The end of the year is a very stressful time for teachers - our to do lists are a mile long. However, now is the time to start thinking ahead to next year as well (when your report cards are done, that is). Today I am sharing a few things to do right now to make life when you return to the classroom just that much easier.
Before I start, my best piece of advice to save your sanity in the days leading up to the end of the year is to ENLIST YOUR STUDENTS FOR HELP. I teach first grade and they are always eager to help out. Obviously there is a limit to their helpfulness, but if you teach older children then the possibilities are endless.
Here are 5 things I have learned to do over the years to make my life just a little easier at start up in the fall:
I learned the hard way that this is a must-do if you plan on replicating a particular bulletin board, or in my case, the word wall. I never seem to leave enough space for the words when setting up my word wall in the fall. I have such a hard time judging without the visual of the words. Enter my iphone and voila you can now look the picture you took and use it to easily get your letter headers placed with the right amount of space to add your words. Take pictures of any bulletin board/display/anchor chart that you think you might want to remember or refer to again for the next year. I am a very visual person and have many such photos on my phone.
Do I really need this? Take time to purge! Sort out that filing cabinet. If you didn't use the papers in that file this year and you are staying at the same grade, recycle them or give them away! If you are like me then that will not be a priority when you return in the fall. I am totally guilty of an overflowing filing cabinet – take a look at my picture. I inherited files from the teacher whose room I moved into 15 years ago and they are still in there! Perhaps I have a problem! Anyone with me??
Students love doing this job. First I have them find all the damaged books and move them into the book hospital bin. At that point it is up to me to decide if the book requires tape or if it has seen better days and is ready for the recycling. I have a number of books that will be recycled this year as they are so well loved even tape won’t help. Next, my students make sure all books are in the proper labeled basket, either guided reading level or thematic. It is astonishing how poorly sorted the book collection becomes. Very quickly those helpers start to police the other students as books are being returned. If your students are anything like mine we are bound to find a D level book in the E or F basket. I love starting out the year with my books all sorted and organized. It’s one less thing to worry about in the fall! CAUTION: I did not take time to straighten up my bins for the pictures. This is real life at the end of the year!
This will be a true sanity saver because systems that didn’t work probably drove you insane throughout the year! Now is the time while the year is winding down to honestly evaluate your organizational systems. Did they work for you and/or your students? Did students use the systems you put in place properly? If the answer is no, then why is that the case? How can you change things so it works for next year’s class? I have a drawer organization system I use to put all my copies etc. in for the week. I love it, but I don't use it faithfully, especially when I get very busy. I will continue to use this system though, despite my inconsistency, because it does work better than anything I have tried before. With my students I started using reading boxes a few years ago to help my students organize their read to self books. This is a system I love but I am finding the kids are really hard on the boxes this year: take a look at those tattered boxes. I think at the end of last year I only had 2 destroyed and this year it is almost half the class. This is a great system but I need to do more teaching about caring for their book boxes next year.
What were some of your highlights from the year? What were some of your student’s? Have your students brainstorm about some of the things they liked best about the year. If it has stuck with them then it is probably a “keeper” activity. Take a moment and jot down some of your highlights as well. This can be pretty hard to do even at the end of the year so imagine how impossible it will be in the fall. This is also a good time to do some planning, if only in your head, about things for next year. I often plan to do this and forget, so I am hoping that the act of simply writing about it here on the blog will spur me to take the time to do this with my students.
I hope you found some helpful pointers or simply were just reminded of things that you already do and need to do as the year winds down. I am on the final month countdown and will be thinking about these things in the coming weeks.
Lastly, how about saving your sanity right now? As the weeks wind down it is more difficult to keep students engaged in their learning. I like to continue with a predicable routine until close to the end for my own sanity. This Summer themed Spin and Graph center which is available in my store right now is perfect for this time of the year. Simply print and provide a paper clip for spinning and you have a center ready to go. It's an engaging and relevant review task and a sanity saver all in one!