The end of the school year is exhausting! Between report cards, assemblies, field days, field trips, special events, and mountains of paperwork, many teachers are expected to “pack up” their classrooms for the summer. The definition of “packing up” varies widely from district to district and building to building. In my school, we usually have to remove things from the walls, get everything off of the floor (in order for the floors to be waxed), and cover everything up to prepare it for summer cleaning. When I close my classroom door on the last day of school, the colorful classroom my students called “home” all year, looks quite different:
It always looks so sad and lonely! It is also quite a change from the room in the picture below that my students will walk into on the first day of school in August:
So how do I transform that sad, lonely room to an inviting, colorful room without sleeping in my classroom during the month of August to get it ready? I’ve learned that organization and preparation is key! For me, those last few weeks of school consist not only of packing up my classroom but also prepping for NEXT year so that my transition from summer to “school-mode” in August is smooth and organized. In this way, I can spend my summers and those precious weeks before the first day of school focusing on content (instead of cutting out volcano-sized piles of lamination). (I also find myself relaxing more in the summer because I know that a lot of my prep work has already been completed!)
Today, I’m going to share some organizational tips and tricks I complete during the last month of school. Hopefully, if you are a new teacher, or a teacher looking for some ways to make this coming fall a bit easier for you, you find some ideas! 🙂
Let’s get organized!
During the last week of school, I collect all of my phonics phones from the kids. I take them home for the night and stick them in my dishwasher to clean and disinfect them. Then I seal them up in my storage container and pack them away for the fall. They are now clean, disinfected, and ready to be tossed into book bins come August.
I have the kids clean their book bins out on the day before the last day of school. (It is so important to me that we are authentically reading and writing up until the very end of our school year together.) I stack them up and count out the word work books (empty books that we had lying around school from an old program) so that everything for Daily 5 in the fall is ready to go.
We use DRA assessments every fall in order to find each child’s independent and instructional reading level. Before I leave for the summer, I copy and refill my assessment box so that it is ready to go in September. It becomes one less thing I have to remember to do during the back to school rush.
I use a routine for math that mirrors the Daily 5 routine. My students participate in math games with a partner, math games by themselves, computer games, tablet games, and small group math with the teacher. Our “math by myself” games consist of my Write On/Wipe Off Math Game centers. Before the end of the year, I pre-fill the tubs my students use for their independent games with a new felt piece for an eraser, a new dry erase marker, a hundreds chart, and the number cards that are used for all of the games. These bins are now ready to go when I begin to teach and launch my small group math games.
Below is a picture of the filled tubs my students will use for their math games. On the top of the bookshelf are the game boards they will use in the fall. These games change every month. You can find my monthly Write On/Wipe Off Monthly Math Games for the entire school year by clicking HERE.
We LOVE word work in my classroom! While is tempting to go out and buy brand new crayons, chalk, markers, and colored pencils for your word work bins at the beginning of the year, here is a little trick I use! I start out our word work bins with the OLD supplies from the previous year. Then, when you replace these old supplies with NEW supplies around November and December, your kids will be SO EXCITED. They will feel like they just “rediscovered” your word work bins and tubs all over again. The supplies in the tubs below are filled with old crayons and our Word Work Wheels and my Differentiated Sight Word Lists that you can read about HERE. They are pre-filled for August and ready to go!
Below is a picture of my word work closet. I take some inventory of my word work tubs before the year ends, and I wrote down what supplies I need to refill. You can find my FREE word work supply labels in a blog post found here. This blog post also explains how I organize and store word work supplies.
The Classroom Closet
Below is what my classroom closet looks like during the last week of school. (Don’t throw things at me. I know I’m LUCKY to have a closet!) Everything gets piled inside and stashed away. On the left are my partner math games we play in August and September. (You can find out how to play Top It by clicking HERE to grab a free copy for your room!) I’ve filled these already with all of the manipulatives needed so that I can simply put the bins out in August and not waste my time getting them ready. On the right are my word work bins. These are also filled with a simple list of sight words from kindergarten and a baggie of crayons. Their first word work task will be rainbow writing and reviewing their kindergarten words. You can read all about how I manage word work by clicking HERE. You can also read about how I differentiate sight word practice during word work HERE.
