End of the Year Hacks for the Classroom
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Make the end of the year count for your students and yourself. I’m sharing my favorite end of the year hacks with you! Use the time you have spent the last few weeks to prep and make back-to-school easier and less stressful! Help your students transition by reflecting on the school year and celebrating everything they have done, accomplished, and learned! Now, let’s get started.
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End Of The Year Hacks
I have a multi-age classroom. Some of my students will go to kindergarten, and some will come back next year to be the “big kids” in my class. We read books about kindergarten and school. We talk about what is going to happen, what that will look like, and how they may feel. My favorite books about the first day of school are The Night Before Kindergarten and The First Day of Nursery School. (It’s about a little girl who is nervous on the first day of preschool and ends up having a ton of fun.)
If they know what is coming and have confidence, they will be successful in their new classroom. The transition will be much smoother for the child and the family too.
I put out all the activities and manipulates for back-to-school. It’s fun for them to revisit what they did at the beginning of the year. These retelling cards are super easy to make! Just color copy the last two pages of Panda Bear, Panda Bear What do you See? cut out, glue to card stock, and laminate.
In the library center, the writing table has a family theme, just like the first day of school, with family-themed vocabulary cards in the black pocket chart. I also put family writing paper on the table. Sign up for my newsletter and get the family writing paper and word cards as my free gift HERE.
The pretend center changes back to Home Living! It’s amazing just to sit back and observe how much they role play and how much language has developed in nine months.
Why do I do this? For two simple reasons: One…students most likely haven’t played with these materials since back-to-school, so they will think it is something new (well, almost).
Two…it makes closing and opening the classroom back up in August easier! All of the themed activities are put away (except for summer, which I will talk about later). On the last day, we have a teacher workday without students. I make a box for each center. All the manipulatives, props, labels, posters, and printables for that center go in the box. Then in August, when I am opening my classroom up again, I just grab the center box and put everything out. It makes setting up centers SUPER SIMPLE! I also make one general box for all the items at circle and random things around the room like my visual schedule, job chart clothespins, and safe place items.
For table time (aka arrival activities), we do math and literacy activities from my Summer Centers pack. Just a little something new and different to keep them engaged and excited the last few weeks.
Memory Books! During journal time for the last two weeks of school, we write in our Memory Books (during journal time). It is so much fun to reflect and talk about everything we did this year. We do one page a day, and everyone does the same page. Each day I introduce what they are going to journal about, and we brainstorm as a class before they journal.
Instead of signing in each morning the last week, I put out Memory Books for students to sign. I have the books turned to the Autograph page. This way, students only have to sign their names a handful of times each day, not 20+ times all at once. That’s a lot to ask of a preschooler.
For circle, I read books about each of our centers (blocks, art, discovery, library, and pretend). We then reflect together all about that center. For pretend, we read ABC of Jobs and listed all the places the pretend center changed to, then vote on our favorite!
On the last day I read 26 Big Things Small Hands Can Do, and we reflect on ALL the things they can do now! They were calling out so many things that they could do! Each time someone shared something they can do, other students would share how they can do it too. One student said, “Wow, I am so smart! Look at all the stuff I can do now that I am a big kid!” It was a very loud and exciting circle time!
Cleaning…ugh. Even though we cleaned throughout the year, I make sure everything is cleaned at the end of the year. Just to make sure all the germs, sticky stuff, and who knows what else gets washed off all the things. It also helps them process that the school year is coming to a close and something new will start.
Students LOVE to help clean! They wash the toys in the sensory table in bubbly water using sponges and toothbrushes. When they clean with toothbrushes, they are strengthening their fingers, wrists, and lower arms too. They LOVE washing the animals from the blocks center and animal math manipulatives. After students have scrubbed the toys, put them on trays, spray them with bleach water and let air dry overnight.
