orange crayons
End of the School Year

End of School Year Routines to help you keep your sanity (and prepare you for the new year – for the win)

There is no tired like an end of year teacher tired.  The end of year is a mixed blessing.  The kids are ready to get out for summer.  You’ve grown together for a year.  Testing is over.  It is time, people. And yet…the school saves the best and busiest events for the last two weeks.  Field day.  Dress like a {insert whatever crazy antics your school comes up with here} for a week.  Blue frizzy hair that you couldn’t be bothered to tame after wacky tacky day, only to find when you arrive at work that today is awards day.  Class parties.  Trip to the strawberry patch that you just knew would be a welcome relief when you organized it back in August, and now you are frantically checking to see if Mrs. D can come sub for you that day.  Surprise assemblies just when you have covered all your tables, laid out all your art supplies and given the long speech about where students may and may not put their bright neon painted hands.

And then the end of year checklist arrives.

Library books are to be returned that you can’t imagine you ever borrowed. (“The Nocturnal Habits of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker”.  Anyone?). Some piece of technology you can barely pronounce has apparently been cohabiting with you since September.  Text book counts.  (Text books?  I was supposed to use those?  They were published in 2002.)  I hear you.

But it’s time to get rolling because you know, the more you can do now, the more heartache you will save yourself at the end of the third workday, after all the kids have left and you realize you still have to pack up your room because you spent all three days talking to the teachers in the other wing of the school who you didn’t even know worked in the same building.  Staying motivated is a challenge we all face, so let’s go ahead and get started now.  Yes, I said NOW!

Crayons and Markers

I love a box of new crayons.  With their nice pointy tips and their crayony newness smell.  A box of new crayons makes my heart sing.  That’s exactly the opposite of what we are talking about here, friends.  We’re talking about those dregs of crayons, the ones that have been living in squalor in the deep dark recesses of pencil boxes, sharing their habitats with pencil shavings, a contraband unwound and therefore lethal paper clip, small squares of paper (What are those?  Have you ever met a kid’s pencil box that doesn’t contain at least three pieces of paper that were meant to be glued to a worksheet?), and a gungy glue stick that is missing the lid.  They are the crayons you don’t want to touch. The Untouchables.

But as much as I hate The Untouchables, I also hate waste.  So here are two suggestions for moving those crayons out of your room, but not into a landfill.

  • Give each kid a bag of crayons to take home in the summer.  Collect up all the old crayons and separate the wheat from the chaff putting all the decent crayons to one side.  Don’t throw out the dreggy ones though, (see below for what to do with them).  Lay out 10 pieces of paper each with a color written on them.  You will need to decide and discuss with your class if 10 is enough – crayons come in boxes of 24, but for ease and speed I went with just ten, and I primarily relied on wrapper color for my choices: orange, green, purple, yellow, red, brown, black, white, gray and blue.  Spread out the papers on desks throughout the classroom and then let each child grab a handful of crayons and begin sorting, placing each of their crayons on the corresponding paper.  This is a great activity for kindergarten and pre-k who are just beginning to sort and classify, as well as reinforce their color knowledge. When all the crayons are taken, have the students look at how many orange crayons there are compared to white crayons and take the opportunity to look at the ranges of colors on each page.  Give each student a baggie and tell them they can get one crayon from each color pile.  That gives them a bag of 10.  Depending on what’s left, you may be able to say, everyone can take one extra blue, or two extra oranges, etc.  At the end of the session everyone has one bag of crayons to take home, and they have explored color, sorting and classifying.  (You can modify this to have students re-sort counters, pattern blocks and other manipulatives into colors or numbers of item in a bag – it’s a win-win!)
  • Recycle old crayons. Guys, there are so many sites out there that want your old crayons.  Just a quick google search brings up pages of organizations.  Here are a couple that caught my eye:
    • The Crayon Initiative
      The Crayon Initiative collects donated crayons from restaurants, schools and homes across the country, then melts them down and remanufactures them, reducing waste. Better yet, the recycled crayons are distributed to art programs at children’s hospitals across the U.S., brightening the lives of young patients during their stay.
    • Crayola
      Did you know that Crayola offers a recycling program for your old markers? Set up a collection station in your school for used markers. Count up all the markers. Pack markers in a cardboard box (with minimal outer markings). Print out a shipping label. FedEx Ground will pick up the markers — Crayola pays all shipping charges! Finally, smile – you just saved the planet!

