You are in the home stretch! The school year is almost over. Maybe you’ve had the most difficult year of your career or maybe it’s been a highlight. Either way, you’ve made a difference in the lives of the children who’ve come through your classroom this year and so it’s time to clean up, pack up and celebrate.
The end of the school year is not always a happy time for your students. For some children, school is a sense of stability they don’t have at home. You know your students.
Celebrating the end of the school year might need to be more focused on celebrating the time you’ve spent together. Be aware of the different feelings of all your students and be sure to talk about how the end of the year is always a mix of emotions. Read on to find out how we finish the year.
It’s time to clean up your classroom!
There is always so much to do at the end of the year, but we’ve always had our students help in the process of cleaning up the school year. This helps calm some students as they prepare the classroom for the next group of students.
One of the biggest questions we get is how do we have time for this? We don’t do it all at once. We break it into a giant list of things. When students are finished their work, they help out. As we get closer to the end of the year, more students are available to help out. No students are ever forced to help out, but instead the culture of our classroom is that we all work together. We work together to get the jobs done quickly so we have more time to spend together.
Here are some ways our students help us in the last month of school:
Our students go through our classroom library to make sure we haven’t accidentally kept any school library books, books that belong to other people or books that are beyond help and have been read to death. We let them organize the shelf however they please. Some years they’ve tried to put the books in alphabetical order, genres and one year by colour. If we are moving classrooms, they help pack up the books and take them to the new room.
We have a cupboard of games that we use through the winter when we’re trapped inside because of cold weather. They become a big mess, so we’ll often have a bit of time where we’ll dig out all the games, set them up and check for missing or lost pieces. The pieces are usually just mixed up. We repair the boxes and pieces and then store the games ready for the next year. Games that are beyond repair are scrapped for parts in our Makerspace.
Students are great at sorting out old projects, photographing them and then giving them out to students so they can be taken home. This time of year we send home all kinds of artwork, science projects and even a few of the writing projects that we don’t need for the last few weeks of school.
Cleaning/Sorting Calendar Pieces
Let’s be honest, the calendar doesn’t usually get changed much after April, so we have our students sort out all the monthly calendar pieces, wipe them and package them up so they are ready for the next year.
Have students take some of the good on one side paper to make notepads for the next year. If they can use a paper cutter safely, they can cut the paper into quarters and then staple it along the top to make a little notepad perfect for scrap paper.
Markers/Pencil Crayons and Shared Supplies
Have a few students go through your shared supplies and sort them out. Have them check pens and markers and dispose of the dried-out ones. We have our parents sign a quick permission form requesting that used supplies be left behind as extra supplies for the next school year. All other unused supplies are returned to students at the end of the year. Find it in the Resource Library or we can send you your own copy via email when you sign up to our email list. We often are left with several things that we can reuse for the next year.
Subject Area Materials
As we finish subjects, we check the books to make sure we have everything we need for assessments and then we start to send home these books. If a student has done a really good job, we’ll ask for permission from parents to return the book back to us so we can use it as an exemplar. We do this with art projects too. It helps to have different examples of student work. Sometimes we just take photos of the work instead. You can find a permission form we use in our Resource Library.
Textbooks and School Materials
If you have to return textbooks or math manipulatives to specific places in your school, students come in very handy. They can sort out and organize materials and even help take them from room to room. We often pick one set of textbooks and when each student carries one or two, it’s easy to get them all the way from our classroom to the book room on the way to gym class or recess.
You probably have bins, binders and all kinds of things that could use a wipe down. Be sure to give your students some gloves so they aren’t getting those chemicals on their skin. Students love wipes and will clean all kinds of things with them.
It’s time to enjoy your time with students!
Yes, the last month of school can be crazy, but it can also be one of the best times of the year. It can be challenging to keep students working, particularly if you have exams or standardized testing.
Create a calendar for the last month of school that includes all testing dates, school wide activities, field trips and anything else that might be happening. This will give you a realistic view of how many things you’ll be able to pack into your days. We use the clean up activities in between all the other weird things (like when school starts at 8:20 but the assembly starts at 8:45-perfect for tidying desk bins).
