Wrapping Up the School Year: A Checklist for Teachers

These last days of school are fast and furious. They can be filled with fun, but your to-do list is also probably growing quickly as you check items off one by one. You are almost at the finish line—so close you can almost taste it!

Finish the school year strong and close down your classroom using this checklist. You will thank yourself when you return to an organized classroom in late August or September!

Checklist available for download as PDF.

Submit final grades.

When you fill out students’ final report card, pay close attention to final grades. When I was a teacher, I would round up grades that ended with a nine (89 to 90, for example). I also jotted down a quick sentence on their report card about their hard work and/or progress that year. Your encouragement matters.

Honor students for their accomplishments.

These may include awards, speeches, gifts, letters, or any special celebrations. In addition to their standard report card, I would also write each student a special letter and tuck it inside their envelopes. I would list academic and character strengths I saw in them and let them know what great thinkers they were and how I knew they were ready for the next grade. In my letters, I encouraged students to take advantage of summer reading programs and invited them to email or send me a letter about what they were doing over the summer. (So many students wrote me letters or emails or visited me the next year to tell me they kept their special letter!)

If your school has an award ceremony, make sure you know what the expectations are. Is every student receiving an award? Are these academic awards or character awards? Review award ceremony etiquette with your students: how to shake hands, get their award, sit down nicely, and clap. To make it even more special, you can even have students dress up. It’s a great time for photos! All of these tasks can take some time, so plan them in advance and get a head-start so you aren’t rushed. You want end-of-year special activities to be thoughtful.

Reflect on your class’s achievements and what students learned.

Talk about their favorite classroom activities, their most challenging tasks, and how they have grown overall. It’s time to honor all that hard work! Celebrate the last week with a countdown of fun activities. I’ve seen teachers use many creative countdowns to engage students during the last week of school. One idea is to have numbered balloons with a special activity written down inside of each. Every day, pop one balloon and have students complete the activity inside. Maybe it’s having a special snack, reading with a partner, extra recess, or getting to bring an item from home the next day. Make it fun!

Plan a day and time to clean the classroom WITH the students.

My first graders loved helping me clean our classroom to prepare it for next year's students. Students of any age can wipe down desks, tables, and furniture. They can sort and organize classroom books, paper, pencils, crayons, and cubes. They love to help! Every year, I had students take down student work from the walls, which was very helpful. However, it can be a good idea to consider what can stay on the walls for the next year and only take down what you have to. Additionally, leave student work on the walls until the last week of school. Do not start cleaning too early. This signals to the students that the year is over.

Send students’ supplies home.

Send home folders, crayons, pencils, erasers, scissors, mostly used workbooks, spirals, and journals. A veteran tip: Save a handful of the most popular crayon colors for next year—you know, the colors that kids were always asking if you had an extra. Do the same with expo markers and glue stick tops. You will find dried out markers and glue sticks as you clean; save the tops for your next class. Students can put their supplies straight into their backpacks and will now have them at home.

Set aside some time to tackle the areas only you can clean.

Clean and organize your cabinets, supplies, and desk. As you are cleaning your classroom, think about what you can recycle and give away. Have left over Kleenex boxes? Gift some to a librarian or the music, art, or physical education teacher. They will love you for it! Think about how you used the space and what you would change in the future to become more efficient. If you have anything in your classroom that needs to be replaced or repaired, make note of it for the staff.

Break down the classroom.

The cleaning crew comes in the summer, and furniture will likely get moved around. Be mindful of that. Clean off your desk, cover bookshelves or move books, stack items on back counters, and put up decorations that you don’t want to be moved around or jostled. If you have items of value like a microwave, coffee pot, or mini fridge, take them home. Don’t risk them getting stolen or broken.

On the last day of school, take time to think.

Take a few quiet minutes in your classroom to think back since the summer. Consider what you liked and what you would change. Think about what worked and what didn’t. Think about your classroom setup and how you want it to look the following year. Make a list of items you need for your classroom when you come back after the summer. It’s easier to make a list now while your memories are still fresh. I would look around my room and it would jog my memory: I will need more magnets, more highlighter tape, hand sanitizer, and more blue fadeless colored paper for bulletin boards (it does exist). Print out any curriculum information. Take books you need for professional development in the summer. Take your teaching badge with you. Update passwords or bring passwords for different sites home in case you need access to them.

The best advice I have (from 16 years teaching in a public school) is to not wait until the last day. Throwing things in cabinets will not make the need for cleaning go away. Coming back to a messy classroom is like starting off on the wrong foot. It is more work at the beginning of the year when you are typically at your busiest.

Congratulations on closing out another year in a hard profession that rewards you with student accomplishments, hugs, and forever grateful families. Everything you do in the classroom matters. Every detail. Every plan. Every thought. Thank you for your dedication and hard work. Summer is almost upon us!

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