The final days of the school year can feel like a whirlwind, and there have been many years in which I felt like I didn’t take enough time to enjoy my students and give our time together the recognition and closure it deserved. Here are six ideas for grades K-5 to help you connect with your kids and end the year on a high note:
Eat lunch together.
Join your class in the cafeteria, or invite students to eat in the classroom with you. If you want to make more individual connections, invite a different group of 5-6 kids to eat with you each day Monday through Friday. If you have a snack time in your classroom, that can be a fun opportunity, too—bring in something special to share with the class during the last week and sit with a different group of kids each day.
Join in at recess.
If you’re the type who normally stands on the sidelines, ask if you can join a basketball game or jump rope contest. Kids love to see their teachers having fun! Make it your goal to spend at least a couple of minutes with each child at some point during the week just hanging out, talking, or doing something they love.
Read (or re-read) your favorite books.
If you haven’t had time to share your favorite children’s book with your students, now’s your chance! And if you have, the last week of school is a great time to revisit that book again and invite children to join in on the parts they remember. Encourage the kids to submit their favorite books for you to read again, too. If you don’t have enough time for them all, provide 10-15 minutes for kids to pair up and read their favorite book to a partner. This is also a great opportunity to remind your students of how much they’ve grown as readers throughout the year!
Record favorite memories.
There are lots of creative ways to have students reflect on what they learned and enjoyed during the year, but many of them are time-intensive. If you only have a few minutes, hang a large blank piece of bulletin board paper and invite students to share their favorite memories and lessons during your morning bell work or dismissal time. Another easy way to capture students’ memories if you have a video release form from parents is to use your phone to capture video of yourself interviewing kids at lunch or recess (or have a student do it for you). Play the video clips back for the class to watch and reminisce together, or post them on your class blog so parents can see, too.
Give character certificates.
Fill out a certificate for each child using the free blank templates widely available online, and write them out to acknowledge kids’ most outstanding character qualities, such as loyalty and friendship, responsibility, creativity, initiative, manners, flexibility, integrity, friendliness, dependability, and so on. Thinking of all your students’ positive qualities will create positive feelings in you, too! Hand out the certificates during an in-class ceremony, or call kids over to your desk individually to present the certificates and thank the children for being such an awesome part of the class. You can also have students create awards for one another.
Tell students how they can connect with you over the summer and beyond.
For some kids, leaving your classroom for the last time will feel like losing all contact with a a beloved family member, and it can be very reassuring if they know you won’t be gone from their lives forever. You’ll have to determine what’s most appropriate for your situation as these ideas won’t work for everyone, but you could provide the school’s mailing address and invite kids to send you postcards during their travels, permit students to leave comments on your class blog, or reach out via school-approved social media outlets like Edmodo.
How do you connect with your students during the last week of school? Please share your ideas with other teachers in the comments!
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