School’s Out for Summer (Pt. 1)

The end of the year...this time of year is like tax season for teachers. It has the lure of being relaxing and easy, but yet it is probably the busiest month of the entire year.

Some feel...



while most feel 


Now trust me—I have had my years when I was good and ready to close up and start again new in a few months.  Pack the boxes, move the furniture, turn in my key and begin the process of relaxation and rejuvenation. Now, not that this is a bad way to feel—and believe me—I fully look forward to having time to reconnect with the children, travel and just plain old do nothing!

But this year was not one of those years.

I really connected with the class this year. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it is because I was new to the school and they were my only real “friends” in the beginning. Maybe it was  due to the fact that I had a wonderful, supportive group of homeroom parents.  Or maybe it was because I spent a lot of time reflecting and refining my own teaching practices and grew closer to the kids in the process. Whatever the reason, I was not ready for summer to come and was truly enjoying each day I had left with the students.  So when I finally came to the realization that I had to let them go, I started thinking of what I could give them on their last day. You know—that obligatory token present that we as teachers often feel like we have to give them.  Except this year I didn’t feel obligated, but rather I really wanted to give them something they would remember our year by.  I decided very quickly that I didn’t want to spend countless hours shopping around and putting together some token, play on words present—this year I wanted something different. Something that would help them remember their friends, how they grew in 4th grade, and what kind of person they want to be.   **Disclaimer—there is nothing wrong with giving out bubbles and letting your student know that they “blew” you away, or ensuring your students stay “kool” over the summer with a fruity drink!**

So this year I settled on three, fairly inexpensive ideas.  I was nervous that the students would be disappointed at the absence of the typical play-on-words present, but I was sweetly surprised at their enthusiasm for all the projects. The first project we did together.  I will share it in this post—the other two projects I will share in a following post.

I began by asking parents to buy one 8x10 picture frame to send in with their child. (I gave them around two weeks to bring it in. Along with a few reminders along the way.)  I teach ELA only, so I have a total of 42 kids on my roster that I share with a fellow fourth grade teacher.  I ended up purchasing 14 frames the night before we crafted from the local dollar store to have for the students who had not yet brought one in.  

I started by giving each student a table with the names of everyone in the class listed in it. In each box, they were to write one nice remark about each of their classmates—this could be a fun memory, a thanks, or a nice reminder.  I provided some sentence starters that I created that morning to help them write specifically and to help keep them from being general and repetitive. I displayed them on the board using the overhead camera. You could choose to print out for each student and make a two-sided handout comprised of the name table and sentence starters.

 Then they wrote one encouraging sentence about each classmate in the table next to their name.


After turning their tables in for some teacher proofreading, they were let loose to write down each sentence on a pre-cut strip of colored paper. (They wrote the sentence in permanent marker and then the name of the student it was about in pencil on the back) You can organize this process in any way you want, but I pre-cut all the strips to ensure they were the correct width to fit 21 in the 8 by 10 in area. (I believe these strips were about 7 ½ inches long by ½ inches wide.) I had the strips already cut and each table group had a cup with a different color. This way it ensured that all kids would have all the colors in their frames at the end. 

Once all the students were finished writing their sentences on the strips, they passed them out just like Valentine’s’ day cards. They walked around the room and by the end, each student had a colorful pile of comments written all about them. Then they were given a sheet of white computer paper pre-cut to size 8x10 and given the freedom to arrange the strips in whatever order they chose. Once glued, the frames were put back together—ready to take home.  All I heard that final day was how great the students thought this project was and how excited they were to take these home to display. I’d say mission accomplished!



Total Cost:
*frames ($14.00~this is variable depending on how many 
students you have and how many bring in their own frames)
 *construction paper, glue, printer paper (free—school supply)

Time Frame: 2-3 Days
(I did this project in two, 2 hour periods, but you could easily spread 
it out to three days.  We were a little rushed.)

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