Warning: This is not your cutesy, “pinteresty” blog here. This post is for those teachers who, although are amazing during the school year, do not have any more cute, colored paper or money left! (Or time!) Some of these ideas may require a little bit of planning, but they are mostly simple and cheap. Best of all, though, is that these ideas aren’t just a cute-candy-bar-wrapper giveaway, but meaningful things that kids may treasure forever. Also, keep in mind that a middle school teacher is writing this post. I couldn’t afford to buy my students something because I taught over 100 kids. Plus, I wanted to give them something meaningful. Words are so much more powerful than gifts.
1. Give them a picture of their classmates and write a simple note on the back that’s personalized for them.
2. Have a moment of recognition for each kid and their role in the classroom. Print out a certificate that’s different for each one. Ex. Friendliest, Class Jokester, Neatest Desk, Most Polite, Most Likely to Trip Over something, etc.
3. Have a serious moment with the class where you talk personally to each student and tell what you see them doing in 10-15 years. Kids LOVE this. It’s amazing how well and how long they pay attention to you, even when you are addressing other kids.
4. Write in each of their yearbooks. Something personal. And take up space. They love that. They will keep that forever! For those who didn’t buy yearbooks, I wrote in the back of their notebooks for my class.
5. Review over their data with them, highlighting the growth they’ve seen. And celebrate!! Send a copy of it home for them to keep.
6. Use the big sticky chart paper (you can always cut it in half top-to-bottom in order to save paper) to make a chart with each student’s name on it. Then have the students do a gallery walk to say something positive about each classmate.
7. Create funny acrostics with each of their names.
8. Give them a book (you know, a good cheap one from Scholastic) with a short note from you in it. You could copy a printable book tag and glue it in with your signature at the bottom.
9. Have the kids reflect on the year through writing. You can give them different modes to do this. Here are some examples. (1) They can write a letter to themselves to be mailed over the summer. (2) They can write a list describing “How to Survive Mrs. Smith’s Class.” (3) They can write a letter to you. (4) They can evaluate your class for you. (5) They can write about where they see themselves in ten years and how they can work toward their goals.
10. Look on Pinterest! If you don’t know what Pinterest is, then this post is worth it simply for number 10! ha!
Feel free to comment in order to add to the list!
Susan Dewees, Ed.D. is an administrator at a large middle school. She also served as a Turnaround Team Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has 20 years of experience in public school education, and special education is one of her specialties.
Erin Stokes, Ed.D. is a Title I Instructional Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has over 10 years of experience as a teacher and instructional coach. She is also an adjuct professor at Louisiana College. She loves students, teachers, and most of all--learning.
Becky Pippen, Ed.D. is currently serving as principal of a large middle school in Louisiana. She has over 20 years experience in educational leadership. She is passionate about improving the teacher workforce so that all students have the quality of instruction they deserve.