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When trying to determine your graduation format, several aspects must be taken into consideration. Where will the ceremony take place? Are you leading the program, or do you have a music teacher or other adult running it? What kind of theme would you like to follow? Will there be dancing and singing? Would you like to include a slide show? How will the children dress? Will you pass out diplomas or certificates? Will refreshments be served?
Each of these decisions puts a special mark on your preschool graduation. With thought and early preparation, the program can be a success.
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Where is your graduation program going to take place? Is there adequate space in the classroom or do you need a multipurpose area or gym? Can you go off-campus? The size and location of the venue can determine what kinds of songs and/or dances your children will perform, and how refreshments will be served.
When choosing an on-campus location, find out when you will be able to practice and if you need to share the space with other classes. Then reserve a time slot for your program, allowing for arrivals and stragglers after the show.
If going off-campus, how will the children get there for practices? Will parents take children directly to that venue or will you transport them? Find out what kinds of permissions you need to receive and how your school's insurance covers off-campus excursions.
Also when planning where to go and when to practice, make sure your program leader is able to join you at those times.
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Choosing a Theme
Ideally, the preschool graduation theme should be reflective of what the children have studied throughout the year. For decorations, the children can share some of their best works and projects to hang on the walls or to display on the refreshments tables. Songs and dances can reflect favorite topics or the core themes of the year. Children's dress for the program can also reflect the topic. An example of a topic would be "Frogs" and an example of a core theme could be "Multiculturalism/Around the World."
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Include a Slideshow
Parents love to see pictures of their children in action. Create a slide show that shows the children throughout the year. Show them doing different activities. Include them posing with their friends. Take one close-up shot of each child's face. If the children have been with you for more than one year, include pictures of them at a younger age to show how much they have grown over the years.
Present photos in an old-fashioned matter by having them made into slides, then use a slide projector. Or, use programs on and offline, such as Slide.com or PowerPoint to create the slide show. Add accompanying music for guaranteed tears. Find some suggestions for music here.
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This is a chance for children to wear their best clothes. Offer suggestions to parents about appropriate dress. If dancing is a part of the program, emphasize the need for comfortable shoes and clothing and explain why. Long skirts, suit jackets, and pants can tangle feet and arms during dances.
Some people like to have children create sashes for part of their costume. These sashes can represent the theme of the program, and should be made by the children with limited help from parents. Be clear on your expectations and provide pictures, if possible.
Will children wear graduation caps? If so, dancing will not be a good idea, as the caps easily fall off of heads. Make simple caps by cutting a square from poster board for the children to decorate. Tape it to a three-inch wide headband that sits snugly on the child's head. Include a simple yarn tassel.
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Order of Events
Think about an order of events for the preschool graduation. How will the children come in? Will they simply walk onto the stage or enter with a song as a processional? How will they stand? Keep taller children. If more than one class is participating, decide if they will be divided further by class or if they will behave better mixed up.
Think of the songs you are going to sing. The more active songs are better near the beginning. A dance works well soon following. Then, the songs should gradually get slower, to calm the children back down for the presentation of certificates and slide show. End on an emotional note.
If presenting certificates or graduation medals, do so at the end of the program. The longer the children have to stand holding them, the more likely they are to become crumpled.
Keep any adult speakers to a minimum. Have a teacher, or the administrator/principal give a short opening welcome, then a short summation at the end. Children are excited to perform and parents are excited to watch the performance.
Set a time limit of about 20-30 minutes for all songs and presentations, to maintain the children's attention.
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Create a simple event program to hand out prior to the performance. The cover should include the name of the performance and include a picture that reflects the theme. Inside, include any notes and acknowledgments from teachers and administration on the left side. To the right, list the order of events. Credit all composers and authors.
On the back, list all names of the "graduates" in alphabetical order. If combining more than one class in the program, decide if you want them listed all together, or divided by class.
Use fun paper found either at an office supply store or online. Include icons from clip art programs. Plain paper is boring, but it doesn't have to be overly fancy.
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Refreshments are often served following a graduation. Keep them simple and less messy by serving only finger foods. For beverages, use mini water bottles or juice boxes. Not only are these less messy, but also more sanitary, as children cannot dump punch back into the punchbowl when they decide they don't like it.
Cut down on cost by having parents donate the food, drinks, and paper goods. Decide if everything should be store-bought, or if people can make things from home. This is influenced by school and venue policies, so check with administration.
Another option would be to have families meet up at a favorite ice cream parlor or other child-friendly venue following the ceremony. However, people are more likely to chat and congregate when they don't have to leave right away.
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Simplicity is Key
The key to determining the graduation format is to keep it simple. Parents are there to see their children and will love a more honest effort. Those little mishaps that make teachers cringe often go unnoticed by observers, and often make the show even more endearing.