I’ve been there – so desperate for summer that I start counting down the days. In fact, I do this every year. However, I’ve started to keep my countdown for summer private from the students. I am not trying to make anyone feel bad for doing a countdown for summer with students, but I’d like to offer some reflections I’ve made as to why I no longer do a countdown for summer.
Sudden Change in Behavior
The couple of years that I did do a countdown for summer, the moment I hung up the countdown and told the children about it, I stated to see a sudden change in their behavior. Their behaviors escalate. And true, all behaviors tend to escalate at the end of the year, but let’s think about why that is.
Children don’t always know they are anxious
Children’s behavior starts to escalate at the end of the year because they get nervous. They start thinking about summer and the unknown that summer provides. What will life at home be like? Will I go to camp? What if I don’t have any friends in my group? Then they start thinking about next year. They think about the relationship they have with you and the classroom community they have been a part of. What if they don’t like their teacher next year or what if their teacher doesn’t like them? What if their friends are in a different class? Will next year be harder? What if I have trouble learning?
All of these thoughts and worries come rushing in and they don’t know how to verbalize or process them. So what do they do? They call out. Or they quarrel with friends. Maybe they get distracted and don’t complete their work. Maybe they start to push you away with more defiant or destructive behavior.
Countdown for Summer makes it worse
All of this behavior is all pretty typical at the end of the year when children processing the upcoming transition. However, I have noticed that having a countdown for summer really made children focus on how many days left they have of school. This definitely increased their anxieties and their behaviors. Now, I don’t hang up a countdown for summer and I try not to talk about next year or summer too much with my students. I focus on enjoying the final days together as a community.
Theme Days Instead of a Countdown for Summer
What was my reason for having a countdown in the first place? I was excited about summer and feeling like I needed some of that excitement in the classroom. So, when reflecting on the effects of the countdown for summer, I wanted something to bring in excitement at the end of the year that engaged my students instead of causing more worries. I started planning out theme days to end the year! Each day is something new and exciting and the children come to school excited, and they look on the calendar eagerly for what the next day will bring. Our days range from Rainbow Day to Sunglasses Day to Pajama Day to Fairy Tale Day! You can read more about them here.
I have seen some teachers doing a similar idea for theme days but with an ABC countdown. I personally think that while it is exciting and engaging to have different theme days each day, the countdown part may still cause stress and anxieties in students. They may be thinking what happens when we get to Z…
I’ve also seen “Let’s End the Year with a Bang!” This is also not a favorite of mine because it is such a visual cue of how many days are left, paired with the uncertainty of when the loud noise will happen (there are balloons that you pop that have messages, names, or theme days inside). Many children get stressed out with balloons popping, so this just seems to add on unnecessary stress. These are just my reflections. I encourage you to reflect on the class you have and make the best decision for them.
I no longer do a countdown for summer with my students because I don’t want to cause unnecessary stress and anxieties in my students. Instead, we focus on our classroom community and provide fun theme days to engage and excite everyone. Have you also noticed these increased behaviors in your students? Let me know in the comments below!
Want to support your students with any worries they have about the end of the year? Try this free digital social story! You can adapt it as needed for your students!
This is so interesting and eye-opening! I teach in a bilingual kindergarten in China which is only a kindergarten and the children will all go to different schools after. Another classroom in my grade has started a countdown and one of the teachers has been mentioning children being upset and nervous about leaving school in July. Your post makes a lot of sense to me!
Thank you so much for sharing! I’m glad my post helped understand the children’s behavior – I learned the hard way and after some reflection I realized what I could do to help my students with the big transition after kindergarten!