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Graduation Ideas

Posted by in SPHE

I have only planned and carried out one 6th class graduation ceremony in my teaching history, so I am by no means an expert in the annual event, however, some of the ideas might be helpful to you! Not all of the ideas are mine so many thanks to the wonderful teacher who had 6th class before me whose ideas I stole, and some I introduced myself! Please keep in mind that I teach in a school that is under religious patronage so some of this may not be relevant if you teach in an Educate Together School (you can skim over the church bits!).


We are a small country school and the yearly graduation service is a big deal, however, there are no formal gowns or mortar boards! It’s a special occasion but it isn’t made too formal and the children of the 6th class look forward to their big day. We assemble in the local church and the whole school community joins in for the celebration.

The priest/reverend begins the service with an opening blessing and we follow this with an opening hymn. The children choose 4 hymns for the service this year. A popular one is ‘Don’t Build Your House On The Sandy Land’ sending a message to the graduates to always ensure they build solid foundations. The children then bring an offering of gifts to the altar to represent their time in school. Popular gifts can include:

  • A measuring tape, representing how much we have grown during our time in primary school
  • The Class photos represent the gift of friendship we have received
  • Recorder- representing the music we have enjoyed throughout our education
  • School books-representing the learning which has occurred for each person
  • A football – representing the gift of sport and good team play
  • Bible- representing the gift of faith
  • Flowers representing our school and the beautiful gardens we have
  • First Aid kit- representing all the care and attention we received from our teachers
  • School bell to represent all the time spent in school
  • Art supplies – representing our creative talents which have been nourish in our school
  • Shoes to represent that we are taking a new step on our journey of life


After the gifts, we have some bible readings and some prayers. It is a nice idea to use the prayers to include the people who have come along the journey with the students. Students are the obvious candidates for the job but it’s nice to have parents and teachers read also. If you are looking for inspiration the prayers I have written are these:


  1. Teachers prayer:

Dear God
We thank you for the completion of another academic year, and for giving us the opportunity to play a part in the lives of our students and our new graduates. We are grateful for your guidance and love throughout our work.


  1. Parents prayer:

Please bless and guide our graduates as they reach this end, and as they chart new beginnings.
May what they have learned by being here in (*) allow them to truly be “women and men for others.”


  1. 5th class (or general peer) prayer:

Please help 6th class to use all that they have learned here in (*) to make the world a better place – to serve others in true solidarity and friendship – to seek ways to help the poor, and those who are suffering and to treat others as we wish to be treated


  1. 5th class (or general peer) prayer:

We know that some of the students moving on will experience pain and hardship, and we know that some of them already have, and we ask you to grant them solace and strength.

  1. 5th Class (or general peer) prayer:

Finally, Father, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to build our school community with these young men and women while they are here. Though they are leaving our school, we know that they will always be with us as part of (*), and we ask that the bonds that have been created here remain strong despite any distance.



We will follow the prayers with a second hymn and then a 6th class pupil will read a poem, on behalf of all of the 6th class pupils, to the parents of the graduates. Its a popular poem, but its a good one for an occasion like this!

A Poem To Parents

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you make my favourite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I heard you say a prayer,
and I believed that there was a God to talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I felt you kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it’s alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I looked….
and I wanted to say thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking


6th class love to share their ‘I remember when’ memories of their time in primary school. It is a lovely time for them to share their highlights, and you would be surprised what sticks in their minds, reflect on the time they have spent in primary school and the friendships they have made along the way. Teachers – be prepared to be embarrassed, they will always remember the one thing you wish they didn’t!  


We have a buddy system in our school where the new Junior Infants are each paired with a 6th class student. The 6th class student (or big buddy) takes the new infant (or little buddy) under their wings and helps them settle into school. They help them in the playground and eat lunch with them for the first few weeks, sit with them at assemblies, bring them to church services, read with them and pair up with them for school tours. The relationship that the big buddy and little buddy have by the end of the year is very special. At the graduation service, the little buddies each make a little card for their big buddy and they present them to them individually in church.

After this, we will have our 3rd hymn and then a speech from the school principal. As we have double stream classes, the 5th class have an opportunity to get up and share some special memories of each child in the 6th class. Each 5th class student has one 6th class student to write about and share some special memories of them. They write them up into beautiful posters which we back on coloured card and laminated for the 6th class to keep as a keepsake.

The parents will have some input to the service too and one parent of a 6th class pupil will read a poem, on behalf of all the parents, to the children. It’s another popular one, and another to pull at the heartstrings!

A Parent’s Blessing

When you were born
Our hearts were so full of happiness
That there was no room in us
For words.

When you were growing
Our hearts were so full of care for you
That we spoke soothingly
And sometimes sharply,
Fearful for your safety,
But always
In the deepest places of our hearts
We spoke lovingly.

As we watch you
Moving forward with your friends
We marvel at all you have done
And become.
Our spirits sing praise to God
For the gift that is you.
And, though our hearts
Have stretched to love others,
Yet, there is a place within us
That is yours, and only yours

For the light you have shone on us,
For the life you have called us to,
For the special gift of God
You are now, and will ever be,
Thank you.




I’m not a huge fan of speaking in public! It’s different in the classroom but I get really nervous in front of adults! But I think it important for the 6th class teacher to speak so I have wrote a speech and dedicated a few lines to each child.


Finally, each child in 6th class will be presented by the principal with a certificate, a framed professional picture of themselves, their memory from 5th class and a mug personalised with the school logo and the names of all the children graduating.


BUT, the fun doesn’t stop there! The parents came back to school for a surprise graduation for the class. I got hold of some really cute pictures of the kids on their first days of school, school plays, tours etc and displayed them in the hall. I set up a photo booth complete with ‘class of ****’ props, each child will have a small ‘mortar board’ box of jellies, Some of the parents are baking treats and I am baked graduate cupcakes for the children. There will be party poppers, graduation decorations, music and lots of sweets and hopefully, the children will have lots of fun making their final memories before they leave primary school!


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