4th Grade Memories

Fourth grade is the last year of elementary school for students in our district, which means the last weeks of our year are full of special events for our 4th graders to celebrate their time in elementary school and the new experiences that await them next year.

The end of the year unofficially begins with the district-wide 4th grade track meet. This event allows 4th graders from all over the district to compete and hang out for a day before they all go to school together in 5th grade. Other events that follow are a visit and tour of the school they are going to attend as 5th graders and a 4th grade celebration (dinner and dance) that our PTA sponsors. Students wear their class shirts and spend the night eating, dancing, and having a blast with their friends! At the end of celebration, students participate in an informal graduation ceremony.

The Front Page of our newspaper! (names blacked out)
In my classroom, we focus on celebrating and honoring our memories of elementary school by creating a classroom retrospective newspaper. Our last writing unit of the year is journalism, so we spend the last month of school writing news and sports features; interviewing teachers and peers; writing book reviews and editorials; and conducting surveys. The only rule is that their topics have to be about their time in elementary school! Students use Google Presentations to write their different articles. Then, we work together to choose at least one article to publish in the classroom newspaper that I compile. By doing it this way, students each have their own individual newspaper of their own articles AND a class newspaper containing the memories that others chose to write about. I hand out the finished newspaper on the last day of school. Students had a great time reading through their classmate’s articles and talking about the memories those articles sparked! It is my hope that they will hold onto these newspapers and remember their 4th grade class and experiences in elementary school.

If this is a project that you would like to try with your class, I have uploaded my Google Presentation template as a freebie to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and I will be uploading lesson ideas later this summer!


How To End The Year In Style...Final Lesson, Memory Books, Self-Reflection of New Instructional Approaches

Throughout the course of my years of teaching, I have tried a variety of things to end the year in a memorable fashion.  I use to create certificates and had students vote on which certificate should go to which student.  I always made sure every student received a certificate.  However, over the last few years, I have questioned the lasting effects it may have on my students.  So, I have phased it out.  If I begin to question why I do things in my classroom, then it is time to change things up.  So, I have taken a different approach with ending the school year this time around.  Below are the phases I go through as the count-down to the end of the year takes place.


With one month left in the school year, I begin to panic and worry that I am not making a lasting impact on my students.  I view my job as an educator is to instill life-long learning in my students, model how to persevere in life, how to fail gracefully and continue to never give up to achieve your goals in life.  I share with my students my professional goals and I also share with them my failures.  Through my own reflections, I explain to my students what I need to do in order to achieve my professional goals.  Yes, I know many of you are thinking, should I be sharing all this private information about my career goals with my students?  I have even questioned it myself.  However, as a parent of two boys and an educator, I have come to the conclusion that some adults are not modeling to their children (including myself) how to be life-long learners or how to persevere through failures.  I have the pleasure of working with students for 180 days, the world of education is changing rapidly as well as the world in general.  They need to see individuals modeling how to never give up, how to problem-solve, and persevere.  Teachers can have a huge impact on their students lives, as a result, they need to model these skills to their students.


At the end of the year, I created a video using various songs that talk about following your dreams, persevering, and never giving up.  I also placed important quotes that I added to the video.  I wanted to send one last message to my students on the last day of school.  In fact, one of my students came up to me and said, “I get what you are doing, Mrs. Nording.  You’re using songs that talk about motivating us.”  The video is a combination of various trips, activities, my iCode Talk Lunch Bunch, or technology projects we did in the classroom.  I conclude the video with the saying, “Until next time…best wishes with all future endeavors.”  It is my last lesson for the school year, it is not tied to any specific curriculum, but hopefully will stick with them for the rest of their lives. 


Images that were incorporated into the End of the Year Video.

After the video, we go outside and sign yearbooks.  This can be a problem, for those students who do not receive a yearbook.  So, early on in my career, I decided every child in my classroom should receive a classroom memory book.  In fact, a large majority of my students did not purchase a yearbook this year.  The time it took to create the memory book seemed well worth it this year since so many students did not receive one.  Now, every child can take part of the yearbook signing.  As the class left my room, every child had a smile on their face as they went outside to sign yearbooks with friends.  As a teacher, it was a humbling moment.  Lastly, to my surprise I have found the fifth grade memory book on display at graduation parties of former students when I attend them. Words cannot express how it makes a teacher feel seeing a former student keeping this memory book.

