You have your morning routines figured out, but the end of the day still feels like chaos. Kids have many quick tasks to do. The room is a mess. Everyone is tired and ready to go home. It’s enough to try the patience of the most seasoned teacher. But your end of the day classroom routine can go smoothly, with these few simple tips.
Develop a vision
First create a vision for what you want the end of the day to be like (be realistic – you will not hear an angelic anthem as your students cheerfully do their tasks at lightning speed.) But you can envision what the little bodies will be doing as they follow a clear end of day routine. Think about things like:
- traffic flow in the room
- voice levels
- where students will pack their backpacks
- where students will put on jackets/winter gear
- a location for backpacks once they are packed
- what students will do when they are finished
Also consider how you will dismiss students to pack up. How many will you dismiss at once? Will they be at the same table/group of desks? Will they be the kids who are cleaned up or quiet?
Don’t pack up at the end of they day. Seriously! Everyone is a little short on patience (and focus) at the very end of the day. Kids (and teachers) are worried about changes in buses and the child who forgot if they were supposed to get picked up. And there’s a slight sense of end-of-the-day euphoria that can easily lead to mischief.
Instead, find a transition in your day and pack up as part of the transition. This simple change to your end of day classroom routine will work wonders! Some sample times include:
- before snack
- after specials
- before a brainbreak
- after lunch or recess
- before choice time/independent quiet time
The end of the day includes SO many small tasks (clean up, grab your mail, put it in your folder, put that in your backpack, zip your backpack, put on your coat, remember any end of the day bus changes, find your line-up spot…) Doing some of these tasks earlier in the day breaks up the long list, making it a bit more manageable for young students.
When Else Can Students Pack Up?
Personally, my favorite time is right before snack/choice time. I dismiss a few students at a time and have them pack up either by their locker or their desk. When they finish, they can eat and play. I have also had good luck packing up during the transition back from specials. Kids are already in a line, so we just line up next to the mailboxes and grab the mail. Then they move to their locker to pack their take home folder or backpack. The backpack goes back in the locker and they are ready to quickly grab it at the end of the day. Easy peasy!
Think about your schedule. Choose a time when kids are already on the move, and are motivated by the next activty. When students pack up before snack or a brain break, the students who need more time aren’t holding others back. (They may end up with a shorter snack or brain break time, but that might also motivate them to pick up the pace. And if it doesn’t, no big deal!) Packing up while moving into a quick, independent task or brain break also frees you up to quickly troubleshoot stuck zippers or over-stuffed backpacks.
(Note: plan what you’ll do with any papers you do AFTER packing up – save them for the next day or cram them in backpacks.)
Now that you have a clear plan in mind, you need to teach it to your students. Treat it like any other routine. Model each step carefully. Allow a few students to practice while the class watches (narrate what they are doing). Especially focus on the packing part – how to put papers in the mail folder and how to fit everything in a backpack. Consider taking photos of students doing each step. Use the photos to create an anchor chart for students to refer to.
Repeat this process day after day for 5-10 days. Model and practice. Model and practice. Revisit it when needed (after school breaks, when new students move in, etc.) The students need a vision of what the process looks like, just like you do.
Find Some Shortcuts
As you think about your end of day classroom routine, identify some places that students could help out. Perhaps they could:
- stamp planners/binders
- pass out notes from the office
- put their own math pages in mailboxes after you quickly correct them
You might decide to send home papers (worksheets, non-urgent notes, etc.) only once a week. That will minimize how much students need to pack most days.
Time to Go Home
For the true end of the day, think of an easy “sponge activity” as students grab their backpacks and jackets. What can they do when they finish quickly? (You want to encourage speed and efficiency!) Here are a few ideas:
- read with a partner
- play a partner math game
- watch a Bookflix story
- do an exercise song from Go Noodle or You Tube (they can do this with their coats and backpacks on)
- have a quick dance party
You’ll be ready to walk your student to the door and out to their buses with ease!