I always have lofty ideas about having the perfect last day of school: the perfect blend of fun and deep and meaningful. I think I managed to pull it off pretty well this year, so here’s what I did with my first graders:
Morning Journal: every day my kids begin with a journal prompt. But I sent everything home on the penultimate day of school. Everything. Even pencils. So I cut four huge pieces of butcher paper, which I spread over each table group, and let them color with markers (I still had some of those).
Deep and Meaningfuls: 1. I often do an activity with the kids in which we toss a Beanie Baby from person to person, and when it’s your turn, you have to share something from a given category (adjectives, facts about X, etc.) On the last day of school, they each shared their favorite part of first grade. Some of their answers were: math and writing (yay me!), art projects, field trips, field day, birthdays, pizza, and cupcakes. You just can’t beat cupcakes.
2. I gave each student a blank piece of paper and a clipboard. I had them write their name at the top (with colored pencils). The kids were all sitting in a circle. They passed their clipboard to the right, and wrote one nice word to describe the new person. Then they passed the clipboards again, until they went all the way around the circle. At the end, students had a paper with a nice word from each student in the class, plus the teacher. (I totally participated too! And was touched by what they wrote: beautiful, nice, kind, funny, to name a few.)
3. Yearbook signing. First we took about 20 minutes of just our class, then about half an hour more letting the students go between all the first grade classes. Many students asked me to sign their yearbooks, of course. It takes time, but I write a personal message to each student.
Fun: I teach my kids lots of “wiggle songs” (like you sing at summer camp). We spent about half an hour singing their favorites, such as “The Moose Song,” “Tarzan,” and “The Princess Pat.”
Read aloud: I always end the last day school with one last read aloud. Oh the Places You’ll Go is popular, but I figure they’ll hear that one about 90 times between now and senior year, so I opt for something different. This year it was I am Albert Einstein by Brad Meltzer, from the Ordinary People Change the World series. This one emphasizes believing in yourself and never giving up.
The last day of school always seems to come too soon. Well, in another way, I’m eager for it to come. But at the same time, I hope I’ve done enough to teach my kids and to love them, and I wonder how they are and what they are up to after they leave my class.