Friday, May 6, 2016

Five Fresh End of Year Tips for Teachers

Hey! It's Friday. Evening. Smile. The day is over and there are very few Fridays left this school year. For me, only five and a half. I'm not quite in End of Year (EOY) mode yet, but I know many of you are, so I share what I hope will be helpful to you in your last weeks.

Pin to find some new ideas about the end of school year!

I warn you that not all of my advice is typical, but it is all tried and true by me. I link with Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching and thank her for her Five for Friday way of sharing.

1.  Student Gifts  I've seen lots of EOY student gift ideas, but I don't think I've seen this one done just this way. It has been my EOY gift of choice for quite a few years now. I love giving it to my kidpeople because it takes a bit of group effort, it is all about writing which is near and dear to my heart, and parents report that their children cherish it and use it not only over the summer, but carry it around with them so long it falls apart.

I buy the journals at the dollar store for a buck apiece. I take a group shot– I happen to love this pose with the kids all heaped on top of me. Then I print this sentiment out on the top of a cardstock sheet–

Once a kidperson, Always a kidperson!
This is for holding small moments and big memories!

I cut the sheet so it fits the journal cover and glue the photo to the sheet as seen above. Then I put a green, purple, blue, red, and usually orange marker on each table.

The big sign-off goes like this: I tell the kids we are doing a special end of year activity and they will get a little present in a few days. This sets a giggly mood and everyone is ready for whatever it is... and I tell them they are going to sign their name twenty-something times. They gafaw but they're still with me. I mean, I said the word "present." I then hand out the readied sheets and ask everyone to sign their name on theirs. I tell them to watch carefully, say rotate, and at one table help them rotate the papers by just one person around the table. The rest of the tables do the same thing, with a bit of help. Then I tell everyone to sign again. They rotate, sign, rotate, sign, etc, until the five sheets have been around the table to every student.

Then BEFORE the kids switch to the next table, I check to see if the number of signatures is correct on the sheets. For the first rotation, there should be just five, for the second, ten, etc. PLAN on somebody having missed doing a sheet– I don't know how it can happen when we are being so careful, but in kindergarten it does. If you check the sheets each time before the kids change tables, you'll catch any missed signatures and can correct it right then. The kids switch tables, taking their same marker, and sign all five sheets again. This process continues until each book cover has the correct number of signatures. If anyone is absent this day, they have a lot of signatures to do when they get back!

Once each sheet has been signed by the kids, I sign them all, too. Then I laminate and cut out. I attach the sheet to the cover with a wide swath of clear packing tape across the top and the bottom making sure to cover all four corners with tape. I write each student's name inside the book, and some years, if time allows, I write a little EOY sentiment to each student, highlighting some of our best memories. Ta-da!

2.  The Magical Send-Off  On the last day of school, in the very last minutes of kindergarten when the kids are all packed and lined up, I give them the MAGICAL SEND-OFF and tell them I am going to turn all of them into FIRST GRADERS!

Aren't these cute pens? Found them at Costco in a set of twelve.
Ahead of time I purchase silly pencils or pens, enough for each student, and put them in a bucket. With bucket in hand, starting at the back of the line, I take a pen and using it as a magic wand, tap each little person on the head as I say, "Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo, a first grader now are YOU." Then I give them "a magic kiss" on the top of their head so they can't come back to kindergarten except to visit me, which they must do for the magic to work. The wand becomes theirs.

By the time I've made my way to the front of the line, doing magic with each child, tears are glistening, but each child and I got a few special seconds together. The kids are happy as they walk down the hall for the last time waving their magic pens. It is a grand way to start the summer.

After they are all off on busses or vans or feet, I come back to the classroom and ball my eyes out. Such is the job of teaching. I get over it though as I pack up, go home, and fall in a dead heap on the couch with a very happy smile on my face and the summer stretching ahead. Such is the job of teaching.

3.  Cherished Words  I involve the kiddos in packing up, too, but not until the last week, when it is okay for the room to look a bit naked. Helping pack up is truly more for them to get a sense of closure, than it is to help me– let's face it, five and six year olds are only so helpful with such a process. I let them clean the toys with wipes, put like toys together in boxes, and bag up the stuffies and book buddies.

One ritual that we do each year is taking down the Word Wall. I posted about this last year but I think it is worth posting again. In the last week I sit everybody down and with the help of my laser pointer, read the word wall one last time. We remember the poems that helped us learn particular words. We talk about the tricky words like said, was, they– why are these words so tricky, anyway? And then I tell them it is time to take the word wall down. That statement is met with a sad "Whyyyyyy?" I tell them that just like we built the word wall this year, next year's kidpeople will have to build their wall, too.

