Welcome Back to week three of the Engaging Students The First Weeks of School Series. This activity just might be one of my favorite things that I do the first week of school! Time Capsules!
The first weeks of school kids are always so nervous, but also extremely willing to work and usually pretty reflective and thoughtful. That makes the first weeks perfect for this activity. Writing a time capsule is a great way to get writing at the beginning of the year with a low-stakes task that will actually give you a lot of information about the current writing level.
To kick off this activity we have a discussion about what a time capsule is. I usually start by bringing in, or showing, them some objects that were popular when I was in the grade they are in. This is usually good for a laugh or a nice long conversation about what things were like “back in the day”.
Then, I give each of my students a copy of the ‘Beginning of the Year’ time capsule for their specific grade. The resource that I have available in my store here, has a different template for each grade Kindergarten through sixth grade. These templates ask students to write about different topics ranging from their name, age, letters they know, friends, favorite food, book, school memory and what they hope to learn that year. The students in the upper grades have a prompt to write a letter to themselves in the future too. This can be challenging for kids, but many jump on the opportunity when I tell them that the more work they put into this now the better the outcome will be whenever they get it back! Give them an envelope to decorate (kids love using their new school supplies to do this and it will keep them from asking a million times when they get to use them) then have them put their name on it and put their time capsule in it. Seal them, collect them and put them in safe spot! At this point I usually set a reminder on my work calendar for the last week of school reminding me where I put them and that it’s time to get them out to give back to the kids.
Then you wait…
Although this isn’t a tip for the first weeks of school, now I’m going to plan one of your lessons for the last week of school! You guessed it, get out those time capsules and get ready to see their growth! At this point I print off the “End of The Year’ template for their grade level. I ask the students to think WAY back to the beginning of the year and think about what we did that they might want back. (At this point in the year I’ve usually had quite a few kids who have kindly reminded me that I need to find those!)
I pull out their old envelopes, but tell them they can have their old letter back after they finish the new one. These new letters I ask them to fill out with as much seriousness as the first and then to stuff them in a new envelope and write their address on it. (Also a great lesson, to make sure they know their addresses- 6th graders are the worst at this!) I ask them to keep the envelope open because I plan to on adding my own special note to it someday, although I don’t tell them that.
My plan is to return these letters to my students when they graduate high school. I print off an extra set of address labels before the end of the year and put it on top of the stack with a big note that has their graduation year on it. I will then add my own personal note to it and either hand deliver them at graduation, send them to the high school to have them hand them out or send them all back to them.
So there you go! A lesson for the first weeks of school, one for the end of the year and a fun little gift to remember your class when they graduate from high school!
You can grab this resource for kindergarten through sixth grade- HERE!