Making Memories at the End of the School Year

The end of a school often brings about a good amount of chaos. Every teacher gets to a point where he or she says something like, "they're done, I'm done, we're all done!"

 As state testing begins, teachers have to find a balance between reviewing and keeping kids on task while giving them opportunities to enjoy their last few weeks of school. Basically, we try to minimize chaos while trying to leave each day with an exhausted smile!

Here are two of my FAVORITE end of the school year ideas:

Count Down Anchor Charts

Since we have to take down anything "instructional" from our bulletin boards during state testing, that always leaves my boards looking very plain. I find that keeping things as "normal" as possible at the end of the year helps to minimize some of the behavior issues. 

In order to fill my bulletin boards, I started writing one question per day for students to answer and turned it into a countdown. My fifth graders were SO excited to see the question of the day on the bulletin boards! Once I ran out of space, I hung them outside in the hall. They loved reading and answering the questions, and it created some memories since it was something to look forward to each day. 

Here are some examples of questions:

1. What is your ideal school lunch?
2. What do you look forward to most about next year? 
3. What is your favorite Disney movie? 
4. Write down a favorite memory from this year. 
5. If you could only see three colors, what would they be?
6. Name a person in history that inspires you. 
7. What is your favorite holiday of the year? 
8. Recognize someone in our class for being a good friend/classmate. 
9. What is your favorite song?
10. What is your favorite picture book? 

End of the Year Autobiography Project

Many teachers have their students complete some sort of memory book at the end of the year, and I have my students complete an autobiography. It is based on the autobiography that I completed when I was in seventh grade! My students get a real kick out of reading some of my "seventh grade thoughts" and looking through the pictures in my autobiography. 

I prefer the autobiography over a memory book because it includes details about their entire life thus far and gets parents involved. Parents, in fact, LOVE this project and always thank me for putting it together!

Side Note - I do modify it for students that may have custody issues.

As part of the autobiography, I write a letter to my students and ask parents to write a letter as well. I keep the letters a secret until the books are bound, and you can imagine their sweet faces as they read them for the first time! 

Here is a free parent letter template to use in your own classroom: 

Check out these other free ideas for your upper elementary students:

End of the Year Review Game // The Owl Teacher


Tried & True Solution for End of Year Teacher Tired // Tried and True Teaching Tools

How to Inspire a LOVE of Geometry

I am the first to admit that Geometry was not my strong suit in high school. I'm more of an Algebra girl and couldn't quite grasp the concept of proofs and why in the world I needed to learn about them. 

Needless to say, when I first started teaching Geometry to my fifth graders, I was a little apprehensive. When I am not confident about a topic, I throw everything I have into learning about it because I never want my students to feel the same way. Our fifth grade Geometry Unit is now my absolute favorite, and my students LOVE it! 


Play Geometry "Simon Says!" 

I always start my unit by playing "Geometry Simon Says!" It is the perfect way to review previously learned vocabulary words through kinesthetic movements. The kids BEG to play! 

We play with the following vocabulary words, but you can easily add more: 

point (make a fist)
line (hands out like an airplane)
line segment (hands out with fists)
acute angle (show with arms)
obtuse angle (show with arms)
straight angle (hands out like an airplane)
parallel lines
perpendicular lines
intersecting lines
congruent (with this one, kids chant "same size, same shape")

Play "Geometry Guess it!"

I created a Geometry Guess It! Game for my students and modeled it after the game of Taboo. Students can play it in teams or you can play as a whole group. Basically, students have to describe a particular shape or geometry concept using attributes. Each card that they hold in their hand has the words, "do not use" written at the top. Students cannot use certain words when they are describing the shape. 

My students beeggg me to play this game. They are a little apprehensive at first, but they quickly show their creativity after a few rounds. You can find the game HERE. 

Build Engagement through Puzzles and Brain Teasers

Have you ever watched students try to solve a puzzle or brain teaser? They love them and are so engaged! Geometry is the perfect math concept to integrate these into! I use puzzles like the ones below to engage students before a lesson or as an activity for early finishers. 

How Many Triangles Can You Find?

