So the last day of school is kinda' crazy, because there is a big assembly, and then you have to find something to do for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, I'm exhausted from completing report cards, trying to close down the classroom, filling out forms, and the many things I've tried to do to make the end of the year special for kids.
This is my best trick for that day:
We return to our room, and each child comes up to the "hot seat." It's a red painted wooden chair. I give a little talk about observing them all year long. And how some bubbles keep floating and stay strong how others pop. And each of them has some kind of inner strength. Then I say sometimes we all need someone to throw us a lifesaver, to keep us swimming and prevent our sinking. And I offer to throw them a lifesaver to keep them afloat in 5th grade.
I think ahead of time what I might say about each student. (I especially plan for those tough ones. You know who they are.) Warning: This is a truly intimate experience, and some classes can handle it better than others. In front of everyone I talk about a real strength in that individual and an area of weakness that they need to hold onto that lifesaver and work really hard to overcome. When they leave the hot seat they get some bubble gum and a lifesaver--one individually wrapped bag is more than enough for a class.
This year was especially fabulous! It lasted the rest of the morning. Students wanted to add examples of strengths they had seen. They were very respectful to me and each other. They also loved that I told them a job I thought they might have when they grew up.
I'm big on giving kids something to hold in their hearts and that really does it. It's a definite success for the year.