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Wrapping Up the School Year: Ending the Year on a High Note

May 27, 2014 / by Carrie Kamm

Editor's Note: Read more end of year activities from Teaching Channel blogger Lily Jones.

As much as I love the summer, the end of the school year has always been tough for me. The classroom can become a family of sorts -- complete with all the good times and challenging times that come with being a family. Although I always look forward to getting to know a new group of learners, it's important to me to honor our classroom community and all the memories we've made at the end of the school year. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

1. Photo Slide Show:

Each year, I take lots of photographs of students. I make sure to keep my camera close during student work times, field trips, recess, performances, and report card conferences. Then, I compile the photos into a slide show with songs about endings ("Never Can Say Goodbye" by the Jackson Five was always in there). I typically showed the slide show during one of our final days of school and gave each student two to three pictures of themselves from the slide show. Students, no matter how old, love seeing themselves on the screen!

2. Letters to the New Class:

Have your current group of students write letters to the students in the next class. Besides being an authentic writing opportunity, it also gives students an opportunity to share what new students need to know about the classroom. My students usually write about the classroom library, our class jobs, special games we played, unit topics, and our routines and rituals. (We read about this popular activity in Lily's blog last week.)

3. Closing Circle:

One of our weekly rituals is Closing Circle. On Fridays during the last 15 minutes, the students and I gather in our meeting area to share a personal accomplishment (connected to learning or academic goals) or give a classmate a complement. During this Closing Circle, I do some cheerleading or discuss concerns regarding our classroom community. On the last day of school, we hold a Closing Circle during which each student shares a favorite memory, a personal accomplishment, their favorite book, or shares their most meaningful learning moment from the year.

4. Farewell Letters to Students:

On the last day of school, I give each student a note card from me. I write a note wishing them a safe summer, sharing one thing I enjoyed about having them in class, or something about them I will always remember. Students enjoy receiving a personal note about their unique place in our classroom community.

The end of the school year can feel like a mad rush, with field trips, performances, field days, and graduations. Consider carving out some sacred space with your students to honor the end of your time with them.

What are some of the ways you end the year with your students?  Read Lily's blog with five more ways to wrap-up the school year.

Topics: Professional Learning

Carrie Kamm

Written by Carrie Kamm

Carrie Kamm has 16 years of experience in education and is currently a mentor-resident coach with the Academy for Urban School Leadership's (AUSL) Chicago Teacher Residency program. She is a coauthor of TEACHING 2030: What We Must Do for our Students and our Public Schools… Now and In the Future, and a member of the Center for Teaching Quality's collaboratory. Follow Carrie on Twitter, @Carrie_Kamm.

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