5 Tips to Clean Up and Organize Your Classroom Before Summer Break

By the time the last few days of the school year have arrived, so has full-blown exhaustion.

Just the thought of getting organized, cleaning up, and packing up my classroom makes me want to stop everything and take a long nap.


instead of running off and hibernating, I think about what my future teacher self would want me to do. And after years of teaching, I know that my future back-to-school teacher self wants me to take some time and get that classroom under control before heading out for summer break.

This quick list has 5 tried and true tips that will help you clean up your classroom and get your room organized as simply as possible before heading off to enjoy the summer. Give these tips a try this year, your future teacher self will surely thank you in August!

✅Spring Cleaning...Teacher Style

Purge, teacher friend, purge. I know from experience that waiting even one year to throw something out that you never use does no one, especially you, any good! Teachers definitely have that hoarding mentality because let's face it, we spend a lot of our own money on classroom supplies and it is not easy to just throw something out that we may one day possibly use! I know, I have been there. Change your mindset to sharing those things you do not use instead of tossing them and you will feel better!

๐Ÿ‘Recycle old materials that you will never use again, especially if they are outdated.

๐Ÿ‘Collect things that are new, or in good condition and leave them in the teacher's room for others to use. One teacher's junk is another teacher's treasure...it's really true!

๐Ÿ‘Have an end-of-the-year raffle for kids with your old teacher stuff! Seriously, my students love this! We have a big raffle on the last day of school. Many things that make it into the raffle are things that I purged, like mismatched folders, faded construction paper or art supplies, supplies that perhaps the teacher before you left behind that you will never use, and really anything that you feel "bad" about tossing that are appropriate for the kids to "win" in the raffle.

๐Ÿ‘Have a lot of cubbies you dread opening? Pick one and start there. Clean that one cabinet out. Once you have done that you will feel accomplished and want to do more. And if you do not want to do more? That is ok because you succeeded at getting one all cleaned out! Yay!

Of course, be sure to check with your administration before throwing out school purchased materials.

✅Get that Classroom Library Under Control

I love my classroom library. And during the first few weeks of school, I teach my students to love it too. Yet somehow during the school year, it gets a bit out of control. Even with a strict system for borrowing and returning books it still gets disorganized. For this clean-up, enlist the help of students. Assign students an area or shelf of the library to check and organize. If your baskets are labeled by genre, have them check that there are no misplaced books. No matter how they are organized, your students can and should get each shelf and basket back on track.

This is also a great time to weed through and take out books that have not been read by students in a while. And bonus tip...add those books you no longer want in your classroom library to the end of the year raffle, kids love it!

✅Pass it on Back

We all have that dreaded pile of student work that we "forgot" about throughout the year. Papers that were never edited, activities that were never scored, and projects that were taken down from the bulletin board and never handed back. #guilty Now is the time to hand it all back! While students work on content-rich projects, use the time to clean out those stacks! Pass out all the papers, notebooks, workbooks, and projects slowly during the last two weeks of school. Send some home each day and by the last day of school...no more piles and no more bulletin boards to take down. By doing it over time during the last few weeks of school, you will feel less stressed and have less to do during the last day or two of the year!

✅Get Ready for the 1st Week of School

Yes, you read that right! Prepping a few things for the beginning of the year will really help you end the year on the right foot and truly enjoy the summer! By preparing things that you know you will need the first week of school, you are not wasting time at the end of the year, but rather gaining time come back to school season. And yes, your future teacher self will thank you for this! 

Here are some things you should do now, to save time in a few months:

  • Map it out! Leave a map on the whiteboard for custodial staff and yourself to know and remember where each of your furniture pieces and boxes goes! This is so helpful and a must!
  • Make back-to-school bulletin boards and any bulletin boards that you leave up all year and cover them with newspaper or old anchor charts to prevent them from fading with the summer sun. I always set up my September calendar at the end of the year and it feels so good to walk in after the summer and see it already done! 
  • Know which back-to-school activities you will do? Make copies now! We all have those staple back-to-school activities we love and do each year. Head to the copy room while it is empty now and make copies because you know that the copy room will be jam-packed during the back-to-school season.
  • Make copies of other materials that you KNOW you will need like thank you cards, parent communication log, the first unit of spelling, first writing activity, or anything else that you know for sure will be needed in the new year!
  • Create your supply list for yourself and future students based on what supplies you have left from this year.
  • Decide on your back-to-school read-alouds and find them! Have that stack ready to go for the first week of school.

classroom calendar and bulletin board set

✅Get Mentally Prepared for Summer

I know you are ready for summer, but be sure to clear your mind before you shut your classroom door. Heading off to summer means we have a lot of time to think, and sometimes overthink or stress about the upcoming year. If you are like me, you like to learn over the summer, think of new ideas for your students, and find new books or lessons to use in the new year. It took me a while to realize that even on my time off, teaching was creeping into too many of my free moments. I needed a mindset change to take back some of my time off, especially during the summer!