Each child completes a memory sheet as well as the teacher.
Author Unknown


To really end the year in style, it is also important to hear from your students in regard to new teaching methods and approaches you used in the classroom.  Since I teach three classes of reading, I spent the year redesigning my 40 Book Challenge  created by Donalyn Miller, to engage and motivate students.  I found that after a few years, students lost interest and motivation.  So, I created a gamification storyline using the Hunger Games Series, by Suzanne Collins.  I integrated the Common Core Standards within the 40 Book Challenge with various flipped videos I designed.  In addition, I  also created videos on the various genres.  All tasks were placed within the Learning Management System of Schoology.  Lastly, I designed various badges on each genre as well as created expert badges based on student successes throughout the course of the challenge. Since many students voiced their opinion that they wanted to keep their badges, I created a 40 Book Challenge Certificate with all the badges along the outside of the certificate.  Although, I can’t take full credit for this idea.  I began with only four badges and a colleague of mine, suggested placing all the badges along the outside of the certificate.  The wonders of collaboration.  Taking an idea and making it even better!  On a side note, just last week, I had a parent stop me and commented on how their child loved the 40 Book Challenge Certificate!  My, how badges and a simple certificate can motivate students to achieve many tasks that are challenging for them!

After redesigning the 40 Book Challenge, I decided to create a survey and ask students their opinion.  I really needed to know if what I tried this year worked for students.  What did they like about reading?  What did they not like?  Asking for student feedback can be frightening because you are putting yourself out there for criticism.  Plus, you put your heart and soul into re-designing something for the betterment of students.  Not to mention the hours one spends throughout the course of the year trying to improve learning and student engagement.  Was it all worth it?  I had to admit that I was a little nervous to give all three classes the survey.  However, deep down inside, my gut told me that I must.  I had to overcome my fears and really take into account what students had to say.  If I give them a voice in the classroom all year, I need to hear their voice about how reading went this year?  What do I need to revamp over the summer? What changes do I need to make so reading class is even better next year? A true reflective teacher, listens to the voices of their students, internalizes it and makes the learning environment even better for future students.  Yes, I have taken a peek at the results, I found it was like Christmas time when I was a child.  You are excited and nervous all at the same time.  I am going to share my findings later this summer and share out my suggestions to make reading class better for students next year.  Feel free to check out my survey.  Here is the link:  Reading Survey

40 Book Challenge Certificate with badges along the border.
Tellagami App used to create my Gamification Story Line.

One of my genre videos.

How do you end the school year in style?  What can you "take away" or try in your classroom to end the year in style for next year?  What suggestions do you have for me?  


Last day of the year thoughts!

I always feel like this time of year is busy and stressful! So much is happening, and I can barely keep up. This was especially true this year as I learned on the second to last day of school that I would be moving up to fourth grade next year. Having taught fourth grade in the past, I love this age group of kids. Plus, I get to follow some of my kids from this year and really learn what it is like for those who teach an ENCORE class (gym, music, art, technology, library, and guidance) as they are able to see the kids grow from one year to the next. The hard part is saying good-bye to an amazing team that I have loved and a curriculum where I finally (after two years) feel like I am starting to innovate new and exciting things versus starting all over. So as my last day of this year came (and now went), I am able to look ahead with excitement, anticipation, anxiety, and hope.

Knowing that I would be changing grades, the last day of school this year was really about building memories with my third grade kids. To start our day, we have an end of the year assembly where each teacher from the school sends 20 pictures to our technology teacher and a school-wide video is created and shown. We say good-bye to staff leaving our school and good-bye to our fourth graders who are headed to the middle school. Back in the classroom, students finish a memory book they make of pictures I print off for them. They create a mini scrapbook of pictures using scrapbook and construction paper I bring in from home. They also write a few sentences about each picture (dates, names of people, location, and memories along the way). In the afternoon, they create a Top 10 List of the memories for the year that we share with one another. Students have a great time laughing and adding their own stories as we relive these wonderful moments.

On that last day, I was also excited to give my kids time to play with new building equipment by Imagination Playground purchased for our school through multiple funds. My three year old daughter and I have played with these building blocks before at various children's museums, but I honestly wasn't sure how my third graders would react! They loved it! Within fifteen minutes, they had a castle built and were deciding on who would be the king/queen/prince/princesses/knights and more! They took it apart and built a ball track (similar to marble works), a car, and someone else built a store. So many times I feel like we don't give kids enough time to just play. Seeing their imaginations at work was a perfect way to teach me that we are never too old to build and create!

(This is a picture taken from the website, as we are not allowed to post pictures of our kids on-line, but I wanted you to get an idea of what Imagination Playground looks like!)

As summer is now here, I am excited to take a few minutes for myself (let's be realistic, with a three year old, that is about all I get!), and I hope that those of you reading this that are teachers do as well!


End of the Year Memory Binder

Woohoo!!!  We made it to the end of the year!  I don’t know about you, but today was our last day and boy does it feel great!  Another successful year is in the books.  Another group of kids moving onto the next grade WAY bigger and WAY smarter than they were when they came in.  It’s always kind of nostalgic as we go through the last couple of days thinking about everything we did this year.

