All seasoned teachers know when Spring is on its way. We don’t look at the trees, the newly blossomed flowers, or notice the return of the robins…Nope, we see a definite change in our kids’ behavior.
You know it’s spring when your once sweet (for the most part) group of pixies start acting like the circus just came to town, and all three rings are in your classroom!
So what can you do to make it to the end of the year? I can’t promise you miracles, but here are a few things I do to keep the kids learning and to keep myself sane, in the midst of spring fever season.
1. Keep Your Discipline Consistent but Add a Fun Twist
If you’re like me, by this time of the year, you might be feeling some spring fever too and your natural inclination is to slack off a bit in regards to classroom rules and procedures but that’s exactly what shouldn’t happen. Give ’em an inch and they take a mile…there’s a reason for that saying. The truth is that we need to firm things up and not loosen them up, at this point of the year.
One thing you can change that works well in my class is to offer a behavior incentive, to whatever you’re doing regularly. You can do things like write FREE TIME or FUN FRIDAY or MOVIE or POPCORN on the board gradually, by giving your class a letter each time they are working well together (positive reinforcement).
You can also take away a letter if need be and if they actually earn all the letters for a particular word, then they win that prize! Love this because it is a whole group effort. An oldie but goodie is a marble jar or Warm Fuzzies Jar (use pom poms) and when it’s full, the class earns a reward.
In my class, I usually just expect my kids to be good for goodness sake, so even something as simple as this seems a bit magical at the end of the year.
Another idea is to give out tickets for good behavior and pull a few at the end of the day to go to the prize box. Anything positive helps most (not all) kids behave in a way that makes our days go more smoothly.
2. Keep the Kids Learning
Nothing is worse than boredom in the classroom. It is one of teaching’s deadly sins. If we can keep the kids motivated and engaged, working on interesting concepts and topics, we have so much greater buy-in and so much better behavior.
I actually created three whole units for 3rd – 5th graders, to keep them happily learning for a whole week during those last difficult weeks of school. One is called Summer Safari , another is an Art Adventure, and the third one is an ocean themed resource called Beach Club.
I LOVE these because they have meaningful activities (many are hands-on) for reading, writing, math, science, and social studies for each day for an entire week. Whether you use one of these or something else, the idea is to keep on teaching and to keep on working, while including some fun topics or activities that maybe you didn’t get to do earlier in the year.
3. Try Doing a New Activity, Like Demonstrations
Adding a new activity that is out of the norm is exciting. It invigorates us, engages the kids, and takes away some of the May burn out.
One of the things I look forward to are demonstrations, which work well at lots of grade levels. I used them when I taught 2nd grade and still use them now with my 4th and 5th graders.
The goal of these demonstrations is to give the kids a chance to practice speaking in front of an audience, while they teach their classmates how to do something. I explains this to the kids in detail (the presentation needs to be between 3 – 7 minutes, must be well practiced, you need to bring all props on your assigned day, notes are okay but you may not read them to us, everyone needs to have a different demonstration as much as possible…).
I write the dates and the order of presentations on the board (one to however many kids are in the class, the dates for them) and I pull Popsicle sticks (with their names on them) randomly from my trusty Popsicle stick cup, to let the kids choose which date he/she will be presenting the demonstration.
The kids are always super excited about this activity, especially when I tell them that they don’t need to turn in anything, but just to do the activity. We always do these so late in the year, there’s actually no time (or motivation left) to have them write these up and then to have me grade them…ugh.
They really like sharing with the class and they enjoy listening to their classmates as well. I love watching these and have seen a variety of really good demonstrations from showing how to cast a fishing line, to how to groom a horse (she used a stuffed animal), to how to make a smoothie, to how to throw different types of baseball pitches, and lots more. Fun stuff!
4. Know What you Can and Can’t Do and Choose Wisely
Every year after testing is done, I have my class put together a big class play with costumes, and singing, and dancing, To me, it offers the kids a chance to do something very creative and quite different from what we normally do and it keeps the kids learning new skills, busy and happy and that definitely counts for something.
Having said that, doing a big production at this time of year is the last thing some teachers would want to do. Not only would it push them to the edge, it might just push them over! So know what will be tolerable to your stress level and what won’t and go with your gut. No one’s having fun if the teacher isn’t having fun.
5. Start a New Tradition: Have the Kids Write a Thank You Letter to Someone on Staff
This is one of my end of the year traditions that I will never give up. We talk as a class about some of the teachers, yard duties, cafeteria workers, the principal, the custodians, the aides, and anyone else they can think of who has made our school a great place to be. Oh, and that someone can’t be me for this assignment.
