Articles & Collections
How I Do It: Celebrate the End of the School Year
From campfires to special award ceremonies, teachers share their end-of-the-year traditions.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
We do an alphabet countdown during the last 26 days of school. A is art day, S is stuffed animal day, and Y is year-end camping day. My students bring pillows and blankets and board games. We even sit around a battery lantern “campfire” and tell ghost stories.
Past and Present
I have my fifth graders reflect on their elementary school years and what they are looking forward to in middle school. They make hot air balloons with construction paper and yarn,
and then write their thoughts on them.
Muffins and Milk
On the last day of school, I always make breakfast with my students. It’s a great way to wrap up the year.
I take pictures all year long and put them together into a slide show set to music using iPhoto. It’s easy. We watch it on the last day and each student gets a copy.
We have “move-up day,” where students meet their teachers for next year, and get homemade bookmarks from the kids in that class. My students also write letters to the class to come, saying what they loved about fourth grade and telling them what to expect.
I create a yearbook with picture memories and autograph pages for each child. During the last week, all of our students in grades K–8 go around the school and get autographs from friends and staff. It is wonderful to watch.
It’s a special tradition for me to read Don Freeman’s Corduroy, my favorite picture book, on the first and last days of school. My students love it.
We have a cookout at the end of the year. We talk about it all year long, and I tell students that in order to do it, they have to get enough “good behavior notes.” My husband brings the grill and does all the cooking and I have a small jump house for the
kids to play in.
My tradition is to give each student a book that is just the right level for the grade they are going into. It makes for instant summer reading!
On the last day of school we have a “bring your secret talent” show. Kids are invited to share a special talent with the class. I have had singers, stand-up comedians, even gymnasts.
Toward the end of the year we take the trout we raised from eggs and release them in our local creek. A member of Trout Unlimited comes and turns rocks with the kids to identify the aquatic invertebrates the trout will eat. The fire department’s water rescue team comes for safety and a demonstration, and they stay in the creek with us to help release the trout.
I’m planning a countdown of the last 20 days. I’m going to hang 20 balloons from the ceiling, and each day the students will choose one balloon to pop. I put a note inside each balloon with something fun for the class to do (e.g., “Sit wherever you’d like today,” “Take an extra 10 minutes of recess”).
We all scream for ice cream!
Toward the end of the year, I have my class take a 50-problem math facts quiz. If they get all 50 problems right in three minutes, we build a paper ice-cream sundae and watch it grow: bowl, spoon, scoop, topping, cherry, etc.
After testing, our school will have field day, an Accelerated Reader reward party, a year-end field trip, and more! I plan on having a birthday party for the children who have birthdays in the summer and wouldn’t otherwise get to celebrate with their classmates.
It’s a week of nonstop parties! We’ll be cruising the Manhattan skyline and having the big eighth-grade dance
and luncheon at the end of the year.
One Last Luau
We’re having a “Last Day of School Luau” in my second-grade classroom. Everyone can wear Hawaiian and/or summer-themed clothing and I’ll put up a few summer-themed decorations and pass out leis. We’ll even do the limbo to some Jack Johnson.
The Avonlea Tea
Each year after reading Anne of Green Gables, our class hosts a tea/poetry recital called The Avonlea Tea. We have tea and crumpets, wear ties, dresses, and aprons, and play classical music. We use proper etiquette and have fancy table settings. We also invite grandparents to come. Lots
of work and lots of happy memories!
I like to throw an Academy Awards–style ceremony and invite family. We get dressed up and I call on each child in the class and go through his or her accomplishments.