If you love learning about teaching over the summer, instead of trying to learn ALL the things, pick ONE topic to learn about over the summer. Want new books for your classroom? Then focus on that. Realize you need to mix up your management system? Read some blog posts by other teachers. Want to help start the year with a growth mindset? Discover and read some professional development books on the topic. But you cannot and should not do it all! If learning over the summer is your thing, pick ONE thing to focus on. Do not use your summer to catch up on everything. 

Since I am sharing so many things dos for the end of the year, I wanted to also share some quick things that you should NOT do at the end of the year. These things will just waste your time, teacher friend, so do not do them! Save them for the beginning of the new school year!

Teacher friends don't let teacher friends:

✅Create class lists or labels for the new year at the end of the year.

✅Plan seating arrangements for the new year at the end of the year.

✅Stress over students in your new class before you even met them.

Remember even though pure exhaustion has set in, and all you want to do is hibernate, think of your future teacher self...what would they want you to do? They would want you to clean up and organize your classroom before leaving for summer break! Even if you only do one item on this list, your future teacher self will thank you! 

Enjoy the summer break, friend! You deserve it!

You would also love to read:

Looking for back-to-school activities to have prepped and ready to go?  See more HERE.

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Fun End of Year Activities Celebration Ideas for Upper Elementary Classrooms

10 Easy and Fun End of Year Celebration Ideas for Upper Elementary Classrooms

The end of the school year is a super busy time for teachers. From managing summer-hungry kiddos to finalizing last-minute grades and report cards to cleaning up the classroom and getting organized, there really is no tired like end of the year teacher tired!

That is why when the end of the year comes around, I am always torn between being too exhausted to do anything, yet wanting to do all the super fun end-of-the-year activities with my kids. #teacherproblems

10 Easy and Fun End of Year Celebration Ideas for Upper Elementary Classrooms

But over the years, I have found the perfect blend of easy to prep and fun activities that wrap up the year positively, making the end of the year enjoyable! 

I have compiled a quick list of 10 easy and fun celebration ideas for you to use in your upper elementary classroom, perfect for the end of year celebrations, last day activities, or anytime during your countdown to the summer!

1. Make a Memory Slideshow

It sounds like a lot of work to make an end of the year slideshow, I know, but it really isn't! And the best part about end of the year slideshows is the kids will want to watch whatever slideshow you create for them over and over again! #teacherwin

To make your slideshow of the year even easier to create, gather some ideas and pictures from your students, their families, and staff. Just email student families and your staff and ask them to share photos of the class that they may have from the year.

Then enlist the help of your students by having them share favorite activities and memories from the school year. You do not have to do anything fancy here, simply give students a blank piece of paper and ask them some basic questions like:

  • What is one activity that you loved and remember doing?
  • What was your favorite project of the year?
  • What is your favorite memory of the school year?
  • Tell me about your favorite recess game.

Limit the questions you ask to about 5 and make sure that the questions you ask do align with the slideshow headers that you use in your presentation.

Personalize the slideshow with student spotlight pages that recognize each student as an individual and add jazzy music to really get celebrating!
end of the school year memory slideshow

2. Community Service Project

Whether you use end-of-the-year class time or your end-of-the-year party time, doing community service activities with your students is a great way to send them off with the message that yes, they can make a difference and kindness counts!

Not sure what type of community service project to do this end of the school year season? These ideas can help you get started!

  • Create pictures, crafts, cards, joke books, or anything fun for the local senior center or veteran center
  • Write thank you cards for important staff members that are often forgotten like cafeteria staff, custodial staff, and front office staff. Grab these free thank you templates to get started!
  • Head down to a younger grade classroom to help younger students clean out their desks and cubbies, or just have your "big kids" read and hang out with the younger kids
  • Have students create colorful bookmarks with scraps and odd-shaped construction paper you have leftover from the year to be given out in the local library or school library.
  • Go all in and have your students organize a "drive" like can food drive for a local pantry or a pet supply drive for the local animal shelter. Students can plan the event, create colorful posters to put around the school, and then sort the items collected. 

3. Word Cloud Project

This project has been around forever, but honestly, the kids love it so much that is really worth doing every year! It is also super easy and inexpensive which is why it made my top ten list!

Here is how to put this project into action:

  1. Make copies of a generic class list for your students. I have a two-column class list that I use throughout the year. One column has student names and the other column is empty.
  2. Give each student a class list. Instruct students to write a word or two that comes to mind about each student in the class. Give students examples of positive and acceptable words like helpful, kind, and thoughtful. Other ideas include: good at math, always smiling, love legos, really anything positive!
  3. Collect the class lists. Now you will have many words that describe each student.
  4. Head over to one of the free websites below to easily make student-specific word clouds.
  5. Print.
  6. Go one step further and add a photo of the student on their word cloud.
  7. Laminate or put in a Dollar Store frame and wrap for students.

The kids love getting these word clouds. It is an easy and inexpensive end-of-year gift that reflects the school year and classroom community that you built!

end of year teacher gift idea for your students

Try one of these sites to create, save, and then print the word clouds you create for your students! 

4. Autograph it all!

Nothing says end of the year like autographs! This can be as easy or elaborate as you want. I have used school yearbooks, beach balls, and just plain paper that had the word "Autographs" and the year on it. No matter what you use, students love giving and getting autographs and messages during the last days of school. 

