Saturday, June 6, 2009

End of the Year: To Teach or To Celebrate?

I have a confession to make . . . it's the last week of school and I've stopped teaching. I know I'm supposed to teach until the last day of school, and I really did try. I know the common wisdom is that teachers should continue with instruction until the last day of school in order to keep each day as normal as possible. But I found that the more I tried to teach, the more my students resisted learning anything new. Don't get me wrong - I have a wonderful group of students. It's just that at the end of the year, their brains are fried and so is mine! They couldn't sit still, and they couldn't focus on instruction. I was using every management trick in the book to keep them on task. I finally gave up last Tuesday when I realized that I had spent the whole day fussing at them and we were all miserable.

My ah-ha moment came when I wondered why I had no memory of last year being so miserable for everyone. Then I remembered that last year I spent the last week doing fun activities to celebrate our time together as a class. We made a class scrapbook, created personalized autograph books, wrote reflections, played math games, and had a Scrabble tournament.

So last week I ditched the instruction and planned some activities that we could enjoy together at the end of the year. I'm reading aloud more and we take more time with our class meetings. We are making our class scrapbook, learning math logic games, presenting reader's theater plays, and enjoying class kickball games. The kids voted on class awards that will be presented on Wednesday along with a photo essay of our year together. I'm posting some of my end-of-the year activities on my website ( although I know many people are out for the year.

My conclusion? The end of the year is not for academic learning . . . it's for celebrating as a class. It's for recognizing accomplishments and solidifying friendships. It's for creating memories that will last a lifetime!


  1. I am totally on board with your feelings. Teaching at a Christian school, I especially feel the need to teach until the very end...our parents are paying tuition and I feel that they should get their money's worth...but I also found that it was really pointless! The kids are really "done".

    We do the class scrapbook, too, and we also watched the videos that the kids made. (They were "news teams" and they had to film a television news report on a non-fiction book that they had read.) On the very last day (which is a 1/2 day) we held our class auction. They were able to spend the money they had earned from the class economy this year. Out of all of the classes in the school, I was the only teacher who had almost all of their students attend the last day! They didn't want to leave...but I know if I would have had something more "academic" planned, that would not have been the case.

  2. I completely agree with your logic. I tried doing that this year but my principal disagreed. He felt we should teach as long as school is in session. I feel it should be a time of celebration...doing what you did. Creating memories for them to take with them. Maybe we can be a little more flexible next year. Thanks for the reassurance.

  3. It actually seems to me that a lot of "learning" likely occured during that "celebration" time- look at all the skills students practiced in voting, creating, reviewing, playing Scrabble...

  4. I totally agree. At the end of the year, we put away our books. (The Board of ED don't think we should.)--so--- We hold on to our workbooks just in case. Then we celebrate our yearly hard work and success of meeting our goals.
    Georgia Girl

  5. I completely agree! I have always given my students time at the end of the year to create their own memory books. I print photos during the year for them and hand them back along with art work and writings that I have saved in a folder for them since the beginning of the school year. All of these are included in their books and they design them however they wish. The kids love it and so do their parents. This also sparks writing interests... what they liked most about the year... things they would change.... what are they looking forward to for next year...what advice would they give a new student entering the class...etc,etc. The only real cost is the I supply the ink and I have the parents donate photo paper at the beginning of they year (sometimes I asked for more photo paper
    mid-year). I also love the extra "together" reading time... no interruptions unless we choose and we usually go outside under a big shady tree! It is the perfect time of the year to reflect and share memories, while also looking ahead.... so many wonderful possibilities! I love the scrabble tournament idea! We actually play scrabble all year with magnetic lettes that I create on the computer with cardstock and then I laminate the letters, cut them into small squares and add a magnet to the back of each one. The class sorts the letters into small containers and we use them on the magnetic chalkboard (our scrabble board). We play scrabble with vocabulary words and spelling words all year! It is also a good time to encourage written letters/cards of appreciation to parents, teachers, assistants, friends, whoever. We of course hand create them, computer made cards please! This is also a perfect time of year to plan for out-reach projects and activities!
    Thank you Laura, for sharing so many wonderful resources and ideas!

  6. Thank you for reminding me that I do not have to teach for the next two weeks. The state tests are over, the content has been covered, and my students have shown mastery! We will spend the next two weeks celebrating our class, friendships, and accomplishments. Every year my students write three things they have learned from or about a classmate and we make a class book of the comments. Each child has their own personal page and their classmates comments are read with great interest. Each child receives a book of their own as a memory of the school year. They love it!

  7. I agree with your ah-ha moment. With so many end of the year activities, it was almost impossible to teach new material. Our last 2 days of school were spent playing board games with their classmates and the students enjoyed this time. Thanks!

  8. Laura,
    I have enjoyed reading your blog posts. I especially liked this one. I felt like I connected to this one especially. I was feeling the same way the past couple of weeks. My students were quite amazing this year as far as behavior, academics, and following directions. However, the past couple of weeks they were tired and I was trying to teach and nothing was getting through to them. I really liked your idea for the students creating a scrapbook. I actually used that last week with my students and they loved it. We also played several math games, and I had the students create their own math games as well. That was highly effective with them. They enjoyed creating them and playing with a classmate. We also used our Promethean Board to play games such as Jeopardy and Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader. Even though the questions were content and curriculum driven, the students enjoyed them and had fun at the same time. I really enjoy visiting your site especially the online file cabinet. I use it a lot. As I said before, the blogs are great to share ideas. Thanks for posting the resources in the online cabinet. Have a great summer.

  9. Thank you so much for this post! I tried to teach until the last day this year [7th grade math] and I had all kinds of problems. I really thought that I'd hit a low in my classroom management abilities!! Like you said, I tried every thing I had in my bag of tricks. Nothing worked and we were all miserable. And the worst part? I didn't have any "fun" with the kids while they were still mine! I'm definitely going to try some of your suggestions for next year. THANKS! :)