The end of the school year is an exciting and a stressful time! This lesson will offer some effective ideas for closing the year with your fifth graders and sending them to middle school on a strong foot.
End of the Year
Ms. Adams has been teaching fifth grade for more than a decade.
She understands the importance of a strong start to the school year, and she knows many ways to keep momentum going as the year progresses. Her biggest source of pride, though, is her understanding of how important it is to end the year well with her fifth graders, who will graduate and go on to sixth grade in the fall. Ms. Adams believes that ending the year is a matter of combining closure, or a strong sense of completion and fulfillment, with cultivating a sense of excited anticipation over what comes next.
When it comes to closure, Ms. Adams is quite sure that one of the most important things she can do with her students is celebrate the community they have become over the course of the year and, in some cases, their elementary school career.
The following activities help Ms. Adams do this sort of celebrating:
- Appreciation Cards
Write the name of each student in your class on a slip of paper. Have students pick each other’s names from a hat. Each student should make a card showing something they appreciate about the classmate whose name they drew. Bring students together to ceremoniously gift one another with the cards.
- Invite Former Teachers to the Classroom
Too often, Ms. Adams hears her students talk about missing their first grade teachers and not getting a real chance to say goodbye. She has begun inviting teachers to share their memories of the graduating fifth graders. This also gives students a chance to reminisce and celebrate their personal and collective growth.
- Field Trips
Ms. Adams thinks that there is no better way to close a year than through a really good field trip with her class. Each year, she tries to plan a capstone trip, whether it’s something big like a museum or amusement park, or just a local picnic.
She encourages families to join and spend the day celebrating their fifth graders and all they have accomplished.
- Making a Mark Together
As Ms. Adams begins packing up her own classroom for the summer, she asks her class to work together to leave some sort of mark behind.
This may be a mural they create together to hang on the wall, a letter to next year’s class, or anything else the students come up with. Working together to leave their mark is a wonderful way to help with closure and celebration of community.
In addition to working on a sense of closure, Ms. Adams knows how important it is for her students to look toward their future. As the year draws toward its end, she asks each student to write a list of three summer goals. She puts these goals in sealed envelopes and sends them home with her students so that they can hold themselves accountable.Ms.
Adams also has her students write letters to their sixth grade selves. In these letters, she asks her students to be honest about things they hope to remember as they embark on their next journey. Ms. Adams collects these letters and sends them with families or, when possible, to sixth grade teachers, for her students to read at the beginning of the following school year.
Keeping Track of Each Other
Adams knows that her students will feel less anxious and more excited about the transitions ahead of them if they can get a concrete picture of where they and their classmates will be. To help with this, she arranges class visits to the school where the majority of her class will go. She also communicates with families whose children are attending different schools so that they are sure to arrange visits. Ms.
Adams gives her students plenty of opportunities to talk about observations and questions about the next grade.
Ms. Adams also makes a large chart with her students’ names on it.
She has students fill in the chart with one thing they are doing over the summer, as well as the school they will be attending in the fall. She understands that this visual representation assuages transition-related anxiety somewhat because children can see what their classmates are planning and feel solidarity as they experience change.
The end of the school year is an exciting time, and it can also cause worries and confusion. Ms. Adams understands that her work as a teacher in facilitating closure and anticipation at the end of the year is every bit as important as her work at the beginning of the year in creating community. She plans activities that will help her students celebrate themselves and each other and feel a sense of accomplishment. She also plans carefully to ensure that they will begin to grow excited and confident as they move on with their scholastic careers.