Decide on a Theme

Do this now and you can be browsing Pinterest all summer long for inspiration.  (Why doesn’t browsing Pinterest count as professional development??)  If you are able to put up the backing paper for your bulletin boards before the mythical ‘high clean’ of summer, do it now.  Make it simple – if you are choosing a camping theme, put up brown or black paper, or hessian burlap, if you are doing pirates put up black or red.  Put up a nice bright border and that’s one less job to worry about in August.  And check out this fabulous display from @happilyeverelementary on instagram.

You can get a head start planning your room with this fun Camp Themed decor set that has the classroom essentials you need to begin the year.

Working on those Word Wall Words

This is one of my favorite last week activities for storing word wall words (high frequency words, sight words, whatever you call them) that also keeps students on their toes until the end. Take down all the word wall words and pass them out to students.  In kindergarten that might mean that they each get anywhere from 1-4 words (I feel really strongly that it is better to know fewer words thoroughly than have a ‘meh-I-sorta-know-it-maybe’ exposure to 100+ words, but that’s for another time).

Get them to take off any adhesive (this is the brilliant part – you don’t want to chip your nails this summer, and they LOVE doing it), and lay out their words in front of them.  You’ll need 26 envelopes, each with one letter of the alphabet on the front.  You call out a letter (in alphabetical order, or randomly) and the students bring their word that starts with that letter up to you.  They have to read their word (and if you want, spell that word – keep up that rigor to the last minute, people!) and place it in the envelope.  Such a simple and easy way to organize and clean up those words, and review sight words.  Boom!

Prepare Copies

The end of the school year is the perfect time to run copies ahead of the first week of school next year.  You probably already have a welcome letter saved that just needs updating, a supply list, important information, contact forms and an ‘About My Child’ sheet ready.  Or check out these Back to School Essentials and edit them for your class.  Run those now and file them ready for August.  

I liked to make big envelope folders (fold a 9″ x 12″ about one third up and staple either side) and stash them away ready to put out on meet the teacher night full of back to school essentials.

Other copies you can make should include first day about me activities for students.  There are a ton of crafts you can do, but who wants to be running templates the night before school starts?  Instead take time now to organize a craft that will be ready to use on day one and could be put up on the bulletin board before the end of the week – now that’s impressive!

Storage Solution

This is not my solution.  It is from Ms Tyler @teachingthird and you NEED to follow her.  She has some great hacks and ideas that are so stinkin’ great.  This one for storing your bulletin board borders is ingenius.  

She is using command hooks. On each command hook there is a large metal ring (from Michaels or similar). Then she has fastened her borders with a small binder clip and looped it over the ring. It looks like she has got 6 sets per ring. No more scrabbling around the bottom of boxes or under piles of papers to find a torn and curly border. Such a space saver and so easy to find what you are looking for.

Box It Up

This is for when the kids have left and you have to decide where to start first.  Get an old packing box and write ‘ESSENTIALS’ on it.  (Do not get the size of box this lovely lady has.  No.  That’s too big.  You’re not re-writing the common core this summer.)  Think about what you will need if you are going to do any school work over the break (and we know you are and we love you for it) and the things you will need on your first day back in the room after summer break.  Ibuprofen, obviously.  A stapler, notepad, crayons, sharpies, markers, last year’s planner if you are pencil and paper girl, a flash drive with important documents if you are not using cloud storage (but seriously, it is time to start using some cloud storage in your life).  Leave that box in the corner for now.  As you are clearing away your room, anytime you come across something you might need in the summer, throw it in the box.  I have found this method so much more useful than walking around the room with a book in my hand wondering aloud where I should put it because I know I will need it in August.  (I haven’t always remembered second shelf down, next to dead plant, under the apple with worm ornament.) This is much quicker, easier and almost fool-proof.  Once you have finished your classroom, put the box somewhere safe with your name on it.  Don’t put it in the back of you car and drive around with it all summer, only to bring it back into the room in August.  That’s not how this is supposed to work.  Almost fool-proof.

Hopefully some or one of these tips are going to make the end of the year more manageable for you.  But whatever you do before school ends, try and make some time just for you.  Get out of the classroom and go for a walk, get a mani-pedi, read a magazine in the sunshine and spend time with friends talking about non-school related topics.  Apparently there is such a thing.  And enjoy a much deserved summer break!


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