One of my favorite end of the year celebrations is the End of the Year Binder we create.  I secretly save all of our “published” writing pieces and any special project or writing activity we do.  Then, one of our activities to keep the kids engaged during the last week is handing out all of these pieces and looking at them while putting them in our binder in chronological order-beginning of the year to the end of the year.  I pull them out and they are so shocked that I saved everything.  They LOVE looking at and reading through all of these pieces.  They LOVE finding things they have improved on and they just can’t believe that they spelled “they” with an a, or spelled of-ov,  or didn’t use spaces or that their handwriting was SO HUGE with ALL CAPS, or that their sentences were so short!  “Can you believe it?” I ask.  We just laugh and are amazed at how far they all have come.
Beginning of the year student writing sample.
End of the year student writing sample of same student as above-just look at that growth!
Another example, just because I love seeing how much they have grown, especially as writers!
One of the activities I have my students complete is a Writing Reflection. First, we talk about all the different types of writing from our Units of Study curriculum (small moments, non-fiction, reviews, poems and series books). Then, I have them answer the questions from the reflection worksheet (below). It gets them thinking specifically about how they have improved as writers and what they want to continue to work on.
Another activity I like to do at the end of the year is our “Toothless Grins” writing.  In first grade, most of the students lose A LOT of teeth and inevitably, they are missing their two front teeth at sometime throughout the year.  I try to grab a picture of them when they are missing a lot of teeth and then at the end of the year, I have them write about one time when they lost a tooth.  I will then tape their picture in the middle and they just love it.  Seriously, everything we do at the end, they just love.  

I also like to do a directed drawing of my students in first grade.  Just another thing to add to their binder.  If you haven’t done a directed drawing, check out “First Grade Blue Skies” on TpT for some adorable ones.  Here are a couple of my favorites:  

We all do so much at the end of the year so these are just a few of my favorite things for the Memory Binder that we create.  I think it is such a fun way to look back at the year and really see how much they have grown.  You can find the pages that I explained here in my End of the Year Memory Book Freebie!
Click on the image to get the FREEBIE!

I say it every year, but I will truly miss this group.  We had our great times and our not so great times, but every day we were learning together.  One of the things I love about being a teacher is being able to start over again year after year, but boy are these last few days difficult.  Each year I am truly amazed at how much they grow and how proud I am of ALL of them.  

So here’s to another year! Raise a glass and think about what summer has in store.


ABC Countdown

The end of a school year is an exciting time for everyone.  Our youngest learners are moving on to their next year, now ready to take on more challenges with all the skills and strategies they have acquired this year and a new group of learners is getting ready to come in.  
To celebrate all the hard work of a year, the Kindergarten team at our school does an ABC countdown to the end of the school year.  Each year we talk as a team and tweak it a little based on what worked well the year before or any new ideas we have for this year.  This is such a fun thing to do as a team because everyone brings such great ideas to the table.   Thank you Maria Elena, Niki, and Andrea for all your great ideas, support, and friendship.  I’m so lucky to work with such amazing educators!
The ABC Countdown is a great idea for any grade, not just Kindergarten.  It really helps to keep things fresh and exciting for the home stretch of a school year.  Make it your own by touching on things your class loves.
Below you will see our calendar for the last 26 days of school.  One of my teammates had the brilliant idea to color code the calendar to let families know when their Kindergartner needed to bring something or when volunteers or donations would be appreciated.
Perhaps you’ll want to do an ABC warm up next year to start the year or end your year with an ABC countdown.  
Hope you enjoy!

2015  Kindergarten ABC Countdown
to the Last Day of School
Your Kindergartner needs to bring something
Volunteers or donations appreciated
No School
May 4     A
Art Supplies day
May 5     B
Book day (bring in a favorite book from home)   
May 6     C
Caring Card day
May 7     D
Dinosaur day
May 8    E
Exercise day
May 11
No School for Kindergartners- Kindergarten Visitation
May 12     F
Frozen Yogurt
May 13   G
Game day          
May 14   H
Hat day
(wear a hat to school)
May 15   I
Insect day
May 18   J
Joke day (bring in a joke to share)
May 19    K
Kindness day
May 20    L
Lake Park day
(parent volunteers needed at 12:30-2:40)
May 21   M
Music day
May 22 N
News day
(show and tell)
May 25
No School
Memorial Day
May 26   O
Outdoor Writing Workshop day
May 27   P
Play Dough day
May 28   Q
Quiet day-Watch a Video
May 29   R
Read Outside day
June 1   S
Sidewalk Chalk day
June 2    T
Tea Party day
June 3     U
Udder-ly fantastic day
at the Farm!
(need parent chaperones)
June 4   V
Vegetable day
June 5   W
Water Play day
June 8 X
eXciting day (You’ll get to visit 1st grade today!)
June 9 Y
Yoga day
June 10      Z
Zip up your backpack and Zoom out of school!

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