Are you already thinking about packing up your classroom at the end of the year? Enlist your students to help you! Even students as young as kindergarten and first grade can help clean up the classroom for summer.
Why should my students help me pack up?
There are several reasons that benefit both you and your students.
Even if they are young, 20+ kids can get some jobs done faster than one teacher can. (You just have to choose the jobs carefully. Keep reading fo suggested tasks.) This efficiency lets you continue with your normal classroom routines for just a bit longer – and we all know how routines help student behavior!
Also, because a team of workers is more efficient than just one adult, you will need to spend less time after school (in the evenings or once the school year ends), completing the never-ending tasks involved in packing up your classorom.
Students can gather up misplaced game pieces and make sure boxes are closed neatly.
You have worked hard all year to make your classroom feel like a special community. You got to know each child, used intentional morning routines, and started your day with a soft start instead of morning work. Keep that sense of community going even on the last days of school.
Community members help one another. When you trust your students to do these special tasks, you continue to build that community spirit. It also provides a sense of closure to the year when students can help with packing up your classroom. Participating feels more comfortable than walking in to a bare classroom one morning.
Throughout the school year you have worked so hard to help your students develop responsibility. This is a perfect time for them to put that sense of responsibility to work! Why do things for them that they can do for themselves? Think of the message you are sending them when you give them special year end tasks.
Let students test markers and toss the ones that don’t work well anymore.
But how can they help with packing up the classroom?
OK, so this all sounds great in theory, but what can young students really do to help with packing up your classroom? I am not suggesting child labor here – just having them do small classroom tasks that go with the end of the school year. (Note: Before having your students use any wipes or cleaners for cleaning, find our your school policies related to chemicals.)
Here are some simple tasks kids can do with little support:
- sort books in the classroom library or from the book room
- put things in mailboxes (writing folders, memory books, art projects, etc.)
- sort math manipulatives
- remove classroom displays (word wall cards, math station cards, schedule, etc.) – this is especially easy with things displayed on magnetic boards
- test white board markers (toss the ones that don’t work well)
- plug in all devices for summer charging
- sharpen pencils for next fall
- scrub desks/tabletops (with wet paper towels or even shaving cream)
- remove labels from shelves/countertops
- pull down class anchor charts that won’t be reused (no worries, if they get torn!)
- tidy up classroom games
- remove nametags from desks, lockers, cubbies, mailboxes
Math center cards can be gathered and organized by students.
How do you organize this to prevent chaos?
First of all, keep in mind that they are young. You might plan for 15-30 minutes of student help with packing up the classroom – but they can accomplish a lot in that time. Be sure to plan a “sponge activity” for when kids finish (draw a year end self-portrait, read books, write a note for next year’s class, work on a memory book page, etc.)
To minimize chaos, you may want to group children for the tasks in one of the following ways:
- Create cleaning teams – Divide your class into groups of 4-5 students. Then assign each group a list of tasks. (Yes, you can intentionally match the tasks to the kids in the group. For instance, I like to give my most organized students the task of organizing the library for me).
- Assign each task to a pair of students. Because some tasks take longer than others, you may need to assign 2-3 small tasks to some partners.
Create clean-up teams so you can assign tasks based on student strengths.
If you really aren’t convinced that all of your students are able to help with this task, you can still get some student help. Partner with another teacher. Have her take your class for an extra recess one day during the last week, while you keep your students who always want to help. Even a small team can accomplish a lot. (Then trade with that teacher for another recess break a different day that week.)
Give it a Try!
Start planning now how your students can help with packing up your classroom at the end of the year. Then use your time right now to work on things they can’t do (like report cards, filing, or packing things away.) Don’t spend your time on things they can do.
Then, when your students are helping to pack up your room, stand back and admire their work. Notice their sense of pride in participating in such an important task! You may need to go back and “touch up” a few things when they finish, but that’s still faster than you doing all of it yourself. Enjoy the work of your little cleaning teams!