Here are some ideas of things to autograph during your the end of the school year celebrations:

  • Beach balls
  • Journals
  • Have each student bring in a white t-shirt
  • Have each student bring in a white pillowcase
  • Type Autographs and the year on a piece of paper, make copies and create 2 or 3-page books for students to collect class autographs. 

Teacher tip: Be sure to have fabric markers for this activity if you use shirts or pillowcases!

5. Hula Hoop Contest

On the last day of school every year, we have a hula hoop contest! It is so much fun, easy and so memorable for the kids! For this, my teacher bestie from across the hall (same grade) and I would head down to the gym and borrow some hula hoops from the PE teachers.  We would head outside with the kids and get started.

Here is how it worked:

  1. Each class lines up and then sits down, with the two lines facing each other. In between the two lines of students are two hula hoops on the ground.
  2. Each student is given a number.
  3. Pick a number. The student who is that number gets up and has a hula hoop face-off with the student in the other class with that number. The winner goes to the winner's circle. (Just a spot off to the side with a fancy name.)
  4. Once each student has a turn, the winners from the winner circle all face off. The last student hula hooping is crowned the winner.
  5. Get in on the fun by having a hula hoop face off with your teacher bestie, too! The kids love to cheer for their teacher!

Don't have another class to compete against? That is ok! Just divide your class in half and have the two groups face off!

end of the year party game upper elementary

6. Make a Photo Booth 

Photo booths are so much fun to use any time of the school year, but especially to capture the memories of the end of the school year season!

I suggest creating your end-of-the-year photo booth during the last week of school, that way you have enough time to print and share the pictures you take before the kids say goodbye for the summer.

Create a fun backdrop by having kids decorate butcher size paper or just shine a fun background on your smartboard.

These Print and Go Photo Booth Props are easy to use and colorful! Photobooth done!

7. Game Time

Are your kids buggin' out for summer, too? Harness that excitement and energy by having them create bug-themed math games. I love having the kids use their creativity and the math skills they learned all year to come up with their own math games. Two heads are better than one for this project, so pair your students up and set them off to create math games.

When all students are done, create a math game day! Set up the games around the room and have students rotate through to play each game. Grab a timer and bell to make the time at each game equitable.  The kids LOVE this project and I always enjoy seeing what creative ideas they come up with, too!

Grab the FREE Math Game Activity Project below and put it into action this end of the year season!

free end of the year activity for upper elementary

8. You Rock, Friend

I love doing community-building activities all year long! And since it is commonplace to celebrate students in my classroom, writing appreciation and positive letters to students during the last week of school is a great way to wrap up the year! 

Send your students off for the summer feeling good about themselves with a community-building activity like this one! 

This You Rock, Friend activity is simple yet powerful and oh so memorable!

  1. Have students write their names with a pencil on a small piece of paper and fold it into fourths. Place all the names in a bucket or bowl.
  2. Have students one at a time randomly draw a name from the bucket or bowl, making sure that they did not pick themselves. If they pick themselves, have them show you before selecting a new name.
  3. Students then write a letter to the student whose name they picket. Their letters should be positive, and upbeat with specific examples of why they are happy to be that person's friend and classmate. I also encourage students to include favorite memories of their friend throughout the year since we are celebrating the end of the school year!
  4. For the end of the year we use the theme...You Rock, Friend! The kids love it! They write a letter for their classmate AND decorate the rock page with positive words about their classmate.
  5. When all students are all done creating the cards for their classmates, they deliver them. They really love both giving letters and receiving them!
last day of school activity for kids

9. Yes, you are the expert!

Kids love to show what they learned, so countdown the school year with an activity that helps students show everything they learned this school year!

Instead of creating memory books, I have my students create expert books, and they are always a hit year after year, with the kids and their families!

The concept is simple, students create scrapbook pages of memories of what they learned throughout the year. This makes a great ten-day/two-week countdown to the last day of school because students complete one scrapbook page a day. At the end of the two weeks, compile them in a book and the kids have a memory book with a unique twist!

end of the year memory book upper elementary

10. Welcome to the Real World

When it comes to the craziness of the end of the year, there is nothing better than a project to keep students engaged, working hard, and independent! During those last few crazy days, having students work on projects keeps the class managed, under control, and allows you time to organize the classroom.

My favorite projects are ones that engage students in real-world problem solving, like this Save the Waterpark Math Project.  Think performance-based learning meets the Apprentice TV show. Students must work together as a team to come up with a way to save the waterpark financially while promoting it and getting it back on its feet with new attractions. The kids LOVE these types of projects and I truly enjoy seeing them work hard, show teamwork, and get creative. 

end of the year last week project for upper elementary

This project definitely celebrates the end of the year as kids put all of the skills you taught them to work!

I hope you can use some of these ideas to help make the end of the year, the best of the year! You are amazing, teacher friend, you got this! Happy {almost} summer!

You would also love to read:

Looking for more end-of-the-school-year activities that kids love? See more HERE.

last week or month of school activities for upper elementary

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10 Easy and Fun End of Year Celebration Ideas for Upper Elementary Classrooms

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