Rituals, routines, and traditions are important! They mark special occasions in our lives. They are important in families and in classrooms as well. For the past few years I have used a ball of yarn to mark the end of our time together as fifth graders. This is based on an activity that a guidance counselor once did in my class and I have used this as a way to end the school year for several years now.
The students all stand in a circle and toss a yarn ball to each other. When the ball is tossed to you, you have to share a favorite memory from the year. Children smile and laugh as they recall what they remembered most about the school year. And in case you're wondering it's not a worksheet or a test. Before tossing the ball to the next person they make sure they are still holding on to a piece of the yarn. Once everyone has had a chance to share, we can see that we have made a web with the yarn.
That's when I take an opportunity to talk about how we are all connected to each other in a special way. The 5th grade students at my elementary school move on to 3 different middle schools so I think it's important they know they will have a friend at their new school, and even if they are moving on to different places they still share a connections with some very special friends.
Finally I take a pair of scissors and cut each student a piece of the string. They pick a friend to tie their piece of yarn around their wrist to make a friendship bracelet. One year they took a piece of that string and each student made a page for our class book entitled "Our Fifth Grade Memories". They glued the string on paper and wrote about the memory they shared.
This year I added a new element to our farewell tradition. I read Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go". If you haven't read that book, you should. Some of our parents get all of their child's teachers to write a special message in their own personal copy. I always wish I had done that for my boys when they were in school. Imagine receiving a copy on your graduation day with an inspirational message from all of your teachers!
By then it's time for the entire 5th grade class to take their final walk through the school. All the other students, teachers, support staff, administration, parents, custodians, lunch staff, basically everyone in the building lines the halls and cheers as we walk by. Flowers are passed out, silly string is sprayed, tears are shed and there are lots of hugs and "high fives" along the way. It is truly a special feeling. Next year I will be among the ones cheering.
The rising sixth graders walk out of the building and gather together for final hugs and photographs with teachers and friends before loading the buses for home. They ride off as faculty and staff stand along the side waving good-bye. Later our class meets for our end of the year pool party. Another chance for one last time to say our final goodbyes! Yes, it's so hard to say goodbye!
Here is a look at some other ways to celebrate the end of the school year. How do you commemorate the end of the year with your students? Please share your ideas below.