Friday, June 1, 2012

Planning a 5th grade graduation

In my day (wow that saying makes me sound old), the ONLY graduation I ever had in grades K-12 was my high school graduation, now graduations are popping up at each school level.  I actually like the idea of having a 5th grade graduation because the students are "graduating" in a sense to a new beginning in middle school and leaving elementary school. 

As expected graduation is a big deal and my school's no different so there's been lots of planning to.  Luckily, there's a graduation committee (which I am a part of with several 5th grade parents).  Graduation is pretty much the same show at any age (speeches, songs, memories, remarks, etc), but of course it's meaning and magnitude changes at each changing stage of life (elementary, middle, high, college).  So if you're planning for a Kindergarten, 5th grade or even 8th grade graduation for the 1st time here are some pointers and tips that I've learned this year:

-Recruit help from others:  I can't stress this enough, graduation is a large task to take on solo. Delegating duties to others will help you keep your sanity!  There's always a person(s) who's great at party planning, ask them to take on  a few of the graduation tasks. Don't be afraid to ask, most people are happy and willing to help.

-Secure a speaker sooner than later: Often this part of graduation gets overlooked.  Have several choices of speakers just in case there are scheduling conflicts. 

-Make ribbons in the school colors for everyone to wear:  We aren't wearing robes (hey, this is 5th grade) but the ribbons will show some uniformity among the "graduates".  I had the vision for the ribbon idea but asked one of my crafty 5th grade parents to make them (picture coming soon).

-Use an online certificate maker:  You can easily print graduation certificates from multiple websites or if you're crafty and creative use Word, Pages, Publisher or any design software.  Here's a few online certificate maker websites:
     -123 Certificates 
     -Quick Certificate Printer
     -Microsoft Academic Certificates
     -Other Microsoft Certificates

-Making a graduation slideshow can be a very daunting task.  Recruiting help from others is great for this too.   In our graduation slideshow (you can use PowerPoint or Keynote), we have 2 pictures of each 5th grade student (a baby picture and a current picture).  It took me nearly a month to collect, scan, constantly remind and save my 5th graders baby pictures.   For getting the current picture, there should be a disk with a copy of every students picture at your school (from the fall school pictures that everyone takes).  Also on the slide show we put what middle school that the students will be attending for next year (we have students going to about 10 different schools).  At other school levels you could list the high school or college that the students will be attending.  In this task, I volunteered to collect, scan & save the pictures.  It wasn't too bad getting the pictures.  I sent an email to the 5th grade teachers which they forwarded to their parent email lists, had them put the picture request in the class newsletter and also reminded students in our middle school group lunches.  Another creative 5th grade parent is actually creating the slide show and there will be copies of the DVD for each student to take home as a keepsake.

-Ask parents & staff to bring in flowers for stage decorations.  Someone always has several ferns and potted flowers that can be borrowed for a few hours.  Total cost: $ 0! (have you noticed a trend in recruiting help from others yet?)

-If there will be a celebration after the graduation, make a playlist(s) on your iPod and connect to an external speaker (borrowed from another 5th grade parent) and that's your DJ.  When I had my small middle school group meetings, I had the students to make a list of songs that they wanted to hear that were appropriate for school.  Several of the students actually had the CD's for me to put into my iTunes library.  I listened to the songs to make sure that they were appropriate (a few were not and they were taken off the list).  I threatened to just play Kidz Bop and call it a day (there's nothing wrong w/ Kidz Bop by the way).   I even overheard a student whisper to someone "man she's going to ruin our graduation if she plays Kidz Bop!"

- If you're ordering graduation t-shirts for the students, instead of having the names typed on the back, have the students sign their names on the screen print of the shirt.  This will almost eliminate typos, misspelled names and not leaving anyone out. The shirt printer will provide the special paper for the students to sign. Here's an example of our shirt for this year:

I'll post pictures of our graduation to show the final results in a few days (graduation's on the 7th).

Graduation is a special occasion whether it be kindergarten or college!  As counselors, we can try to do our best to help students and families enjoy the celebration (and enjoy ourselves of course).

What ways to you celebrate graduation at your school?  If you have other graduation tips please share, contact me. Pin It


  1. These are great ideas -- and very comprehensive! We have an assembly on the last day of school during which all the fifth graders are recognized and when they recognize any teachers who are retiring or moving. Each student is presented with a white school shirt that has been rolled up and is wrapped with a ribbon, so it looks like a diploma. Afterwards they put the shirts on which they collect signatures of classmates and teachers.
    And I always get all proud and teary!
    Good luck on the 7th!


    1. Hey Rebecca! I LOVE the idea of the t-shirts rolled up as diploma. I know that I'll being boo-hooing at graduation (in a good way), I was just previewing the slide show and had to tell myself to pull it together b/c I will miss them, but I know that it will be fun and we'll all have a blast.

  2. Wow, this post is good, my younger sister is analyzing such things, thus I am going to inform her.

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