked Choice Literacy contributors to share some of their favorite ideas and activities for closing out the school year. This article is the first in a two-part series.
Aimee Buckner, Grades 3-4 Teacher and Author of Notebook Know-Howand Notebook Connections
I’m usually getting tired by the end of the year and need to remember to enjoy my students. Everyone is getting antsy to be outside and out of school. It can be challenging for both the students and the teacher! The last month I read aloud funny books (I’m aiming for laugh out loud humor). My two favorites are Top Ten Ways To Ruin The First Day Of School by Ken Derby. The other is an oldie but goodie — This Island Isn’t Big Enough for the Four of Us! by Gery Greer and Bob Ruddick. We laugh our way to the end.
Our school library is open two days a week during the summer for kids to come and check out books. In order to help others with their summer selections, my students write book reviews and post them on the walls near the entrance of the library. Some write about books they’ve read earlier in the year, while others choose books they’ve read more recently. It’s a nice twist to the general summer reading list that is usually posted.
Packing up is something I don’t particularly enjoy. I do like buying new books over the summer. Every summer I forget just how many books are packed up, and then I’m in a crunch to sift through my classroom library to rid myself of books kids aren’t reading any more to replace with newer books they might read. Now at the end of the year, I ask the kids to go through the classroom library – much like how we set it up in the beginning. Kids get baskets and/or stacks of books. Any books they find that no one has read, are falling apart, or really belong at another grade level, are cleared out. Then I only pack the books (in baskets so they’re ready for the new school year) that are needed. This helps me determine how much self control I need to use when buying books over the summer. The books I’m getting rid of kids can either take home or I offer to other teachers in the building. If there are still books left over that are in good condition, I donate them to another school in need.
Trish Prentice, Kindergarten Teacher and Contributor to Choice Literacy and The Daily Café:
As the last several weeks of the school year quickly approach, the air is certainly filled with excitement. The children are anxious for vacation plans to begin. At this time of year I take on the role of a “proud parent” as I look with wonder at what the children have accomplished. Last year, armed with my new pocket video camera, I decided to interview each student. I asked them about their favorite books, what they liked to write about, the strategies they mastered, and any other great literacy moments they treasured. My next step was to combine all the interviews into a class video. I asked each family to send in a flash drive so I could download a copy of the video for everyone. I also included all the photos taken from our various adventures throughout the year. It’s a wonderful keepsake; moments frozen in time that document our journey together as a community of learners.
Karen Terlecky, 5th Grade Teacher and Coauthor of the Literate Lives Blog
I find myself thinking about end of year school routines a little earlier than normal this year because I will miss the last nine days of school with my students in order to have my knee replaced. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to “close out” the year with my readers and writers with whom I’ve built such a strong literate community. What are the ways in which we can celebrate together the joys of sharing great books, wonderful conversations, and our own writing? I have many ideas percolating, but the two that are sticking out for me the most are the ones I will share here.
All year long, we have built our community through conversation, Mrs. T reading response letters, and written responses to all the books we read aloud together. The terminology we use in our classroom is, “What is going on in your reading life?” We’ve spent the entire year saving our thinking as readers in our Book Lover’s Binder. I plan to spend one entire morning with my students sprawled out throughout the room, looking back through their history as a 5th grade reader in their binder. We’ll most likely have many conversations about the memories and learning that happened for us. After that, I will have my students write one final response letter that reflects their two favorite moments as a reader (or a writer) in this past school year. It will be important to me that they have these reflections live on our class KidBlog so that all of us can access this thinking for a while (the beauty of responses online).
The second activity is more about “paying it forward” a little bit. I will give them a large index card and ask them to share the favorite book they read this school year. They can get a picture of the book online or draw a picture (depending on their artistic tendencies). Then, I will ask them to write a short blurb about why this book meant so much to them. My hope is that as next year’s class enters the room, they will immediately have the legacy and thinking of this year’s amazing readers and writers surrounding them on the walls.
Stella Villalba, ELL Teacher and Author of the Learn Love Grow Blog
The last 20 days of the school year are very intense for all teachers and for students as well. Our teaching days are filled with state assessments, wrapping up meetings, filling out orders for next year, finishing up all projects and tying loose ends. As the intensity increases so does the overwhelming feeling of having to do it all before the last day of school. It is this intensity that makes it hard sometimes to concentrate, focus or celebrate the beauty of ending another year.
For this reason, I came up with the idea of 20 Amazing Daily Things — A Countdown to the End of the Year. All I do is get a clipboard and attach a blank sheet of paper. Every day before I leave school, I chose just one amazing thing that happened that day, or that I would like to remember. It could be something that one of my students said, a read aloud that spiced up our day, a compliment the class received, a quote, a note, a conversation with a parent — ANYTHING that I would want to look and remember it. Despite the craziness and intensity of our work, I can still celebrate life’s daily small moments, remembering what I enjoy the most: being a teacher.