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?  

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