Class Memory Books

Photograph by Jeff Woodward.On Move-Up Day, a rite of passage for the children at my school, I tend to feel a bit wistful as the second graders I’ve been teaching head off to meet their new teacher, and I welcome next year’s class. Although the first graders are always eager to meet me, to be honest, in the past I struggled a bit over what to do with them. We have such a short time together and don’t know each other at all. What could we do in one day that would get them excited about being second graders in the fall?

Then, a few years ago, I figured out an approach that gives the incoming class a chance to hear all about what lies ahead from those who know best: this year’s second graders! During the last weeks of school my class makes a “Class Memory Book,” and on Move-Up Day, I read the book to the incoming class. The project provides closure for outgoing students and serves as a launching point for my next year’s class. Here’s how it works:

The process begins with my current class taking all of our Morning Messages from the year and spreading them out on the cafeteria floor. With clipboards in hand, they walk around enthusiastically, re-reading the messages, taking notes, and talking about memorable aspects of our year together. At first, they tend to focus on highlights such as the first day of school, their birthdays, and special visitors, but after that first burst of excitement, they start noticing more specific evidence of their learning: books we read, special projects, reading themes, math strategies, and so on.

When we return to the classroom, we use the information they’ve gathered to review and chart our year together.

Then, as our weeks dwindle down to days, each child works on making their own memory book about second grade, and we also make a class book about our year together. For the class book, each child picks one important thing to include and writes and illustrates one page of the book. It’s a lovely way to walk down memory lane together and remember all the work we’ve done.

Then, on Move-On Day, when next year’s students come bouncing in wanting to know all about second grade, we read this book full of ideas and stories together and the students’ enthusiasm starts to build. Later, when the next school year begins, I’ll pull the book back out. There are always exclamations of excitement as they remember reading it back on Move-Up Day. Now, though, I re-read the book for another purpose: I want the students to start to thinking about what they are hoping to do during our year together. It’s how we begin talking about our hopes and dreams for school and deciding on classroom rules that will help us achieve them.

The end of the year is always filled with bittersweet emotions. This project is a way for my students, old and new, to get excited about where they have been and where they are heading.

Andrea Campbell is a Responsive Classroom Consulting Teacher for the Bedford School District, in Bedford, NH. She has been teaching for 12 years in the primary grades and is currently a 2nd grade teacher.

Tags: Last Weeks of School, Summer

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