Can you believe it? This has been one of the speediest school years I can remember. I don’t know if it is the amount of snow, or the prolonged cooler weather, but it seems like I opened my eyes one day and we were in May. In kindergarten I LOVED this time of year. It truly is a time when you can step back and see how the students have grown and pat yourself on the back – that is YOUR added value!
But there is also a downside to May. . . drumroll. . . TESTING. Argh. Kinders in my district are tested in DIBELS and TRCs and also state issued writing and math assessments, which are fairly manageable, just not much fun. But grades 3-5 are given statewide tests that result in a lot of stress for students, parents and their teachers. Show some love to a 3-5 teacher tomorrow with these PayDay candy bar labels. Such a sweet gesture when times are tough.
And alongside that testing is the notion that we need to be QUIET. Ssshhh! Who dropped that? It is apparently perfectly reasonable to ask little ones to be quiet from 8 in the morning until 2:45 (cos, you know, there’s always that one kid still taking a test somewhere in the school. What did he do, take a nap in the morning? Gah.) So we eat in our classrooms, we cannot play outside and we cannot go to music because all the resource teachers are proctoring the tests. They hate it. The kids hate it. The parents hate it. It is without a doubt, the LONGEST week of the year, and I am fully aware that the week before winter break can be a doozy. But guys.
And breathe. . .
So, I will get off my soap box and share 5 neat ideas from when I was in the classroom and some really cool ideas I found online that you can use to keep the kiddos engaged for the last weeks of school.
5. Ending the year with a BANG!
I had seen this idea floating around, but Rebecca from Classroom Compulsion explains it best in this blog post. Basically you are going to fill each balloon with a surprise activity written on paper, blow it up and stick the balloons to a board. She has her students throw darts at the balloons (!) but I vividly remember throwing a dart at my brother and that did not end well for me and even less so for him, so I probably would have students pop them with a push pin. Just make sure that you don’t have anyone with problems with loud noises – they might need to wait in the next classroom until the POP is over!
4. Making cards or posters
We always had upper grade reading buddies, and whilst they primarily read with us, we also did other activities at least once a quarter. Before Christmas break they came and helped us make our gingerbread houses, and you know that those 5th graders, no matter how cool they have become, release their inner 5 year old if cookies and candy are involved! They helped out a parties and ‘cooked’ our chocolate Easter nests with us, and we looked forward to seeing them each week. So in the weeks before testing, we worked on a giant poster to wish them good luck. I took pictures of my kinders pretending to hang on to a piece of string with their arms stretched upwards and grimaces on their faces. Then they each drew their own kite and wrote words of encouragement on each. My assistant and I cut out all the photos and attached them to the kites on a to a big poster board with the title “Hang on in there!”. We left it outside their classroom on the first day of testing for a sweet boost.
3. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!
Who doesn’t love an ice cream party? Yet another activity that older buddies can help out with. But we are still in school, and we still want our students to be reading and writing with rigor. So I tied in this end of year ice-cream flip book with the ice-cream party. Such a cute keepsake to take home over the summer. I told parents that this was definitely a keeper and not to go into ‘file 13’. (Y’all know about file 13, right?).
You can buy this craft from my store:
2. Memory books
I’ve done this in a variety of ways. One time I got a fabulous deal on photo albums (boy, am I showing my age, who uses photo albums anymore?) and we added to them throughout the year. Let’s bring it up to date with an ‘instagram’ page – one letter size page filled with square photos. Stick the logo on the top with a witty heading ‘Snapped in the moment’ or ‘Oh Snap!’ Such an easy way to reminder of their time with you. (And you can follow me on Instagram here – shameless plug).
1. End of Year Writing and Bulletin Board
In addition to the ice cream flip book, I have my students write about their summer plans on . . .flip-flops! We brainstorm ideas for what we want to do in the summer and then write two or three sentences on flip-flop shaped writing paper. Then we glue those the the colorful paper flip-flop (I tend to use craft paper to make them pop) and add the thong!
For some fun we make paper sandcastles using this craft. Sometimes we use it as a glyph, and at other times I have let my students get creative and create their own castles.
Friends, this makes the most totes adorbs bulletin board. Ah, I can smell the ocean. You can buy the castles, flip-flop activity and ice-cream book in this bundle:
This is it guys, the countdown is on. May you find some moments of peace and tranquility in the crazy days ahead, and remember – that margarita is within sipping distance.