As kindergarten changes so rapidly with rising expectations and standards, from half day to full day, so do the traditions. It used to be a given that at the end of every child’s kindergarten year, a graduation ceremony (some that even included caps and gowns!) would take place. As the times change, the traditional end of year kindergarten graduation has evolved into a end of year celebration in most areas.
I know schools do it differently everywhere, but the main components remain the same: parents are involved, student’s work and or accomplishments are showcased, and, most importantly, food is provided. It is an easy way to fulfill marking the rite of passage for students who completed their first full year of “real” school. The most important thing for everyone to remember when planning an event like this is simplicity. This is a hectic time of year for families, students, and you, so the simpler you can keep this event, the easier it will be, and the more you and your students can enjoy the last weeks you have with each other.
I start planning my End of Year Celebration on the very first day of school. That is because I need to know my group of children and grasp what excites them the very most and that is what I base our celebration on. Almost always, it ends up being the same thing that gets my kindergartners excited year after year, and that is music. My students learn so much via music, it only makes sense that we share that love and learning that has taken place with our families.
We choose a learning song and/or videos that represents each sector of our learning. The students decide on their favorite sight word song, a math counting and/or concept song, a science song and our ultimate favorite get-those-wiggles-out song and, voila, there is the line up of our program. Yes, you might be very tired of those songs, but, you must remember, this will be the first time most families see and hear the songs in action and you will not have to teach new songs.
I save one piece of writing a week throughout the year just for this event. I put it together in a book in order and it provides solid proof that, no matter where the children have ended up academically, they have made tremendous gains from where they began. It is a fantastic memoir from their kindergarten year for both the parents and the child to keep for years to come. I put this and each child’s artwork that I have saved over the year in a large portfolio that they decorate to be handed out after the celebration.
For an extra personal touch, put together a slide show of pictures of your students throughout the year via Animoto (put your request in now to have plenty of time for approval before the end of the year). Educators can get free subscriptions to the site and all you have to do is upload the photos you want included in your slideshow. The end result that Animoto creates for you is AMAZING. Everyone will think you are a professional movie maker, everyone will be tearing up and, most importantly, it will provide a great gift that you can share (by simply providing a link) with all families to treasure for a lifetime.
You can be as elaborate as you want with snacks provided (snack buffet, potluck, etc), however I recommend sticking with the theme of simplicity. I purchase a box of 100 popsicles and we all go outside to eat, take pictures, socialize, and enjoy our last moments together. There is limited clean up and the snack represents 5 and 6 year olds oh so well!
This is your class’ only time if their life that they will be completing their first, full year of school. Even with all of the evolving changes, there remains a special magic found only in kindergarten by your students as well as their families. Providing this simple, yet magical, End of Year Celebration will encapsulate the year perfectly.
About the Author
Krissy Miner is a long time kindergarten teacher and former Reading Recovery teacher who has built a business of sharing and collaborating around what she loves best: children and teaching. Please visit her blog Mrs. Miner’s Monkey Business.