May 13, 2021
Throughout the year, I always try to embed learning opportunities for my students to grow as a person or reflect on who they used to be. At the end of the school year, it can get so busy and we need mini-lessons that can take one day here or there to fill in. I started this one my very first year and, while I have adapted it for the grade I am teaching, or even used it for a beginning of year lesson, I have always fallen back on it.
It’s pretty simple really, I have the students write a letter to their future self. For my 6th graders, I would have them write it to themselves going into high school, then I would collect them and seal them up, with a promise to find them and deliver it as they were headed to high school. I live in an area where students move frequently, so this did prove challenging. I later adapted it to seal it after adding a personal note to it, then returning it with a “Do not Open Until” instruction. For my 8th graders, it was upon graduation. So this time of year is exciting since I have students do this as an activity, and I have former students opening theirs and reflecting—and many reaching out to me.
So what do they write about? I do make a plan sheet for them to capture who they are now—favorite music, style, books, TV shows, best friends (boy/girlfriends), foods, places, goals and dreams both personal and professional, what they think they will be doing and a bit of advice for their future selves that they hope they don’t lose focus of through high school.
I collect them all and give a participation grade, but I also add a personal note to it as a motivator, a funny story or memory, or some personal touch. Then I seal it up and tell them to stash it away or give to a parent. Many pin it on a mirror or wall, tuck it in their yearbook, or give it to mom or dad to hold onto until graduation. Some open it right away, they can’t wait 4 years. Some forget about it or lose it. But several keep them and many reach out to me. I love it!
Because so many students have stayed in touch, courtesy of social media or their parents being or becoming friends of mine, I am able to get a reminder out to some of them and they spread the word. It is my favorite lesson every year and I always look forward to teaching it. I think it is what I miss most about being in the classroom, too.
It can be fun to build those memories, strengthen those bonds and give them something to reflect on when they reach this milestone. Keep in mind, you don’t have to add a personal note! This can also be adapted to a first day of school lesson and they open on the last day, or so many other variations.
If you are looking for an activity for the end of the year, I encourage you to give it a try.