We created a package of activities to use with your students over the last month of school. They are all designed to be quick and simple since you already have enough to do this time of year, but they are fun to share with your students. If you’re not convinced, we have a free sample for you to try.
Our students had a great time with these activities which encouraged us to relive the highlights of our year together. The activities in the paid package have writing, drawing and game playing instructions along with picture samples so you’ll know how to assemble pieces. You can find the whole package in our store.
Here are some great end of the school year activities that don’t cost money:
Build forts in your classroom
Have students bring sheets or blankets from home. Build forts and do all your work inside them for a day.
It might not look like learning, but lots of things can be accomplished outside. Take a book to read to students. Build sandcastles in the playground. Measure the angles on the slide. Race marbles down the slide to see if the different sizes change the speed. Check out Outdoor Classroom Day for more ideas to get outside.
Choose a crazy dress up day just for your class
This one was inspired by accident. We mixed up crazy hair day so only our students had crazy hair on a regular Tuesday. It was all in good fun. We also had an “everyone dress the same” day. It was creepy because we had thirty-one little clones, but it was lots of fun.
If you need some ideas check out our list of theme days.
Have a board game day
Allow students to bring board games (no electronics) for a classroom-wide play day.
Have a “Read by Flashlight” day
Have students bring their favourite book and a flashlight. Turn off the lights and let them read. Put on some soothing sounds like beach waves for ambiance. We also had a “Read and Feed” one year where students brought snacks to eat while they read. We of course encouraged healthy snacks.
Have a design a new game for gym day
Allow students to come up with new games for gym class. Use the last month to play a different game each day.
Create a mini flash mob
As a class learn a line dance or dance where everybody moves the same way. Out at recess one day, start the music and get everyone dancing. We also did this one year in the middle of the assembly on the last day of school. It was lots of fun. Be sure the people in charge of the assembly know it’s going to happen, or just go for it and ask for permission later. 😉
Place all your desks/tables in a big circle with all students facing in. If you don’t have room, do this in a big open space like the gym or outside. Each student gets a piece of paper.
Instruct students to write their names on the back and then start drawing on the front. After a minute or two have all students pass their paper left. Tell students to start drawing on this paper.
Repeat this until the papers have gone all the way around the circle. When it gets back to the original artist, have students look at how their drawings turned out. You can also do a story version of this where each student writes one sentence (but only if your students can write rather quickly.)
Take one of those books that has been read to death and turn it into poetry you can enjoy.
We love the blog Cult of Pedagogy written by Jennifer Gonzales. She has a great post about What to Do on Lame Duck Days. If you need more ideas to fill in those last few days of school, check it out.
Don’t forget about getting ready for next year.
If you already know what you’ll be teaching in the fall (lucky you), spend a little time getting ready for it. While you won’t be able to do anything too specific, you can prepare several items.
- If you know where you’ll be teaching, prepare your bulletin boards. Even if it’s just the back paper or fabric and borders, it will save you so much time in the fall.
- Prepare your first few days of school activities. Have a few worksheets and make a few extra so you’re ready no matter how many students you’ll have. If you need some quick ideas, check out our Back to School Activities.
- Collect a bin of activities that can go in your sub tub. That’s the bin of things you keep in case you have to create sub plans in a hurry. This is perfect for anything you just didn’t have time for during the school year. It also saves you time later and uses up those copies instead of tossing them in the recycle bin.
- Get some feedback from your students. What did they like? What should be changed and how would it work better? Some of our “best teaching ideas” have been made even better because our students had great ideas that made things go smoother. Your students are experts in your teaching by the end of the year and be open to their suggestions.
We hope you’ve had a great year and will remember it with affection for years to come. And if your year wasn’t all you’d hoped, just think. Next year is a fresh start and a chance to try it all over again. What other profession has that opportunity? If you’re looking to get a head start on your back to school planning check out our post 10 Things We Do on the First Day of School.
Share with us the highlight or lowlight of your school year in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.