We all know the importance of the first six weeks of school. We build positive relationships with students and a strong sense of community membership within our classes. We establish consistent and predictable routines to help students feel safe and allow them to navigate learning more independently. We also build excitement about academics—generating enthusiasm for the year’s work. Finally, we create beautiful classroom environments to set a tone of calm and professionalism—sending the message that we care about work here.

As it turns out, these are the exact same things we should pay attention to as the year winds down. Now, as the weather warms, it’s important to remember that for many of our students, summer vacation isn’t something to look forward to. Schools are the only safe and predictable places for some students. Even those who have great summers ahead of them are anxious about leaving their teacher(s) and friends and worried about the year ahead. Paying attention to these four practices: relationships, routines, academics, and environments, can help keep students finish the year with a flourish instead of a flop. Below are a bunch of ideas for you to consider!


Celebrate a class’s year together and reinforce students’ sense of belonging to help kids feel connection to others and a sense of community membership. Help them reminisce about the year while looking forward to the next one. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Play class favorite games and sing favorite songs
  • Build a class memory book
  • Create a bulletin board of learning and events from the year
  • Make a class coloring book of memories
  • Create a class yearbook
  • Invite former students in to share about the next grade
  • Have a school-wide step-up day to meet next year’s teachers
  • Have all students write one positive thing about all classmates and put together a list for each student
  • Have each student decorate a t-shirt and then sign each other’s shirts
  • Create a class time capsule to be opened in a few years
  • Get outside and play fun games together

Consistent Routines

Maintaining and reinforcing routines creates a safe and predictable environment—important all year, but especially important as the year winds down. Consider some of the following ideas to help your students feel safe:

  • Be especially consistent with beginning and end of the day routines
  • Model expected routines/behaviors as needed
  • Revisit rules
  • Maintain a posted schedule
  • Consider reducing choices to a manageable number
  • Be patient and consistent
  • Don’t let “little” things (walking in halls, etc.) slide

Classroom Spaces

This time of year classrooms can start to look shabby. Posters have bent corners and are falling off the wall, books are askew on shelves, and pencils litter the floor. This may accidentally send the message that careful work no longer matters. Keep rooms looking good as the year winds down with some of these ideas:

  • Spend 30 min. at the end of one day as a class cleaning and straightening
  • Take down old posters
  • Add new student work to walls
  • Add fresh plants to the room
  • Wash down furniture
  • Get rid of junky supplies (dry markers, broken rulers, etc.)
  • Create new bulletin board displays
  • Brainstorm more ideas as a class—How can we make our room look awesome?

Great Academic Work

This is the perfect time of year to pull out all of the stops when it comes to academic engagement. Make sure units and activities are fun and celebratory. Reinforce students’ sense of accomplishment, helping them feel eager and ready for the next year. Here are just a few ideas to consider:

  • Look back through writing notebooks to notice growth
  • Create a class anthology of student writing to celebrate
  • Create board games to reinforce content learned throughout the year
  • Play a game of Jeopardy with student generated questions—ones that reinforce learning
  • Get outside for some fun science work
  • Write children’s books to demonstrate learning
  • Create Kahn Academy style videos to help next year’s students learn skills
  • Create a class terrarium and observe/study
  • Have a riveting class read-aloud (or two) ready to go

One Final Idea: A Staff Meeting Activity

Many of these ideas were generated by staff in the Frontier Regional and Union 38 School Districts in Massachusetts at a recent staff meeting. (Thanks, everyone in FRSU 38!) In your school, you can generate your own ideas. Split into small groups, and have each group chart ideas in these four categories on chart paper. Then, have everyone engage in a gallery walk, perusing charts and jotting down ideas they’d like to try. It’s a simple and fun way to help share lots of great ideas for bringing the school year to a positive and productive finish!