9 Ideas for Ending the School Year Well

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John Davis (Announcer)

This is the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast with your host, Vicki Davis. This is episode 779, Ending the School Year Well.

Thank You Advancement Courses – Sponsor of Today’s Show

00;00;07;12 – 00;00;21;27

Vicki Davis

Thank you, Advancement Courses, for sponsoring today’s show. Stay tuned at the show’s end for a special discount to save 15% on engaging in meaningful online professional development and to hear some of the top PD topics for teachers right now.

Welcome Alana Stanton – Introduction

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Vicki Davis

So today, we’re talking with Alana Stanton about making the end of the school year. Right now, she is a first-grade teacher in Oconee County. She’s been a teacher for 17 years, and she has also been on the show before episode 623, Trust in Grace in the Classroom.

But Alana, we are talking about how to end the school year. Well, what are some of those secrets you plan so that, especially this year, how are you going to end the school year well, this year?


Idea 1: Make the End of the Year Sweeter Than The Beginning

00;00;53;17 – 00;01;19;15

Alana Stanton

I’m thank you so much. Thank you for having me on the show. So one thing that I always try to think of for the end of the year is to make the end of the year sweeter than the beginning.

And I love the quote from Muhammad Ali, where he says, don’t count down the days, but make the days count. And so, as I’m ending the school year, I try to think of ways I can be present with my students and in the classroom.


00;01;19;19 – 00;01;36;17

Vicki Davis

And I want to point out that if you go, for example, on a Disney cruise or anything, Disney, one emphasis is that they say people remember how you start and how you finish. You want to make that beginning of school and the end of school sparkle in so many ways. (For more on this, read my 2006 Post About How a Disney Cruise changed my views on education.)

So how are you going to do that?


Idea #2 An End of the Year Class Transformation

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Alana Stanton

So one thing that I always love to do each year, especially towards the end, is that I love to do class transformation. So I love to think of things that the kids would love to do and theme my day toward that transformation.

So, for example, in April, I’ll be doing a Candyland theme in my classroom, and so I will play Big Board of Candyland in the classroom, and the kids will be able to win. Candy And I’ll do different themes for that throughout the day.

Candyland Ideas – Editor’s Note

There are lots of Candyland Ideas; here are a few for you.

00;02;04;22 – 

Alana Stanton

I also love to do campouts and…

00;02;07;06 – 00;02;10;16

Vicki Davis

Okay, wait. Tell us what a campout is because some people might not know.


Idea #3 Have a Class Campout and Tell Stories

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Alana Stanton

So one thing I love to do is always do something called Camp Tell a Story. And so I’ll have the kids towards the end of the year, they’ll use their writing skills and write a story, and then they will share it with the class.

And by a campout, I mean, I’ll take a tent, put it in our classroom, and transform the classroom into a bit of a campground. Many of the times, I’ll have the kids help with that. The kids can help make animals and put them on the wall, and then we’ll get will make s’mores together, and we’ll sit around a campfire and read our stories together. And the kids always love it. It’s just such a fun time. They can relax and listen to the stories. We’ll theme some of the lessons towards camping out that day.


Campout Ideas – Editor’s Note

Here are some of the best camping ideas for each subject; these three blog posts will give you enough freebies and ideas to have an epic campout in your classroom!


Idea #4: Have a Class Restaurant

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Alana Stanton

The class restaurant where the kids create a restaurant and a theme, and they use math and different activities to make a restaurant. And then they’ll be the servers to our students in our classroom. It’s a lot of fun.


Class Restaurant – Editor’s Note

Of course, restaurants include recipes, math, and science! 


00;03;05;16 – 00;03;12;04

Alana Stanton

So I just really try to think of things that the students enjoy and try to bring that into the classroom with those class transformations.


00;03;12;20 – 00;03;20;28

Vicki Davis

Fun. So we’ve got things, we’ve got classroom transformations and we can go ahead and plan those and get ready for those. What else do you do?


Idea #5: Science Friday Best of the Best (Have Them Vote on their Favorite and Repeat Them!)

00;03;20;29 – 00;04;22;03

Alana Stanton

So another thing I do throughout the year is I do something called Science Friday. I’ve seen an educator on Twitter do Science Friday, and each Friday they either did a science demonstration, a science experiment, or a science an activity.

And I decided to pick that up. And at the end of the year, the last week or two, I have all the students vote on their very favorite Science Fridays, and then we repeat the Science Fridays, for example, they love the Skittles demonstration where you take Skittles, put them around a plate and take warm water and just pour it in onto the plate in the Skittles colors blend and they just love things like that. So they get to relive some of those fond memories. Again, they love doing like catapults and making rockets. And so often those are the ones that we repeat again.

And so I also just try to find things to do that they love and projects STEM activities with Legos or maybe making fidget or fidget spinners, things like that. So just trying to find their interest and doing some of the fun memories one more time, reliving it.


00;04;22;04 – 00;04;27;08

Vicki Davis

So describe the first time you realized how magical the end of the school year could be.

Idea #6: Reflect on the Magical Moments (And Share Them)

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Alana Stanton

So I think for me, I always look at our students and at the end of the year we finally get to see all that soul pouring work that we did each day with our students. And it starts like pouring out of the students and you start to see it pouring into others.

I think for me, when I really start to see that magic, especially right now, just thinking of my class is at recess, just watching them interact and play. For example, the past few weeks, students have been creating baseball games together and finding ways to.