Move 3 Matches to Create 2 Equilateral Triangles: 

Hands-On Learning: Polygons

I have taught with my friend Kelly from @rulersandpanbalances for several years now, and she introduced me to the coolest activity! She starts her lesson on polygons by having students cut out a paper circle. She then guides the students and folds the circle to eventually create ten different polygons and one 3D figure. The kids are fascinated and it sparks a meaningful discussion about attributes of various geometric shapes. You can find her lesson HERE.

Hands-On Learning: Quadrilaterals

As I teach my students about quadrilaterals, I always pull out the Geoboards and have them create different types of quadrilaterals that they are responsible for learning in fifth grade. Afterwards, they work with a partner to analyze the attributes of each quadrilateral. 

Here is the link to a FREE Quadrilateral Discovery Sheet that I use with my students: 

Hands-On Learning: Hierarchies

One of the toughest concepts that I teach my fifth graders are quadrilateral and triangle hierarchies. I'll admit - it took me some time to truly understand them myself. This was probably because I don't ever remember learning about how shapes relate to each other, but it makes so much sense! 

The best way to practice this concept is simply to practice it in a variety of ways. I always print out small cards with pictures of the quadrilaterals and triangles and laminate them. During math workshop as I work with my students at the back table, students use the laminated shapes and create the hierarchies. I have each one verbalize how the shapes relate to one another. I also use these heirarchy sorts for additional hands-on practice!

Try some of these activities and watch your students LOVE math class! 

Check out these other great ideas to spark a love of learning in your upper elementary students!


Spark a Love of Learning with Games  | The Owl Teacher       
Spark a Love of Social Studies  | Tried and True Teaching Tools     
Just-Right Reading: I Love Myself! | Reading by Heart
5 Ways to Ignite a Love of Math Problem Solving | Think Grow Giggle          
Absent Work that Students and Teachers Love  | Elementary Inquiry
Loving to Write Informational Texts  | Mikey D Teach
Valuing Student Voice to Create a Love of Learning | Wild Child’s Mossy Oak Musings
Developing Grit: Learning to Love a Challenge | Kerry Tracy

Inspiring Curiosity through Technology

I love teaching history to my students. Our fifth grade curriculum takes us from Westward Expansion all the way through September 11th. It's so interesting to see our world change throughout the years, and students are amazed to see the impact of things like the automobile and the radio on American culture. 

Technology is one those innovations that changed the course of history forever. This year, I have really made it a goal to create Google Classroom assignments that align with our curriculum. In my social studies class, for example, I have students with a wide range of abilities - from resource to gifted. What's interesting to see is that they ALL thrive when working through a digital assignment! 

When we went to school, our professors always talked to us about the importance of self-discovery. When we allow students to be curious, their thirst for further knowledge will teach them more than they can learn in a classroom! I tried this theory earlier this year as I began a unit on Helpful and Harmful Microorganisms

Before teaching my students about Helpful or Harmful Microorganisms, I quickly found some grade-level appropriate research about 6 different microorganism and attached it to their Google Classroom. I then assigned students a different microorganism to read about and asked them to summarize their findings in a few sentences on a Padlet. I was SHOCKED to see their responses!

If you've never used Padlet, you definitely want to try it out. It is like a digital pin-board. They have really improved the site since it first began. It is very user friendly! 

Here is the Padlet that I used with my students. Notice that I included directions in the orange box: 

Now, I asked students to summarize their research in 2-3 sentences, but many students clearly went further than that. They added pictures along with their summary, and I even had a few students include short videos. This was all on their own - I had not used Padlet with these students before. Pure self-discovery at its best! 

The next day when I started to teach them through my own lessons, the kids kept raising their hands to tell me facts about the different microorganisms. When I talked about harmful bacteria that causes Salmonella, for example, the student above raised his hand and told us all of the harmful effects of Salmonella! 

Sometimes teachers are afraid to use technology in their classroom because they don't understand it. The idea that I mentioned in this post is easy to implement and will inspire curiosity!

Check out these other great ideas for inspiring wonder and curiosity with your upper elementary students!