This Year is "In the Bag" Easiest Last Day of School Activity Ever!

Are you looking for an OH SO EASY, cheap, and FUN activity to do with your students on the last day of school? Well I think I have come up with something that fits the bill and that will also be meaningful! "This Year Is 'In the Bag'" is an End of Year activity that is so simple that you can implement it right away with very little prep work. Read on to find out more about this end of year activity!

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In the "This year is in the Bag" activity, students {and the teacher} choose one item that symbolizes your year together (the symbol must be represent a positive and kind memory. This is no time for mean inside jokes!). Students brainstorm memories, come up with a representational object, and write a few paragraphs explaining why their symbol represents the past school year. These symbols get shared on the last day of school along with students’ written explanation. It results in a student-made “share-a-bration” that will be time well spent for all of the memories you recall on the last day of school with your students!


To prepare for this activity, a few days before the last day of school, we spend a few sessions (of about 1 hour) in class doing two important things:

  1. Students independently brainstorm ideas of memories and big aspects of the year that they could try to symbolize.

  2. After students commit to their symbol, they write a paragraph or more to explain the meaning of the object they will share.

I have students go through these preparatory steps to reflect on the year before the event so that I get more meaningful responses. This also helps students plan what object they could choose to place in their bag. Without the written responses, I was concerned that my students would get nervous or would not know what to say “on the spot.” Students written responses support them as they share their object with the class.

Students are allowed to come up with an inexpensive item that they give to everyone {like mine—a bookmark and eraser} or an item that they just want to tell the class about. They have the option to draw their symbol, find a magazine picture, or use an object. The options are endless! The first time I did this activity, I really enjoyed the small gift option and was surprised at the number of students that were motivated to think of an item they could bring in to share with the whole class. Students left the ceremony and the year with a sweet "bag full of memories."

I give everyone a paper bag labeled "___ Grade is in the Bag!" to place their item in. Students can bring in their bag as soon as it's ready, but it must be kept secret until the day of our activity {hence the paper bag!}. It's a good idea to have the bags and the written assignment due the day before the last day of school so that you make sure everyone has turned in the assignment and will be able to participate in the activity.


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For my symbolic items, I chose inexpensive items that I could give to each student. I wanted to find brain shaped erasers like these to represent that our year together is in my memories forever. Instead, I found these elephant erasers and decided to go with the saying "An elephant never forgets" to help me explain why I chose an elephant for my symbol. Like an elephant never forgets, a teacher never forgets her year with students!

I also gave students a plastic heart to remind them to always be kind and a bookmark with a printed quote from Wonder by RJ Palacio.  (If you read Wonder to your class, these awesome Wonder themed bookmarks are a steal for end of the year gifts at 36 in a pack!)

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You can see some of the items my students came up with in the picture below. They were so creative and thoughtful with their ideas. It made my heart happy to have gummy worms (for being book worms), copies of some of the inspirational posters hanging in our classroom, fruit by the foot (as a reminder of all of the fun we had in math class), and smarties to represent learning about growth mindset.

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One student said, "This year really gave me a boost. Now I know I'm going to be a reader for the rest of my life!" Another gave out task cards that they had written using each classmates' name. (Yes, my love of task cards was passed on to the kiddos and I just LOVED that a student wrote her own word problems to symbolize our love of math!)

The funniest symbolism was with a dog bone and a collar. (Wait, what?!?!) I wasn't sure where the explanation was going, but the student told us that taking care of his dog reminds him of the way I took care of them all year. He said, "You are kind, helpful, and funny. I just didn't realize how much you did for us this year until it was over." {HEART MELT!!!}

So there you have it!

I spent 5 dollars on erasers, already had the brown bags at my house, and already had the plastic hearts on hand. I printed the bookmarks from Wonder and that didn't cost a thing.

However, the time I shared with my kiddos on the last day of school with a focused activity, where objects and surprises were hidden in paper bags and we were full of suspense was a priceless way to end our year together.

If you are in need of an activity for your last day, get the materials for this activity sent straight to your inbox! Then, you can focus on taking care of yourself and making memories with your students those last few days!

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We want you to end the year with a celebratory bang! Check out these other free ideas for your upper elementary students and let us do the planning for you!

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