Kindergarten graduation is around the corner. A question that comes up often from new teachers is: How do I even begin planning a kindergarten graduation? It’s something that you don’t even think about until it’s upon you. I’m going to share with you my tips and tricks for planning an amazing kindergarten graduation and even give you a FREEBIE along the way.
Plan The Location, Date and Time
First you need to plan where you would like to hold the graduation. There are three options that I’ve had in the past: classroom, stage (or gym), outside. My first few years teaching, the graduation was held in my classroom. This works great if you have a large classroom but if not if can be tight. If they are bringing their aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, moms, dads (and maybe the family dog) it’s not so easy. Outside is perfect if you can guarantee great weather (and maybe a promise from your custodian that the sprinklers won’t go off). The gym is perfect as long as it’s allowed to be used for this purpose (and you have one). You will have to arrange it with the P.E. teacher so that he/she can plan outdoor activities on that day.
At my last school kindergarten used the stage in the gym with risers for the kids to stand on. Fifth grade did their celebration the Friday before us and we did it the following Tuesday (after Memorial Day) so the custodian didn’t have to tear anything down until both graduations were finished. He could also leave up all the chairs for the families to use.
When planning the location here is who I needed to talk to: Music Teacher (she helped us run the music), P.E. Teacher (to make sure we could use the gym that day), Principal, Secretary, Custodian (he did set up and tear down). We had to make sure the date, time and place were available.
One little tip: I try to do kindergarten graduation BEFORE the last day of school. Graduation can always be a little stressful for me and I want to have fun during the last few days with my kids without thinking about graduation. Also, the last few days are filled with fun days such as Field Day and assemblies.
Plan The Music
Now that we know when and where the graduation is to take place the next question is: What are we going to do? The best thing to plan first is the MUSIC! Kids love to sing! They love to move! If you have some favorite songs that you have sung throughout the year you can use a few of those. We found some fun lyrics (they are online) that go to the tune “Summer Nights” and “New York, New York” and then we also performed the song from Frozen called “In Summer”.
Because these were new songs for the kids (with actions and sometimes props) I started adding some practice sessions into my day as early as after Spring Break. If you are doing familiar songs you won’t need to start as early. While planning the music you will also want to think of actions that can help them remember the words as well as props you may want to use (it’s okay if you don’t). If you talk to your Music Teacher, he/she may be able to help them prepare the songs during Music class too.
Here is a song you could use for your graduation. Just click on the picture below. It’s FREE!
Invite the Parents
Give your students’ parents advanced notice about the kindergarten graduation. They may need to adjust their schedule. I always let them know towards the end of April or the beginning of May. It depends when your schools gets out for the summer. The kids make an invitation for their parents. Some years we write the day and time together on the invitation. We send this home about a week before the kindergarten graduation because the parents are already aware that it’s happening. The invitation helps the kids take ownership of their special day.
Plan The Treats
This is completely optional, however we had tables set up in the back of the gym with food on it. For many years we had parents sign up to bring food (cookies, brownies, juice, etc.). My FAVORITE year was when we (the teachers) took care of the treats. We ordered cupcakes for the kindergarteners and bought cookies from Costco for everyone else. This way we didn’t end up with too much food or dishes we didn’t know what to do with OR parents wondering where to put everything (although it was well labeled so there weren’t too many questions). It made things simple.
Sometimes schools have money in their budget for this type of thing and sometimes they don’t. You might be able to ask for donations for something like that. OR you could assign just a FEW parents to bake/buy cupcakes and cookies. But having less to manage was a blessing!
Plan The Schedule
You will want to know, from start to finish, what will happen at kindergarten graduation. Here is an example of how I did it:
- Kids get on the risers (top row first) – curtains are closed (if you have them) – then open the curtains once everyone is in place and settled. If you don’t have curtains (which I did not for most of my years) it’s no big deal.
- I welcome the parents with a VERY short speech (literally a paragraph).
- Kindergarteners come up one at a time and I say his/her name and we shake hands then I ask them what they want to be when they grow up they answer in a complete sentence (sometimes) and go back to their spot and the next kindergartener comes up. I take one row at a time so that they are close and ready and we aren’t waiting for kids to individually come off the risers. There is an X on the stage (made of painter’s tape) for the person in line waiting.
- Thank parents for coming and give last minute directions such as information about the treats, let them know there is a slideshow, remind them to take home their scrapbook and bucket, and to make sure to sign their child out before taking them home. We always planned graduation to be towards the end of the school day.
- Kids exit the risers opposite of how we came on and went out to sit with their families while watching the slideshow. This is also when I hand them their diplomas so they don’t crinkle them up during their performance. You could also put the diplomas in their sand buckets or bags if you give those out as a gift.
- Go Home or stay with me and I’ll get them home their usual way.
Plan The Rehearsal
Pick a day and time close to the actual graduation when you can take your class to where they will actually perform. Put them in the correct order and show them how to get on the risers. Go through the program with the songs in the setting where they will perform. Show them what they should do when you call them up (how to shake my hand, where to stand, how to talk into the microphone to say what they will be when they grow up). Explain to them what will happen after graduation.
Plan All The Extras
Please know you can make this as extravagant or simple as you need to. But I want to share what I do and hopefully it can inspire some ideas for you too.
- We do some artwork that is displayed on temporary walls (these are walls that roll out and you just staple the artwork to the walls).
- I create a slideshow of a variety of pictures that have been taken throughout the year and set it to music. I use imovie (I have a Mac) and it’s super simple to use. This is something I show directly after graduation and parents love it.
- We make a scrapbook/ memory book throughout the year which is made up of monthly writing/drawing samples and photos taken that correspond with that month. I hand those out at graduation. To see this resource click the picture below:
- I purchase diplomas and fill them out before graduation day and put them in their riser line order. I pass these out as they go to see their parents so they stay nice and are not a distraction during the songs. Some years they are in the sand buckets and I don’t have to pass them out at all.
- Gift – I usually give my kids sand buckets from the dollar store (or I order colorful bags) and fill them with a container of bubbles, chalk, a pencil, piece of candy and a small packet of summer activities (a few reading passages and games)
- I like to have a few decorations out such as a banner that says Class of _______ and some flowers and balloons.
- I also have a program for the parents that lists the names of all the graduates.
Make A To Do List
When planning something like a Kindergarten Graduation you will want to make a list of everything you need to do. I have compiled my own list that you can have for FREE. Just click on the picture below. It includes the things that I needed to do and is meant to help guide you as you make your own unique to do list.
Please know that there is no right or wrong way to plan out a Kindergarten Graduation. Your situation, school budget, school layout and rules about graduations will dictate what you can and cannot do. But hopefully you will be able to have some type of celebration that will be fun for your kindergarteners and families.
If you are looking for some ideas for end of school year activities please check them out in this blogpost: