Thursday, May 7, 2015

My Favorite End of the Year Tips and Tricks

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. The kids are buzzing with excitement.  YOU are buzzing with excitement.  But, not only is it an exciting time, it is a crazy time. So, I thought it would be fun to share my favorite tips and tricks for the end of the year.


What follows is simply what works for me, and I truly hope you are able to take an idea or two away with you.  I've got a few tips for surviving the last few weeks of school, as well as some tips to use now that will help you transition into a new school year with a bit less stress on your plate!


One of my favorite things to do during the last 20 some days of school are projects.  This might look like different things to different people, but to me, I love to do my annual American symbols research project. 

We started our symbols project last week and will continue to work on it until the last full week of school.  The content is always fun and exciting for the kids and they love making all the fun art projects to go with their writing.  You can read more about this project here, and you can check it out on TPT here.

Another project that my students work on is an end of the year book.  It's perfect to use when our curriculum starts to phase out (meaning we run out of lessons).  I use various components of my End of the Year pack and turn them into a book (I bind them after they are finished).  We will start this project next week.


We work on these projects daily and the kids look forward to them every.single.day. They offer consistency, but also variety, and the students are always excited to share their finished projects with their families.


This time of year often leads to behavior challenges.  It can feel like the kids are teetering over that line that leads to chaos.  But, if you really sit back and think about it, you will always be able to find several students who can always be counted on to set a good example for others.  These students tend to be quiet, and are often overlooked when you're dealing with redirecting the teeter totters. One way that I let these students know I care, and that I see how hard they are working to set a good example for others is by writing them special notes.


They always get excited when they walk into the classroom and find a card on their desk.  They also love to take them home and share them with their families.  It's such a quick and easy way to let those students know that you are aware of their wonderful efforts.


While I'm all about keeping my kiddos engaged in learning up until the last minute possible, I'm not a total meanie.  After all, summer IS right around the corner...you can't deny it, so you might as well embrace it.  This year, I am using a countdown chain.  At the end of each day we will remove the bottom link.

As an added bonus, some of the chains have fun events written on them.  Yes, I wrote them by hand.  Sometimes I like to do things "old school."  Hehe.  Anyway, when a chain link with an activity written on it is cut off, the students will get to do that special thing the following day.

You can grab this FREE countdown sign {here}.  :)

Here is a breakdown of the fun activities they will encounter over the next 20 days:
  • Mustache Day (students will be given a fake mustache to wear)
  • Sidewalk Chalk Art Fest (15 minutes outside decorating the blacktop with sidewalk chalk)
  • Bubble Fun (students will get a mini container of bubbles and about 10 minutes to play with them outside)
  • 10 minutes of extra recess (who doesn't love more play time??)
  • 30 minutes of flashlight reading (a class favorite)
  • Choose a new brag tag
  • Watercolor Fun (let your students get creative and paint a fun picture)
  • Movie Party (I like to save this one for last)


At the end of the year, we are required to take everything off our walls and pack it up.  Rather than save this job for the work day after the last day of school, I start removing stuff a few weeks in front of the last day.  Once or twice a week, I simply remove one or two things from the walls, starting with things that the students don't need (think decor).  This saves me lots of time so that when that work day rolls around, I can work on organizing my storage closets, or cleaning out my desk.





At the end of the year, I like to start thinking about the year ahead.  I know it seems crazy, but I am a planner to a fault.  I typically prep as much as I can this time of year knowing that when I return in the fall, I have a few less things to worry about. So, what exactly do I prep?  I prep the materials that I know I will need for the first week of school. Don't worry, I won't show you everything I've prepped, but here's a looksie.

This is from my new Return of the Nerds back to school pack.  I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to use it next year!

I prep letters and forms that I know I will set out at our Meet and Greet the Friday before school starts.


You can find these (and many more) forms in my Back to School Forms pack. 



I also prep things the students will use all year long, like these amazing spelling dictionaries from Lucky to Be in First.


I also laminate my name plates for the next year.  I know that some people prefer to write the names and then laminate, but I've always laminated and then written their names with permanent marker.  It works for me and saves me a ton of time in the fall.