I ask if anyone would like to take some words home. Oh. my. gosh. You would think I just offered them candy, the resounding YESSSS is so loud. I take down each word and ask, who would like 'the' then 'and' then 'we,' and I make sure everyone gets some words they really want. I do it very ceremoniously, trying not to let my inner grin come out. They are joyous as they put their words in their backpack, and I am filled with joy because I teach little children who get so attached to their earliest known words. Life is good.

4.  The Last Day  The last day of school with my students always include three MUST DO activities. The magical send off, described above, happens in the last couple minutes of our last day, but there are two more must dos– the last day of school self-portrait, and the last letter to Mrs. Wright.

On the first day of school we draw ourselves and write our name as best we can. I put this up as the first writing of the year on our Writers' Wall. Our best work from each writing unit and mini-unit then goes up on the wall, all work for each student layered in their spot on the wall.

The last week of school, I take down all the work. I paste the first day portraits into the front cover of our portfolios and place the rest of the student work inside. The portfolio is simply a large piece of construction paper folded to make a folder– nothing fancy. On the last morning of school, I give out the paper to draw our Last Day of School Self Portrait. This is one of our first activities of the morning so when we go to recess I can paste the Last Day Self Portraits into the back covers. It makes a very nice packet to show off their best work throughout the year, and boy, can you see progress as you flip through. Terrific.

These are the sheets I use on the first and last days. They are very simple, as you can see, but if you would like to have them, click on the image. They are completely editable documents..

For Writers' Workshop on the last day I hand out stationery and tell the kids this. is. it. Their last chance to say to me what their kindergarten selves want me to know. They take this assignment very seriously each year. I put on our favorite writing music and they write their little hearts out. And yes, when I take them home and read them at the end of the day, I once again sob my eyes out... even DH Jonathan gets a little melancholy... when he is not cracking up at the kindergarten spelling. Those letters remain very precious to me. for. ever.

I'm betting you have lots of kindergarten letter writing stationery, but if you need some you can pick some up in my little... and I mean little... where more is free than for sale, TPT store. Click on picture below to go there.  It is one dollar.

5.  The Big Dump Okay, so this is a bit of a true confession, but I can honestly say I learned it from a colleague. You know how you pack, and haul, and stack, and shove to get your room packed up, and then you come to your desk, or some shelves, and there are just so MANY TINY THINGS like pens, and tape, and brads, and dice, and little plastic thingies that have been breeding all school year there in front of you when you weren't looking?? And which you dumped in a heap as you packed up the rest of the room??

Well, one year, my room was packed up EXCEPT for this last time consuming task of sorting and deciding what to keep, what to trash, and whether it was even worth putting the thing in a place where I might or might not ever be able to find it again. A fellow teacher (who shall remain nameless) stopped by on her way out. She took one look at me and the task at hand and asked if I still had a big empty bin? I did, in fact. She said, "Just dump all of it in there."

I looked agog. WHAT? There was no way this neatnik teacher did that herself! Did she think that I was such a slob that I should do THAT?? Granted, I had indeed somehow allowed this MESS to accumulate, but still, what kind of weird advice was she doling out.

Then she said, "That's what I do."

Again, agog. Yep, she went on, she spreads her arms out across the table and sweeps all the stuff into a big bin. Done. Gone. Out of sight. She said when she gets back in the fall it is somehow magically easier to decide what to keep and where to put it. She is able to throw away more and she knows where the things are, when she puts them away then instead of back in June. And you know what, I took her advice. I dumped it. When I got back that fall and straightened everything back into it's place, that big bin was indeed magically easier to sort through, just as she said it would be!

So if you find yourself in this particular situation and can relate at all to the feeling of just wanting to be DONE in that last hour in the building, then I suggest you, too, with my blessing,  JUST DUMP IT. It will be right where you can find it again when you get back in August!!

Thanks for stopping by. Hop on back to catch what is going on with others.

 See you next time!


  1. I would love to be in your classroom for a day! You know, I still communicate with my kindergarten teacher now (she sends me a birthday card every year) and I can imagine you having a similar bond with your students :) I am definitely a proponent of JUST DUMP IT!

    1. Yes, there are families I've known for years... I go to graduation parties now :) Hang on to your bin! Thanks for stopping by. Kathleen

  2. Love the idea of the big dump, I think I will have to employ that this year!!

    1. It makes it somehow more acceptable if you can say that "lots" on teachers dump :) I know of a few, anyway! Thanks for leaving word. Kathleen

  3. This was an amazing post! I truly enjoyed every word! I write a little note to be found later in each journal, too. And I spend the whole last week sniffling.

    1. HI Sandy! Yes, I'm sure you can relate to everything I've said here :) Thanks for stopping by and leaving word! See you next time. Kathleen


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