We discuss how it’s one thing to appreciate someone but it’s another to actually tell them that you are thankful for them. Also, we talk about how much this letter will mean to the person receiving it…all the while trying to reinforce that idea of kindness and compassion (weave it in where you can, people).
Next, we go over friendly letter form as a review and to make it fun, instead of actually writing the form, I like them to use “fake writing squiggles” with their expo markers on their white boards for this. Once they have the form down, a little more coaching about what a possible letter might look/sound like and they are ready to write.
When they’re done, they draw a picture or decorate it somehow and I let them deliver their precious letters. Click here to grab the Friendly Letter FREEBIE with all the forms included.
This FREE end of the year Friendly Letter Writing activity is a great way to encourage gratefulness and to show kindness to school staff members.
6. Keep ‘Em Moving
If you think Brain Breaks are only for the winter time, think again! Brain breaks are a lifesaver in the spring, when our little friends cannot sit to save their souls and the time you spend on a brain break will be given back to you tenfold!
Even though the weather may be nice, sometimes your kids just need a 5 minute period of active movement to keep their minds focused, and I love these task cards for that reason. GoNoodle is another great place to find fun brain breaks and I think mixing up the games, yoga, and dramatic play activities of these brain break cards, with the music and dance of GoNoodle is a good combination.
If you’re able to get outside for some extra PE, that’s a great way to allow kids to let off some steam. I have no problem letting my kids have some extra PE time now, knowing that a few months ago when it was so cold (okay, cold for California) we stayed inside quite a bit.
7. Do a Time Capsule or a Memory Book
Either of these is a good option because it keeps the little rascals busy and they get so excited about these types of keepsakes.
I really enjoy doing a time capsule activity because it has lots of the same elements as the memory book, but it also includes the fun part which is sealing it in a manilla folder, with a note on the front not to open it until high school graduation. Both of my own kids did the Time Capsules in 5th grade and really enjoyed opening them at their high school graduations. They were able to see how much they had grown and changed and to get a glimpse into their lives way back when.
Of course, Memory Books are fun too!
Here’s a picture of one of the End of the Year Memory Book slides.
8. Tag Team With Another Teacher When You Can
We’re all in the same boat and at this point in the year, the boat might feel like it’s leaky and ready to sink. To avoid that feeling, it’s a great idea to work with a fellow teacher if you have a helpful one that’s nearby.
I feel fortunate that at my school I have a few teachers that I work with, that are always up for a good swap. We might have a long assembly and I’ll watch both of our classes for half of it, while she gets some things done in her classroom, and then we’ll switch.
Sometimes we have two classes play kickball and only one teacher is in charge while the other is working on something that needs to be done. If you get creative, you can even teach the same lesson twice (less prep), once for your class and once for the other teacher’s class and she can do the same for you. If your principal is okay with it, why not?
9. Plan Ahead to Reduce Stress
Every year we have a big Open House and our parents expect us to pull out all the stops to plaster our rooms with beautiful art and exciting evidence of what we’ve done this year. You should see my room, every wall is literally covered, student reports and poetry books are on each desk, and art is hanging from the ceiling.
The thing is, this kind of event doesn’t happen overnight. I actually plan it each year strategically, like a mini-army general going into battle. This allows me though, to be able to gradually have the kids complete Open House work, which I squirrel away. That way, when May comes, I’m not scrambling to squeeze in a million extra things to fill our walls.
Anything you can do ahead of time, whether it’s for Open House or not, is oh so helpful before the end of the year sneaks up on us.
10. Be Good to Yourself
Teachers are nurturers by nature. That’s probably one of the reasons we got into teaching because that’s our personality bent. The problem many teachers face is that while we’re good at taking care of others, we’re not so good at taking care of ourselves.
This time of the year, it’s crucial that you make a conscious effort to treat yourself well. Eat a good breakfast (or just eat a breakfast) each day, get a good night’s sleep consistently, try to squeeze in a bit of exercise whether it’s just taking a nice walk or going to the gym, be aware of your self-talk (we all speak to ourselves in our head…don’t we???) and avoid negativity, give yourself a break with a glass of wine or a bubble bath, try to do simple dinners or takeout sometimes if possible…
The idea is to realize that in a stressful time of the year, the best thing we can do is to try to go with the flow and to let go what we can let go, while we focus on what’s important…which is keeping our sanity during the countdown to summer…
Oh, that and keeping the kids learning.
Looking for a variety of fresh and engaging activities to help end the year? End of the Year Activities (set 1) and End of the Year Activities (Set 2) are two which are loaded with 9 interactive activities each! They also come in a deeply discounted End of the Year Activities Bundle for 18 activities!
One more resource that I think you’ll love for the end of the year is a print and digital End of the Year Memory Book for 3rd – 5th Grades!
Have a great end of the year!