(Many teachers often ask me where I got the bins in the picture above. The bins are the large Sterlite Clip Bins from Amazon. You can find a six pack of the bins in this easy Amazon affiliate link by clicking on the image below:
Setting Up Your Back to School Box
This next organizational idea is critical to my sanity in the fall! A month before school ends, I set out an empty box on the back counter of my classroom. Throughout the month, I prep, copy, and get things ready that I’m 100% sure I’ll need and use in the fall. MOST of what goes in my box comes from my Back To School First Week Fun Pack. Everything I’ve put inside of this box makes August 120 times easier! I know it seems crazy to think that you have the time to do this, but if you can manage to prep even a few things here and there throughout that last month of school, you’ll thank yourself in a few months!
So the BIG question is: What is inside of my “Beginning of the Year Stuff” box?
What’s Inside the Box?
1) Printed and copied behavior calendars for the entire school year! (Find my EDITABLE Behavior Calendars on TpT for by clicking HERE.)
2) Goodies and activities we will use on the first day of school – The Magic Dough poem labels in the picture below get taped onto snack baggies for a special first day of school surprise that is ALWAYS a hit! This adorable “experiment” is always so fun for my kiddos. We complete an easy science lab report and say a magic word as we watch our play-dough turn from white to fun, bright colors! This activities comes from my First Week Fun pack for back to school! (My First Week Fun pack contains almost EVERYTHING I need for that first week of school. It’s one of those lifesaver resources that I pull out year after year after year.)
3) I also make class copies of the other first day of school activities we will complete. This includes pictures for our Marshmallow Anchor Chart to learn about how to walk in the hallway, a fun m&m math graphing activity, an All About Me poster, and the Magic Dough Lab Report. (All of the activities below (and tons more!) can be found in my First Week Fun pack.)
4) We use poetry binders in my classroom every year, regardless of the grade level I teach. Every week, we add seasonal, monthly, and phonics-based poems to our binders in order to enhance our reading fluency. Before I leave for the summer, I make class copies of the first five poems we will add to our binders. Our fun, monthly songs and poems have been bundled together for the entire school year. You can find them all in my Monthly Poems for the Whole Year! pack by clicking here.
5) I also print out our first few Reading Logs and our Handwriting for Beginning Readers pages that we will start for morning work during those first couple weeks of school.
Read all about my READING LOGS that DO NOT require a parent signature (and why I’ll never use that kind) in my Reading Logs Blog Post HERE.
Additional Items In The Box:
*Journals for Daily 5 Writing (These are not fancy. I just staple writing paper together into a booklet!)
*Our first week of our Vocabulary Curriculum – including our shared reading passage, the mini book, and our vocabulary word cards. I am a big believer in EXPLICIT and INTENTIONAL vocabulary instruction, so these items definitely get prepped ahead of time! Here’s a picture below of what this looks like:
*25 pre-sharpened pencils that I can put out on student desks for the first day
*Desk name tags that are laminated and ready to write student names on
*Clothespins and new gems for my Behavior Clip Chart
*A bright neon note to parents that reminds them to sign and return all of the “important first week of school” papers for the office. I clip this note to the pack of papers that goes home with kids on that first day of school.
*Where the Wild Things Learn’s FREE Birthday Balloons that are cut, laminated, and ready for student birthdays.
*Things for Meet the Teacher night, such as sign-up sheets, little slips of paper with our classroom Twitter account, and The Pinspired Teacher’s adorable cupcake donation tags found here.
I hope this post gave you some ideas and tips on how to get organized for the fall in order to better enjoy your summer! I understand this kind of prep work is not for everyone – it is definitely a personal choice. As for me, I would rather be busy while I’m still in school those last couple of weeks in order to have less to do at the beginning of August. It is just how I’ve always been and it works for me! Of course, you should always do what works the best for YOU.
Regardless of how you prep for the next school year, I hope you and your family have a wonderful, much-deserved summer break! Remember to take time for yourself, refresh yourself, and rejuvenate yourself so that you are ready for another amazing year with a new group of students you will inspire!