Monday, May 23, 2011

End of year books

Well, we're down to eight days. My classroom is being packed up, the kids are hard at work preparing for the end of year field day and talent show, and I'm anxiously sorting through assessments to put in my 50 or so data points for each student on our standards-based report card.

One of the things that always bothers me at the end of the year is that so much student work goes into the trash can. After all, you can't save everything! Take our reading journals. To me, they are special little treasures of all of the thinking that students have done throughout the year. Each one is a neat window into a student's thinking at that particular time. I hate to think of these being thrown away.

In years past, I have avoided talking about what will happen to the items that we have created together. But this doesn't lead to students taking home their school materials to be put in a special place of honor. Instead, the conversation goes like this. "Mrs. Kissner, do we need this anymore?" a student asks, holding up a folder.

Me, thinking about how the next few days are filled with end of year mania: "Um, no, I don't think so."

To which the student says, "Good," and proceeds to throw the item into the trash can.

In years past, I have started to beg them not to throw things out in the classroom. This only leads to kids going into the hallway to make their deposits in the big, wheeled trashcans that our custodians use. It's not that the kids hated our reading class; rather, it's that 9 and 10 year olds, especially boys, do not feel the same attachment to the artifacts of their thinking that I do.

This year, I decided to be proactive. Instead of avoiding the issue of what to do with all of our accumulated classroom stuff, I decided to have the students turn it into booklets that tell the story of our year together.  (A booklet! A beautiful memento that is too beautiful to wind up in the trash!) I typed up little titles for each page, telling about highlights: Independent Reading, Thinking about my reading, Topic Study: Antarctica and so forth.

We're using the large 12 x 18 pages of construction paper, held landscape style.  Each day, I hand out a new little title. Then students use scissors to cut artifacts from their reading journals. (Allowing them to cut and tear from the reading journals satisfies their thirst for destruction!) I've printed out some photos for students to add to their books as well, and they're adding captions with index cards and scrap paper. We work on the books for about 15-20 minutes each day.

It's been a delight to talk about their learning each day. Students are going back to their reading folders, revisiting old topics, and thinking about our year together. It's a busy, productive activity that gets us all reflecting on how far we've come, even as we know that our time together will soon be at an end. The reading folders are turning into hollow shells of what they once were, with all of their meaningful parts cut out and pasted into our books.

And hopefully, when this is done, we'll have a product that is just too beautiful to be discarded.

No comments:

Post a Comment