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Our Summer Bucket Lists

By Genia Connell on June 2, 2014
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

What’s on your bucket list? We’ve all heard that saying at one time or another since the 2007 movie, The Bucket List, hit theaters. Perhaps you’ve even created one — I know I have. After excitedly checking something off my list a couple weeks ago (getting tickets to the season finale of Saturday Night Live!), I thought about introducing the concept of a bucket list to my own students. This week I’ll share with you how my students embraced the idea of creating their own lists of things they’d like to accomplish for the very first time before summer draws to a close.  

Like all teachers, I’m continually trying to think of ways to keep my students engaged, learning, and growing during the school year and on into the summer. Knowing students are more likely to work on something they feel ownership in, I decided to have my students create their very own “bucket list” of personal and academic goals to achieve before the end of summer break.

Last week, during our morning meeting, I introduced the concept of a bucket list — a list of things you want to do or accomplish during your lifetime. I shared with them how every year since we’ve been married, Mr. Connell and I have tried to travel someplace we’d never been or try something new — these places and things are on our bucket lists. I told them how we had hiked to the top of a volcano (very impressive to a third grader!), been to a World Series game, hiked along the Grand Canyon’s trails, and stayed the at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, something I had wanted to do since I was 7 years old! After hearing about a few of my adventures, the class was more than excited to create their own lists!


Brainstorming the Lists

I explained to my class that their bucket list would include things they wanted to accomplish before summer vacation ended. We also discussed how this would become a part of their summer enrichment work, so they needed to include academic goals along with their personal goals. Students created a draft of their list in their writer’s notebooks and eagerly shared their plans with their classmates. What they came up with was amazing! Some of their academic goals included:

  • Complete an entry on our class blog

  • Read a chapter book without pictures

  • Learn all my nines in multiplication

  • Read for an hour straight because I have never done that before

  • Read the classic book, Charlotte’s Web

  • Read a whole chapter book out loud to my little sister at bedtime

  • Learn how to do exponents/fractions/decimals

I thoroughly enjoyed reading my students' personal goals and learning what they wanted to do for the first time. Their items were so sincere and heartfelt, that although they may seem trivial to an adult, they were important enough to a third grader to make it on their summer bucket list! Some of my student's personal goals included:

  • Make a lemonade stand

  • Learn how to ride a skateboard

  • Eat a cannoli and a lobster tail

  • Sleep outside in a tent

  • Donate my hair

  • Ride a non-kiddie roller coaster at Cedar Point

  • Save my money to buy an iPad

  • Go to that restaurant The Alibi that everyone talks about

Summer bucket list project

Making the Buckets

On the morning of field day, when their minds were more on outdoor fun than pages in their math book, my students created their buckets and a final copy of their bucket list.

tracers for paper buckets


  • Bucket tracers (I used the template below to make three tracers on tagboard for students to share.)

  • 9" x 12" construction paper in assorted colors

  • Glue/markers/scissors

  • Bucket list printable shown below, right



bucket template for summer bucket listsfree printable bucket list

Click on the images above to download and print the bucket template and the list.


Students traced a bucket on construction paper, and then cut it out. They decorated their buckets using paper that had accumulated over the year in our scrap paper box. Student wrote their bucket lists on good paper and hung them up on our bulletin board.

The buckets and lists will be on display until the last week of school when we take them down, glue the list on the back, and bring them home to work on over the summer. I told my students if they are able to check off even two or three things off their bucket list, they will have accomplished something great.

Summer Bucket Lists for Students

Teachers — What’s on Your Bucket List this Summer?

What are your plans for this summer, teachers? Traveling someplace new? Reading a book you haven’t had a chance to during the school year? Resting, relaxing, and recharging for next school year? All of the above, perhaps? I’m hoping to check a few things off my bucket list before September. My husband and I are celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary in July, and we are taking our kids to Scotland to visit the town where their late, beloved Grandpa Connell grew up, something we had talked about doing for years. I’m also planning to read a few of the books stacked in a precarious tower on my nightstand and work around the house to catch up on the many things I neglected during the school year. I’d love to hear what you have on your summer to-do list! Please share your plans in the comment section below!

Looking forward . . .

Of course my summer list includes planning for next year’s Top Teaching blog posts. A few of the things I’ll be writing about next year include:

  • Paper-free, worry-free Curriculum Night

  • Candy experiments for Halloween

  • A closer look at close reading

  • Read-aloud time with the classics

  • Opinion writing tips and graphic organizers

  • Research reports for beginners

  • Create a hhistorical newspaper (informational writing unit)

  • All about the water cycle

disaster research reports


Comments (2)

Luanne - If you click the link "printable" under the materials section (right above the pics of the bucket and list) you can access the bucket list to print.

Genia - Thanks so much for the bulletin board idea! I love it and know my students will, too!

I'm looking forward to reading you next year. Sounds like you've got some really great ideas. I'm especially interested in the paper-free Curriculum Night. How our times are changing.

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