How I Build Class Community Through the Last Day of School
Happy springtime, teachers! As we enter the home stretch, you’re probably in one of two modes: test prep stress and chaos, or post-testing summer countdown. Whichever season you find yourself in, classroom community and behavior management is going to be the key to keep you sane.
I’ve got some exciting ideas for building your class community that will make your students excited and engaged. Plus, I have some resources that can help you make these ideas a reality. Let’s dive in…
1. Breakfast Club
First things first, let’s talk about Breakfast Club. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” But hear me out – if your school is like mine, students are eating breakfast in the classroom anyway, so you might as well take advantage of that opportunity. If this is not the case for you, then it can still work. In my opinion, breakfast with students will always beat a lunch bunch.
2. Kindness Challenge
My students are always up for a challenge, and at the end of the year, kindness is needed everywhere. Some of the class kindness challenges I have done include: drawing names and complimenting others, writing thank you notes to adults in the building, leaving positive notes in library books, picking up trash around the building and playground, making cards for the elderly home, raising money for a cause, or just making sure we say please and thank you consistently.
3. Nature Journaling
As soon as testing is done, my students and I spend a big portion of our day outside. This year, we incorporated nature journaling into our daily routine, and for the majority of my class, it is their favorite part of the day. We take walks around the school, find insects, look for tracks, build fairy houses in the woods, assemble bee hotels, put up birdseed, identify trees, collect leaves for art, and so much more. It’s a wonderful break from screen time and it incorporates reading, writing, and critical thinking.
Podcasts are a great tool for the classroom. In the past, I’ve used them as a springboard for comprehension by tying them to graphic organizers or a writing prompt, but often we just listen for fun and discuss. I play podcasts in my class through the Wondery website. Some of my favorites are Cairo’s Adventures, Six Minutes, and Mars Patel.
5. Class Meetings
Class meetings are great for your class community. I gather students around the rug and we do different greetings, activities, and games. Meetings are also a great time to make decisions as a class or vote on goals or rewards. I have meeting slides prepped by month to keep my meetings fun for the kids and easy for me to plan. You can check out more about those below.
Bringing other people into the classroom is a great way to get your students excited and give you a break. Some of the people I have invited are administrators, parents, teachers from the next grade level, former teachers, or any adult from the building. I offer my visitors something to do, such as a book to read or an activity to lead, but often they prefer to come up with their own idea. I have had parents come in and talk about their jobs or simply bring snacks for the class and hand them out while answering questions.
7. Field Trips
Let’s not forget about field trips! Even if you can’t take your class to the zoo or a museum, there are plenty of virtual and backyard options that can be just as exciting. My class has taken a “field trip” to the creek that runs behind the school and loved it. I also offer virtual field trips. There are so many fun places to “visit” via videos and websites. The Classroom Meeting resource I mentioned above has monthly virtual fields woven in.
Kids love projects, and so do I. This end-of-year time is perfect for assigning projects that take a few days to create. We’ve built dioramas, conducted science experiments, created videos from scripts we’ve written, made PowerPoint presentations on any topic to share with the class, published our own books, and more. I have a monthly project resource that I used to send home for homework, but in recent years, I have been using it for class projects in the spring. Click here for the project sheets.
9. Read Alouds
If you’ve been around for a while, you know I’m a big supporter of reading aloud to my students every single day. Testing season can derail this practice a bit, so I love to get back to our routine as soon as testing ends. Not only does it make for a great storytime, but it also encourages critical thinking and conversation among students.
10. Theme Days
Last but not least, set some class goals and reward them with theme days. Whether it’s a pajama day or a superhero day, students will love the chance to show off their creativity. Theme days are great with virtual field trips as well. You could have students wear Disney-inspired clothing if your virtual trip is to Magic Kingdom or dress for a safari if you’re headed to Africa. You could also tie a theme day to a project. For example, students could dress up to give a presentation about a famous person they wrote about.
Keep building community even through the summer by sending students home with a personalized letter or a summer challenge. You could even organize a summer meetup.
It all sounds like a lot to keep track of, but I’m not doing all of this all the time. I’m picking and choosing what works best for my students, and that even looks different year to year.
If you have even more ideas on how to build community through the last day, don’t be shy! Drop them below. I’d love to hear them.
Talk to you soon,