Inspiration for Graduates

man people woman girl

This is actually a reblog of a reblog! No matter what happens, graduation season rolls around every year. I always liked to send my students off by loading them up with as many memories and inspirational motivation as possible, so here are some of my favorites.

As graduation season rolls around once again, I thought I would compile a list of videos that I’ve found over the years that eloquently describe the hopes and dreams I have for my students in the future. I’ve placed the length of each video beside it.  Not all of these are graduation speeches, but they all give one or more of the following messages: Be Kind, Work Hard, and Make the Most of Your Time and Abilities.  Most of these videos (and many more) can be found on my “Inspirational Videos for Students” Pinterest Board.  As always, please preview any video before you show it to your students.

Making It from StoryCorps (2:43)

If You’ve Never Failed, You’ve Never Lived (1:16)

Ashton Kutcher’s Teen Choice Award Speech (4:40), Ashton Kutcher on his Teen Choice Speech (3:15) – better for older students

The Time You Have in Jellybeans (2:44)

212: The Extra Degree Inspirational Movie (2:59)

Kid President Graduation Speech (4:12)

The Real Purpose of Your Life (2:18)

These last two are my all-time favorite videos to show departing students:

Jeff Bezos at Princeton (18:44 – his part starts around 6:27)

Mark Bezos: A Life Lesson from a Volunteer Firefighter (4:40)

For more resources, Amy Borovoy curated a wonderful list last May for Edutopia. You can find it here.

Manifestos, Dream Teams, And More

Rounding out this week’s collection of suggestions for things to do at the end of the school year, I have some that I did with my 5th graders over the years. In our district, 5th grade was the final year of elementary school, and some of the students in my gifted and talented class had been seeing me weekly since Kindergarten. So, it was always important to me to help them look back on all of those years in GT and think about what they had learned that they could take with them moving forward.

One activity that we did was to form “Dream Teams” of people who inspired them. You can read more about it in this blog post, and download a couple of the planning sheets we used. At the time of that post, the students used Puppet Pals to present their teams to the class, but there are plenty of other apps and free online tools that will work just as well.

Thinking about their values was a central theme with my 5th graders each year. To make these values more concrete and something that they could refer to as they transitioned to middle school, the students designed manifestos. I have a few posts explaining what we did with these. The students designed them using Canva. (You could just as easily use Google Drawing if you don’t have access to Canva.) The first year, I ordered each of them a t-shirt, with their designs. Some turned out well, and some didn’t. That can also be cost-prohibitive. What seemed to work better was to put them in some frames from the dollar store, as you can see in this post. If I was in the classroom this year, I would give them options to choose their final product, depending on the tools we had available (laser cutter, 3d printer, vinyl cutter, etc…), similar to this “One Word Project” that I did with my high school students. For more background on how I introduced manifestos with my students, see this post.

Another project that I’ve done with 5th graders to help them be a bit more introspective was, “Character Strength Floor Plans.” They loved doing these, and their imaginations could really run wild as they used metaphorical thinking to compare their strengths to the rooms of a house. If I were to do it again this year, I would allow students to choose from Tinkercad, Google Sheets, or CoSpaces to create their designs – or even make their own mini models from cardboard or other materials.

I hope these ideas, or the ones from my other posts this week, will help you to enjoy your last few weeks with your students before your well-deserved break!

Student-designed (5th grade) Character Strength Floor Plan

Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe for Reflection

To continue this week’s theme of year-end activities to use with students, I want to remind you of this blog post from 2016. We used “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe” quite a bit in my class to analyze and synthesize learning, and the open-ended prompts work very well for an end-of-year reflection for upper elementary students. The game comes from Critical Squares: Games of Critical Thinking and Understanding, a book written by Shari Tishman and Albert Andrade for Harvard’s Project Zero, but you can see what the Tic-Tac-Toe game looks like if you go to page 24 at this link. I explain how I used it for reflection in my 2016 blog post, but you will probably find that you can modify it for lots of curriculum ideas. It’s one more way you can still learn and have fun once the year begins to wind down.

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

Self-Designed #Awards

As I mentioned yesterday, I am revisiting some of my older posts this week, specifically the ones activities to use at the end of the year. #Awards was an idea I got from Joelle Trayers, where students design awards for themselves representing qualities they are proud of. Here is my post from back in 2017 with some student examples. What I like about this idea is that: all students get an award, it takes some introspection, and it is a good memory for them to look back on in later years. You could also see how well the students know each other by having them try to guess who designed each award.

#Award designed by 2nd grader

Hexagonal Reflection

This week, I am revisiting some of my tried and true favorite end-of-the-school-year activities. For today, I want to refer you to my post on hexagonal reflection. This was one of those ideas that could have completely flopped, but was way more successful than I anticipated. The students (2nd graders!) were so incredibly thoughtful in their responses that I regretted not having done this with every class since the beginning of my career. For one of my more recent posts about hexagonal thinking, which may be helpful if you are still doing online teaching, check out, “Using Hexagonal Thinking Virtually.” I know this is deep, and the end of the year is generally fun and games, but if you want to help your students connect the dots of everything they have learned this past year and really seal in new knowledge and insights, please give this a try!

2nd grade student writing to explain hexagonal connections

Summer Pool Party Packet – Free!

I am in the process of revising my TPT resources and providing them on this site for free – but it’s taking awhile. In the meantime, since it is Teacher Appreciation Week, I am offering my Summer Pool Party Packet for free. It includes a list of suggested “Brainshines” (instead of brainstorms), a writing page for thinking about life from the perspective of a pair of sunglasses, and a page each of S.C.A.M.P.E.R. ideas. (See this post if you are not familiar with S.C.A.M.P.E.R.) These are fun creative thinking activities to do, especially after state-wide testing or the last week of school!

From Summer Pool Party by Terri Eichholz
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