Friday, June 8, 2012

Closing a Community: Time to Reflect and Celebrate

The end is as important as the beginning.  After spending a year learning beside one another, I want the year to end as a celebration of all we have accomplished.  When you think about it, it is the last time that community will be together.  As May began we started reflecting on our year, celebrating our accomplishments, and planning our future learning.  Despite my best planning, the last day was a bit of a rush, but for the most part the year ended smoothly.

Here are a few ways we took time to reflect, celebrate, and prepare for next year's first graders.  (Yes, I've learned to create the bulletin boards and wall displays for the following school year opening with the students leaving the classroom.  It actually makes for a welcoming transition.)

Time to Reflect
  • Reflecting on Our Reading Lives:  With two to three weeks left in the year I like to take time to reflect on all we have read.  We consider the authors, genres, characters, and favorites we've had across the year.  Keeping track of our books through Shelfari makes this task even easier.  This year, students commented with some of their favorites on a post I had written on Kidblog.  This was quick and easy.  
  • Book Recommendations:  After talking about our favorites for a few days, students then created recommendation sheets for next year's readers.  After choosing a few favorites students drew a picture and wrote a quick blurb to make next year's class want to read that book.  Each student made about four recommendations.  These will hang on the bulletin board at the beginning of next school year along with some favorite character posters drawn by this year's class.
  • First Grade Wordle:  You know how those conversations go with colleagues.  Carolyn on our team had just created wordles with her class about themselves.  These were hanging when Deb and I started talking about the end of year and somehow we came up with an idea to write wordles for the end of the year.  I had students make a list in their writer's notebooks about things they love about first grade.  Then we came together in a circle and took turns sharing things on our lists.  I typed these into wordle as students shared.  At the beginning of next year I will have the wordle copied poster size and hang it in our hall to greet the new first graders.
  • Reflecting on Our Writing Lives:  Each year I have the best of intentions to send writing home across the year, but it never quite happens.  As usual, at the end of the year we were staring at quite a stack of writing.  We gathered our finished writing and then took time to look through out best work.  We talked about how we had changed as writers.  Students filled out a quick reflection about all they had learned as writers.  This year I was happy to see more comments about writing in different genres and developing a process for writing.  We took time to separate our very best work into a special folder.  This folder went home with student reflections for parents to enjoy.
  • Next year:  Writing this I realize I need to find a way to reflect and celebrate our learning in math and content areas as we end our year.  Something to ponder.  

How do you celebrate learning at the end of your year?  Please comment with the ways you've discovered to close your community at the end of the year.


  1. Cathy,
    This is such a great list of ways to celebrate the learning at the end of a school year...and that's what we should do with our students...celebrate. One of the most rewarding things that we do at the end of a year is my current students write letters to next year's students. They tell about the highlights, their learning, and assuage any fears that they may have about beginning a new year. It serves as an opportunity for them to reflect on what they've learned and how they've grown while giving advice and encouragement to my future students. They often comment about how much they've accomplished without even realizing it.

    Thanks for sharing these great thoughts.

  2. Cathy
    I agree this end of year celebration was perfect! My kids loved reflecting on our year and left feeling so empowered by all they had accomplished! Funny I also felt we left math and content sadly behind.
    I am already missing our classroom community. It truly was our last time together as a community.