Make a baseball team or playing football and jackpot together and students who didn’t always get along. Now we’re helping each other. We have a student that has special needs at our school. He’s not in our classroom. And I had a student who had caught the ball today at Jackpot.

And instead of throwing it out to the other students, he came over and brought it to that child. Can not yet throw a football, but the students surround that child and help them. And so really just looking at the hearts of our students and just seeing all that work that we did have helped our students and now they’re pouring that out in others and that that’s just such a magical thing to see.


Idea #7: End on a High Note and Wait to Pack Up the Boxes

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Vicki Davis

So, Alina, you’ve been teaching 17 years. If you could go back and talk to first year, Alina, about the end of the school year, what would you say to her?


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Alana Stanton

The big thing that I would say to myself is that it is always our choice, how we end our school year. So to make sure to leave on a high note and to make it fun and memorable. And then the next thing I would say to myself is put down the boxes, stop packing my room, put down the list that, yes, needs time. And if I do need a pick of the list, put spend time with your students. And by that I mean enjoy your students when you get a chance, play with them, swing with them, eat lunch with them, and listen to what they’re going to do over the summer.

Draw with them when you get a chance. Just enjoy the moment with them. Give them extra hugs. Oftentimes at the end of the year, we’re going to have students. That misbehaviors might come out because honestly, the routine of school is so beautiful for our students.

And they they are very smart. They know when the end of the year is coming that that routine might be changed and that that champion they see every day, they’re not going to see them every day over the summer.

And so I try to remember that and just go day by day, but give them extra hugs, extra high fives, make up, make a class, have a handshake with them so they know that will forever be their teacher.


Idea #8: Create Memory Books

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Alana Stanton

We just won’t be their teacher in the classroom every day. But just spend some time with your students and then something I love to do at the end of the year and I’ve been doing this for years, is I create a memory book with my students.

But the way I do it, I call it an exit interview, at least in my mind. I pull every student one by one and I ask them eight questions. 

  • What was your favorite thing this year? 
  • What did you enjoy the most?
  • Who is your friend and what memory do you have with them? 

And I type each thing that they say down and then I press each thing for them. Each page is one of the questions and it has all their quotes and their names. And then I turn that into a memory book. But the special thing is, is as I’m sitting there and typing their answers, I get to hear what they enjoyed the most, which are always those times that we spent together.

You know, Science Friday’s all those magical moments as well. But it’s it’s a good way to close out the year and it kind of helps my heart start to let them go because right around now is the time that they’re really ready to fly.

And so it makes you know that you did a job well done, that they’re ready and they’ve done very well.

An Observation on Room Packing and Student Behavior

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Vicki Davis

Well, you said two really super important things. One is do not pack up quickly. I mean, just don’t do it. You can actually feel it happen. Kids will all of a sudden start misbehaving. And I’m thinking, who started packing up their room?

Because whoever did it, all, the rest of the teachers feel it. So that’s just one point. But the other thing is, is and there’s a recent A.P. article I’ll linked to in the show notes that looked at a lot of the research about truly life-changing teachers, truly life-changing teachers survey their students.

Read: The Research on Life Changing Teaching on Edutopia


00;08;44;05 – 00;09;17;07

Vicki Davis

I do an anonymous survey in a focus group at the end of the year every year, and it makes me such a better teacher. Friends of mine like Larry Ferlazzo do focus groups all the time, get feedback all the time.

That’s just so very important. So as we finish up, think about all the teachers out there. This has been another unusual year. I don’t know what to say, just another one. But give everybody a pep talk about ending.

Well, because some teachers are like, how am I ever going to make it? And we just need that encouragement.


Idea #9: Do Something Memorable to End

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Alana Stanton

So what I would say is, remember your purpose. Remember why you became a teacher. Think back through your life that those teachers who made the biggest difference that uplifted you, that encouraged you, they did not give up on you and remember to be that teacher. Often they’ll say be their favorite teacher, but really, I believe, be their champion. And don’t just be the champion for your students in your class. Look around in the hallways of students who need that extra champion.

And so enjoy every moment. And yes, it’s hard. And that’s that’s part of the reason we get those summers off to reflect and just refresh. Enjoy your kiddos and then something I just love at the. Very, very end.

If I always pull my class over for a little huddle, we sing our class song. And for us, that’s Count on Me by Bruno Mars. And we just kind of huddle around, sing it, and it’s just so sweet.

And then they run off and they either go play, or sometimes they get picked up by families. Do something just memorable at the end for you to just see those smiles of your kids before you leave.

00;10;21;04 –  00;11;03;06

Vicki Davis

Absolutely. Lots of great advice. Alana Stanton, and you’ve been doing this 17 years. You can tell having that end of the year can really be a fun time, a memorable time, and you don’t want it to be like a crash test dummy hitting a wall like you want to have memorable moments and also respect that some students may not be looking forward to the summer. Some kids may be very sad. So there’s a lot of different emotions. Some kids are talking about all their trips. So be aware, you know, don’t say, hey, everybody, where are you going?

Not everybody’s going somewhere. And some of those kids, their only campfire maybe to camp. Are you building your classroom? So making those memories is so important. Thank you, Alana.

Thank You Advancement Courses

00;11;03;16 – 00;11;58;03

Vicki Davis

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00;11;58;06 – 00;12;10;01

John Davis

You’ve been listening to the Ten Minute Teacher podcast. If you like this program, you can find more in www.coolcatteacher.com . If you wish to see more content by Vicki Davis, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter under @coolcatteacher Thank you for listening.