How do I accomplish this while still planning and prepping for the end of the year?  I commit to coming in a little bit earlier a few days a week.  This way, I can stake my claim on a copier (they are a hot commodity) and make a few copies here and there.


Write down your ideas!  I don't know why, but I always get ideas for the following year toward the end of the current school year and I don't want to forget them.  So, I write them down.  I just use a boring old spiral notebook and write down things that I might want to do next year.  I bring the notebook home and add to it during the summer.



Another way I save myself some time in the fall is by keeping my cubby drawer labels in tact.  That is, I keep them attached to the cubby drawers.  Rather than type students names on these, I write them with Sharpie. Since the label is laminated, I simply wipe the names off and leave them in place for next year.  It saves ink, lamination pouches, and time (because I don't have to entirely remake the labels in the fall). 

To remove Sharpie from a laminated surface, simply use some hand sanitizer, a bit of elbow grease, and a tissue.  Easy peasy!

I do hope you were able to take an idea or two away today. Thank you so much for stopping by, and may the rest of your year be a breeze!

Toodles!

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16 comments:

  1. I am particularly in love with your summer countdown chain! What a great way to keep the kiddos excited to come to school each day! :) Thanks for sharing!

    Angela
    The Organized Plan Book

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    1. Thanks Angela! The kids are really enjoying the countdown chain. Each day they hope that the link I cut off is going to have a special "thing" written on it. Hehe. Have a great rest of the year!

      Aimee

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  2. This is such a great post Aimee!!! I had no idea hand sanitizer removed Sharpie! Thanks for these very helpful tips and tricks. I'm glad you reminded me to get to work on those welcome letters and desk plates! Love the countdown chain! FUN! I just purchased Return of the Nerds with my Edubucks. I'm so excited to get printing!

    Jeannine
    Creative Lesson Cafe

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    1. Thank you so much Jeannine! I'm so glad you enjoyed the tips and tricks! Thank you so much for purchasing Return of the Nerds! I hope it is a hit with your students.

      Aimee

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    2. Ladies,
      Also to remove sharpie color over the writing with a dry erase marker and then wipe. Should take a couple of coats. This works on all smooth surfaces.

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  3. Thank you for such a great post!These are great tips and tricks. Need to pin so I can come back to it every year!

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    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I'm so glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post. :) Pin away!!

      Aimee

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  4. WOW! I used to think I was a planner. Nope- you win the award.
    I have no idea what will chance or remain the same for me for next year, which is driving me bunkers. I do know what I am teaching (woohoo, quite excited), but I have yet to begin my count down clean up and preparations for next year. Gradschool finals aaaahhh!
    I can't wait to share with you and checkout your followers ideas too.

    Thanks for the ideas!
    Tania
    My Second Sense

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    1. Haha! I am a planner. I bet it feels so good knowing that grad school is almost over! You've worked so hard! Have a great rest of the year!

      Aimee

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  5. I just love this post! As a first year teacher, I am doing a few of those things already, so I feel like I am somewhat on top of it during this craziness! This is an absolutely random question...Did you buy the hand sanitizer with no label on it and how did you get the zebra print on it?

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    1. That's awesome, Breanna! It is a crazy time of year, indeed! The hand sanitizer actually came with the packaging you see! I didn't doctor it up in any way. Crazy, right? Even hand sanitizer is trying to be trendy and cute. Haha! I'd tell you where I found it, but it was actually sent in by a student (but I know Walmart carries this brand). Have a great rest of the year!

      Aimee

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  6. I do the prepping for the next year too! I have kids test out markers and do a bunch of jobs for me as well. It makes it so much easier at the beginning of the next year!

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    1. What a great idea, Alicia! I'm sure your students love helping out, too. I couldn't agree more with you about prepping now to make it easier at the beginning of the next year. It's so true! Thanks for stopping by today!

      Aimee

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  7. Great Ideas for the end of the year! I especially like the countdown chain! I bet your students have fun!

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    1. Thank you so much! The countdown chain was a hit, for sure. They've worked hard all year long, and it's nice to allow them to just have some fun from time to time. ;) Thanks for stopping by today!

      Aimee

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  8. Just an F.Y.I.~ If you write directly over top of Sharpie with an Expo, it rubs right off with no mess :)

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