I truly can’t believe that it is time to start thinking about the end of the year – the time seems to get faster each year. Over the years, I’ve learned a few ways to help survive and actually enjoy the end of the year, both for your students and for yourself!
Tip 1: No End of Year Countdown
The first tip I have is to not have a visible countdown (you can certainly have one just for yourself- you might need it!) or to call your students by the next year’s grade – for example I don’t call my kindergarteners “almost first graders”. The reason I do this is because the end of the year can produce a lot of anxiety for students, especially our students that show this anxiety through externalizing, negative behaviors.
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way with a few students whose behavior, which I had managed to support all year, spiked majorly at the end of the year. When I reflected later on this, I realized that they were anxious about starting over with a new teacher and new group of friends. They also might be anxious about what summer looks like for them. So for this reason, I no longer have a visible countdown or talk too much about next year.
Tip 2: Prepare for Next Year
The second tip is to get yourself ready for next year when you can. The best part about this time of year is that your students can be more independent, which means you can spend a little extra time preparing for next year. Trust me – you’ll thank me in the summer and fall! There are a few simple things you can do to help yourself over the summer!
I get all my copies ready for the first two weeks of school. This is a major help come August!! I am lucky and have a print center for our district that does all this copying for me, but I would do it myself it I didn’t have them! It is so nice to come in August and have everything ready! I also get all of my science journal pages ready to go for the year so that I don’t even need to think about it!
In addition to copies, I also do a few things around the room to help with back to school. I do a little organizing area by area. Is it just me, or am I the only one who get the organizing bug in June? I want to organize and get rid of any items that I don’t need so that I feel good about my classroom in August! Also, I start cleaning some manipulatives and toys that the children don’t need every day by putting them in our sensory table with water and dish soap. The children enjoy playing with them in the water, and then they get cleaned! Win-win!
Something that I do not do when organizing or cleaning for next year, is I do not take down my materials or pack things up until I really have to. I do not want to cause anxiety in my students about the room changing or thinking about next year, as mentioned above. I know it is tempting to have the walls bare and all the things put away, but it’s not fair on the children in your room who want to enjoy their classroom and you until summer.
Tip 3: Reflect on All Students Have Learned
The third tip I have is to show students all that they have learned and how they have grown over the year, and have a way for them to show you what they have learned. There are many ways to do this but I have a few that work for me. When I am doing my end of the year assessments, I make sure to show the students what they have done and reflect on what they could do when they started kindergarten. It takes a few minutes, but it means a lot to the students to have that special time with you.
I also make portfolios for my students and invite parents in to watch a slideshow of the children from the past year and to view the portfolios of their work. The students and parents love looking back at the first work they have from the beginning of the year and comparing it with the end of the year’s work. I remember an ELL student from last year who looked at his portfolio and was beaming and said to me, “I can do so much stuff! In the start of school, I could only say hi, now I can say so much more!” The children and parents appreciate this opportunity to reflect on all their hard work and growth.
In addition to showing the students what they have learned, give students the opportunity to show you what they have learned. Using a memory book gives my students time to reflect on what they loved from kindergarten and what they are proud of. I hope that later in their life, they will look at this memory book with fondness and that it will help jog their memories of kindergarten.
Tip 4: Share With Parents
The fourth tip is communicate with parents about ways to continue the learning over the summer. Parents may be anxious or wondering about how their child will do over the summer with no school work. Parents might also be unsure how to work with their child over the summer. I make a fun packet of activities that can be done in what the families naturally do on summer days and share it with families before summer starts. I want to show families how they can integrate learning in what they already do and just how much learning can happen every day! This activity packet is in my teachers pay teachers store if you want to use it with your families!
I also try to meet with any families whose students have not met the end of the year benchmarks. At the meeting, I inform them of their progress over the year, what steps I have done for them to prepare them for next year, and what they can do at home. I want families to be aware of their student’s progress. I do not want families to be surprised when report cards come home or next year if they are told their child needs more in school support.
Tip 5: Have Something To Look Forward To
The fifth tip I have is to look forward to something every day- and this goes for you and for your students! I have seen a few different ways to do this. You could have students bring in their favorite book wrapped up and every day you can unwrap one and read it. Another way would be to have balloons and to put a student’s name in the balloon. Then each day pop the balloon and see who the secret student is. However, my favorite way to celebrate the end of the year and look forward to every day is to have theme days.
I have 15 theme days for the end of the year and each day has something exciting to look forward to! It helps not only the students, but me as well, to be excited to come to school each day and end the year with some fun!
To start the theme days, I choose days that are easier to do, while still having some curriculum and projects to finish up. For example, I do wacky hat day or show and tell day where the event is either wearing something to school or sharing something they brought from home. These days leave plenty of time during the day for finishing up other curriculum.
Once the curriculum and projects are finished, I like to do theme days where the whole day can be about the theme, like pirate day or board game day. It is so nice to have the last week of school all planned out and to be looking forward to every moment of it. I will write more about the theme days in the next blog post.
Tip 6: Enjoy It!
The sixth and final tip is to enjoy every moment. It is so easy to get caught up in the ever-growing to-do list. There are so many demands placed on teachers, especially at the end of the year, that have nothing to do with teaching. Report cards, placement forms, data meetings, changing rooms, packing up for the summer etc. And it can be so easy to just keep focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel, but instead focus on the students in front of you and enjoy your last days together!