Wrapping Up the Year

Somehow, it’s really coming — the end of the school year, that once seemed so far away, is now approaching at a blistering speed. We have only seven days left at my school — but one of them is our field day and another is just a half day. So, we’re really down to the wire. I’ve been trying to think about how I can bring closure to what has been an up-and-down year — but I’m already recognizing that things probably won’t tie together with the neat bow that I would choose if I had it my way.

Here’s what I’ve got planned for wrapping things up:

  • Books You Can’t Leave Second Grade Without Knowing About!: I started this activity this past Monday, and my students are loving it. I am a children’s literature enthusiast, and I found myself getting very frustrated that I couldn’t make certain outstanding books “fit” with what we were studying throughout the year. So, I’ve started a countdown of the best 10 books that we haven’t read this year. Each day, I read a new one to my students — their attention and conversations following the stories have been impressive and quite sophisticated. They especially enjoyed “Wilma Unlimited,” which I read earlier this week.
  • Portfolio Browsing: Next week, my students will review all of the work that they’ve put into their portfolios this year. They will choose three pieces that reflect “best effort work” and will justify their selections. I am eager to see what they choose and how they will reflect upon and describe their hard work.
  • Letters to Next Year’s Students: I don’t know where I first came across this idea, but I think it’s a nice way to recognize successful completion of the year and to “pass the torch” of their acquired expertise to the students who will follow them. I am very excited to see what my students choose to include as advice for next year’s students!
  • Choosing Adjectives: To make sure that all feedback on their performance this year isn’t coming from me, I am going to have my students work together as a class to choose a positive adjective that describes each of their peers. I expect that seeing all the ways in which their peers see them will have a big impact on my students. Too often, kids, like adults, often focus on the negative, so it is my hope that this activity will leave them thinking positive thoughts about each other.
  • Blog Review and Slideshow: I am so happy that I had my students keep a blog this year. It was a great opportunity for them to have authentic writing experiences and to engage with a real-world audience. Additionally, it will serve as a kind of scrapbook of our year. We’ll be able to look through all of our old entries, look at our photos, and watch the videos to relive the school year. I think it will be wonderful!
  • Curious Questioner Certificates: On our last half day, each student will receive a certificate. I have worked very hard to choose accolades that aren’t specifically tied to academics, but rather to positive qualities that each student exhibited during the year. This way, hopefully students will really take home the message that character is just as — if not more — important than academic ability.
  • Special Books: As their sendoff into summer and end-of-year gifts, each student will get a book from me — carefully chosen to reflect his or her interests. I hope that these will be “special books” that my students will keep on their shelves long after second grade.

It is so odd to think about wrapping up the year. I know that no matter how much more time we had together, I would still have this feeling on seeing them leave that “there is so much more that I want to say to you.” I can already tell that I do not like the end of the school year!

What do you do to make the end of the year special for your students? Do you have any year-end traditions?

One Week Down!

I am so glad that the first week of school was only four days – the first few days were at times exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, always eye-opening, and extremely exhausting! Overall, though, I felt that my first week was one of the smoothest that a first year teacher could have. None of the scenarios I’d pictured in my nightmares, like kids screaming and running wildly through the room, came even close to being realized…thank goodness!

This year, I’ll be sharing my classroom with 14 (soon to be 15 when my new student arrives during the third week of school) bright-eyed and curious students. Because my school is so small, I am the only second grade teacher and all of my students were in class with each other last year. Thus, this week, I didn’t have to expend a lot of energy on ice-breakers and get to know you games — though I do plan to utilize lots of these types of activities during the early months so that I can hopefully shake up some of their pre-established friendships. Things seem a little bit “cliquey” in my class — there are definitely certain groups of students that always congregate together. Thus far, I’ve been using popsicle sticks with their names on them to randomly assign groups in hopes of getting them to mingle with each other a bit more. So far, they’ve also taken my requests to talk to someone new to heart, which I hope will continue to happen.

We’ve done so much this first week! We started our September read aloud book Matilda on the first day and the kids adore it — they were very disappointed on Thursday when I didn’t read it to them during their snack because I was also hungry! The students have also been great sports during the benchmark spelling and math tests that I gave them to assess where they currently are in terms of second grade material. At my school, we’re also working on having flexible grouping of kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders, so we’ve had our first few “get to know each other” meetings. My students have really impressed me with their ability to act like role models for the younger kids.

My kids had a ball brainstorming our classroom rules. I asked them to picture the WORST classroom that they could imagine — a place where no learning could possibly take place — and we wrote down their descriptions of that classroom on the board. Then, we brainstormed our own rules that will ensure that our room doesn’t turn into that nightmare room. The kids loved sharing the details of their imagined classrooms. We also learned all about blogs and made our first blog post together; talked about the purpose and importance of school and equity while reading The Story of Ruby Bridges, the first book in our biography unit; and spent time exploring the five iPads that I received from my district for my classroom.

The students favorite activities of the week were the classroom scavenger hunt that I designed as a more exciting way to familiarize them with our classroom. classroom_scavenger_hunt and filling out the applications for our classroom jobs. (Announcing that not everyone got their first choice job, however, could have gone a little bit better!) My principal came in to check up on how I was doing during these activities — if he keeps coming in during all of the best moments, he’s going to think I know what I’m doing!

Overall, things have been going really well. I’m eager to start to delve into some of the curriculum that I’ve been working so hard on, but I am also trying to balance that with establishing our routines and procedures, because I know we’ll get far more accomplished if the students are invested in and familiar with how things work in our classroom. I’ll be sure to post some of our classroom community creations and describe my September unit of study — biographies — in more detail in upcoming posts.