Oh the Places You'll Go! ** Culmination Theme

I am in love with the Dr. Seuss book Oh the Places You'll Go.  So much so, I used it as the basis for the 5th grade culmination ceremony two years in a row.  Now, I know what you are thinking.  It is ONLY February.  We haven't even gotten through testing!  Why are you talking about culmination??

Well, let me tell you.  I was on year-round for 12 of my 14 years of teaching.  I was usually on the "early" track and we were done with school in April.  But since the rest of the world didn't end school until June, no one ever thought of poor little us.  We were always left out in the cold, scrambling.  Well, I am here to give those year rounders a head start (and the rest of you too)

Here are a few ideas from the ceremony that I wrote that you can adapt for your own culmination, or even to use at a different time of year (for those of you who aren't teaching 5th grade)

Thinking About the Future

The whole idea behind this book is that there are endless possibilities ahead of the reader.   The reader has the choice to make the most of his life (or not).  So, in keeping with the theme,  I had the students think about where they would like to be in 10 to 15 years from now.  Where do they envision their lives?  The students brainstormed 5 different things they would like to see happen in their lives.  They then wrote paragraphs detailing how they would get there.  To present it all, I had the students create a crossroads scene with direction marker.  The signs pointed in all different directions, with the places they would like to be as the destinations.  I then took a picture of the students looking at the signs and we pasted it on.

I then had the students think of ONE of the places and create an "I will go..." statement that they were to read during the culmination.  They wrote things like, "I will go to college to become a veterinary tech.  I love animals and want to devote my life to saving them." or "I will go to the army and follow in the footsteps of my brother." (since I only had 25 students the first year..and I was the only class on track at the time, this worked for all of my students.  When we had 3 classes graduating last year, we choose 5 from each class to present during the ceremony)

Hot Air Balloons

One of the recurring images throughout the book are hot air balloons.  These symbolize opportunity and adventure ahead (which we discussed in length to get to this realization!)  So I had the students create foil balloons in the shape of hot air balloons.  I would love to tell you how easy these are to make (and I have been making them in some incarnation for years, so *for me* it is now easy), but I know the first few years I made them, they weren't quite so simple.  I have written out step by step instructions here for you to follow. (they will be coming...I can't get the doc to work right now) These really are great to make for any theme (I have made them in the shape of fish for an ocean unit, swallows for our CA Missions unit, piggy banks for a unit on money, even in the shape of the US for a unit on the civil war) but here in the Oh the Places You'll Go, hot air balloons are perfect.
This isn't a great picture, but you can see the balloons hanging from the ceiling.  They have a little dixie cup attached on the bottom to give it that "hot air balloon" effect.  They were attached to the ceiling with fishing line so that there was the illusion that they were floating in the air.

The Song

We used the song, On My Way by Phil Collins.  It fits so nicely in with the theme!  (the song talks about going somewhere in the far off, not really knowing where you are headed but you will be surrounded by people you love.  Read the lyrics here).  While the students were singing, I had them do "Glee"-style choreography while a slideshow was playing the background.  It was cute and both the kids and parents loved it (although in my head the dancing was far more broadway-esq than I think it actually came out!  hee hee)  And, for some reason, you can't just purchase the song on its own.  You have to buy the whole CD.  :(  But, it is $10 on Amazon, and it is a really good CD....

The Script

I wove the book theme into the script.  There were quotes galore throughout.  Here is the script for you to use as a guide while creating your own (as I am sure you would want one that is personalized to your own school and situation)  It is in both English and Spanish, and has A LOT of children participating.  That is just how we liked to do it at my school.  After all, it IS the students' culmination.  They should be the ones doing it all. 

And now for something NOT teaching related (although it *could* be)
This was from my son's first and second birthday party.  Yeah...I didn't remember to get different colored pens for each year here.  Oh well!

Every year, for my own children's birthdays, I have had this book out for guests of the party to sign.  It is similar to a yearbook but each year the stories get added to.  Since the same people come to each party (well, so far since my oldest is now going to be 5 in March....wow!  Where does time go?) they get to see a teeny bit of progression and reflect upon how things have changed.  I try to used different colored pens each year, but some parties, I just plain forget to get a new color.  It is so wonderful going back and reading what people wrote at the first and second year parties.  I hope my children appreciate this as much as I do when they are older.


  1. I love your script. I used to be a fifth grade teacher and the end of elementary school is always bitter-sweet. Using the theme of this book makes for a beautiful ceremony, I am sure :)
    Fun in Room 4B

  2. I love this! I want to make graduation this year special, especially since I'm leaving too! :)

  3. I adore this book! I quoted it in my high school graduation speech. It was the theme for my door decor at the beginning of the year. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I especially love that last idea. So wish I had thought of it before. I will have to start the tradition for birthday's 3 and 6.

  5. I love this book! All your ideas are so inspiring; especially the one as a personal keepsake.
    Your children will cherish this later.

  6. Hi Stephanie:
    Funny... we just started talking about "promotion" in my class yesterday. I taught them the words/signs to one of the songs... Got a little misty-eyed too (for about 3 seconds).
    I think one of our songs this year will be Never Grow Up (Taylor Swift), but I haven't decided on a big theme yet. Last year was Stand Up--great song, by the way!
    I love the "Places..." book as well. I used it in my address when I got my masters degree!
    I am looking forward to reading about the hot air balloons and I am off to check out the Phil Collins song!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  7. LOVE all the song ideas in the comments and your post. I am responsible for making the grade 8 slideshow for our graduation (a task I LOVE, but always dread finding the perfect songs for the class). I can't wait to check out your script - love me some Dr. Seuss. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the birthday book idea ... wish I had thought of that!

    Runde's Room

  8. oh! I love the birthday book idea but it is too late for my kiddos to do this with. Sigh.. wish I had seen it sooner!

    Think, Wonder, & Teach

  9. Thank you for another great article. Where else may anyone get that type of info in such an ideal approach of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I'm on the search for such information.

  10. Will you post the directions for the balloons? We have started getting ready for our culmination, our theme is this book (I LOVE IT!) Also, could you post another picture of the sign/paragraph activity! I LOVE IT!!!!!


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