At the end of every school year, I like to give my students a gift. Over the past 14 years, I’ve given lots of different gifts, such as books, candy, bubbles, and sunglasses. Last year, though, instead of spending lots of money, I spent my time writing tootle notes to each of my students. I was surprised to see how much they loved this gift. It was a simple piece of paper, but it meant a lot to them.
This year, I wanted to do something different, but I also wanted it to be meaningful.
So, I did what every good teacher does - I started looking for ideas on Pinterest. I soon came across an idea that I loved – framed personalized word clouds for each student.
Throughout the year, we have learned about character traits and that you can determine a person’s character based on their words, actions, and thoughts. Click here to download a handout with examples of character traits.
A few weeks before school was over, I passed out a class list with a blank line next to each student’s name. I told the students I wanted them to write a positive character trait to describe each student in our class. They also had to write a character trait that described themselves. I didn’t tell them what this for was, and I required them to put up their privacy dividers. This way, they couldn’t see what other students were writing.
After everyone was finished, I collected the papers and didn’t say anything else about it. Looking over their work, I was surprised at how insightful the students were - I agreed with all of the words they wrote to describe their classmates.
I used these papers to create a word cloud for each student (I also added a few words of my own and made sure to include the student’s name in their cloud). There are several sites that you can use to create word clouds. I used abcya.com because you can easily change the font, color, and design, and you can download and save each word cloud.
I printed out each word cloud and put them in picture frames that I bought from the dollar store (a favorite shopping destination of any teacher). Lastly, on the back of each picture frame, I put a label that had the name of our school, the year, grade level, and my name.
On the last day of school, I had all the students sit in a circle and I revealed why I had them write positive character traits about each other a few weeks earlier.
One at a time, I read each student’s name and all the positive words that were used to describe them. Then, I gave them their picture frame to keep. The students listened quietly and with anticipation as I read aloud the words on 23 picture frames. The smiles on their faces made all the time spent working on this project worth it.
Sometimes the best gifts we can give someone are our words. Words of encouragement. Words of affirmation. Words that remind them that they are loved.
As my students walked through our classroom door at the end of the day, they held their picture frames tightly, but let go long enough to give me one last hug or high-five.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.