On the last Monday of the school year, I send home their summer packets on BRIGHT colored paper. It includes a math journal (with parent letter on the back cover), summer math activity charts, summer writing journal (with parent letter), and summer reading activity charts. I don’t expect students to do all of it, but even if they only do some of it, it will keep them learning all summer long. It also gives families simple ideas they can do outside or inside. Families have told me that they do the activity charts when they go to grandma’s house! LOVE that!
Students help me take everything down off the walls that they can. They can also take apart class books. All their art projects, journals, name tags, name puzzles, family necklaces, drawing journals, and portfolios go into a plastic tub.
I make a long line of brown shopping bags and staple name cards (from my library center) to the side of the bags. As an arrival activity, students sort all the student work into each student’s bag.
WARNING: FIRST, put their portfolios in the bottom of the bag along with any extra sets of clothing you keep in your classroom, so you don’t smash any art projects.
The paper bags fit perfectly in their cubby. I stapled their DVD into the bag. I make a DVD for each child with pictures I took over the school year of them! Students were so excited to go home and go through their bags with their families!
During the last few weeks of school, REFLECT and MAKE A FEW LISTS! Trust me, you will thank yourself later this summer when you can’t remember what color glitter you are out of or if you need themed mini erasers when you see them on sale. The classroom inventory list will help you remember what you need and what you don’t.
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Reflect when everything is fresh in your mind so you can relax and take a break this summer! Take the time now to think about the school year and how it went.
- What was amazing? What wasn’t?
- What new themes do you want to try next year?
- What centers do you want to make better?
- Do you want to create or update the safe place in your classroom?
- Is there something new you want to implement?
- Is the classroom management system you have working or do you want to change it? Try Green and Red Choices…it’s a GAME CHANGER, I promise 🙂
- Is there something you want to learn and research more about?
- Is there something you want to make for your classroom?
- Do you want to change your classroom decor?
- Do you need to redo or update any visuals or classroom posters?
- Do you want to keep or change the morning or dismissal routine?
- Do you want to change a classroom routine?
- Do you want to change the daily schedule?
- Do you want to try something new?
- What do you want to keep the same?
- What do you want to do more of or less of?
Now, when the printers are slow, and there isn’t a line, print new pages for your Teacher Binder. Take out the old pages, and insert the new pages. It will be so refreshing in August when you have a crisp, new teacher binder waiting for you.
Since the printers are slow (and fingers crossed there is still colored paper left), print out things you know you will NEED next year. I always print out Reading Logs for the entire year. This way, they are ready to go when the calendar changes.
Organize, organize, organize! Organize everything you can in the last few weeks. This is another reason why I put out back-to-school activities and toys on my shelves….it leaves me everything else to organize and find a home for. This is my office on the last day! I wish it would stay that way all year long.
CHECK OUT ALL MY ORGANIZATION HACKS & FREE LABELS HERE. If you look at the top of the maroon shelf, you will see some of my themed center boxes. I LOVE using these Iris scrapbook boxes to store all my themed center printables and small goodies like cookie cutters and sprinkles. I keep most of them at home. This is my stack at my house on top of my bookshelves. Grab the free labels for them here.
I keep all of my dramatic play themes in copy boxes. Those props can be big and bulky, so all the dramatic play props, printables, clothing, and anything else specific to that dramatic play theme goes in the box.
All my math manipulatives, fine motor, loose parts, mini erasers, and play dough tray things go on these two shelves. I like to use Ziploc’s plastic food containers to store them because they are clear and they stack nicely. The purple bucket is for lost pieces. You know those pieces you or your students find in random places. I just toss them in the bucket and then put them in the container later to save time.
I have two art cabinets, and this is what they looked like when they were all pretty and organized. I LOVE to organize and be organized. It makes my heart happy.
On the last day, all you will have to do (hopefully) is turn in paperwork, put lids on tubs, box up each center, wipe down the shelves and go home. My favorite trick for the last day is to cover any tubs without lids or that are too full to cover with plastic wrap! This will keep all the dust out!
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I’m Jackie, your go-to girl for early childhood inspiration and research-based curriculum.