Can you believe it? The end of the year is soooooooooo soon. We came back from spring break (which was earlier than usual this year) and I was shocked to find there were less than 50 teaching days left. How am I going to fit it all in? What can I do to close out the year for my kiddos?

I bet I'm not the only one having these to see FIVE (Updated 4/24/17) of my favorite end of year ideas, then hop on to the next blog to find more! 

Let's super power through the end of the year together! :)

1. Go outside! Learning outside can be fun and motivating. Measure playground equipment for math, observe clouds for weather in science, draw something in nature, take a book outside and read, use clipboards to take worksheets outside, or even take a little extra recess time. Nice weather always motivates me to think creatively and get my students outside!

2. End of Year Report Card: You grade all year long, let them grade you! Students can give you feedback about their favorite classes and what they like, or didn't like, this year. It's always fun to read their ideas and see what classes were their favorites. We make a bar graph (sometimes a large one on the wall using post-its) and talk abut why they picked certain grades. It's so interesting to find out what projects they loved and what units they really disliked. Click here for this freebie.

3. Write a Letter: Have students write a letter full of advice for the upcoming class. They can give them all of their tips for surviving fourth grade (or second, or third, or fifth, etc.). They are funny to share as a group, and they get to practice their letter writing and proofreading skills! Another letter option is to have students write a letter to THEMSELVES about what they think will happen in the next grade. They can write goals they'll accomplish, what they think the teachers will be like, and whether they'll like the next grade as much as they loved their current grade (because of course they loved having you!). Either they address the letter to themselves and I mail it at the end of the following school year, or I can hand deliver them if they're still at my school. I used to do this when I was in high school for a class and I loved reading what I wrote each year, so I adopted this as an idea for my students now. 

4. Argument about Books: I love to read all kinds of books, but I know my students don't. I have them evaluate ALL of the stories we read throughout the year and pick one that I HAVE to teach my next group of fourth graders and one that I should NEVER teach again. Of course, they have to tell me why! We end up having great debates about the stories, plus it has helped me to learn what stories that I should try to replace, because I know if my students aren't interested, they won't be engaged learners. 

5. End of Year Lapbook: This is the perfect way for students to create a memory book of their time in your class. We draw three of our favorite memories, create a glyph of our favorite summer activities, and write some fun facts about 4th grade. My students LOVE creating these each year. We always have time to share and autograph everyone's lapbook also. Click here to check out this lapbook. (P.S. It's not just for 4th grade- there are customizable options for several grades available.)

Have you tried any of these? What are some of your favorite end of year activities? Share below!

This post was originally part of a blog hop with a giveaway. The giveaway has ended, but you can still check out these other amazing posts to learn more end of the year tips & activities. 

Check out the next post at LisaTeachR's Classroom :)

It's all about a dog. I mean, how can you look in those eyes and not fall desperately in love? 

This is my fur baby, MacGyver, telling me not to work anymore and just snuggle.
Okay, but really, I'm here to tell you about another dog that I read about with my students every year and use him to get them hooked on poetry. 

This post may contain some affiliate links, which means if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission. You will never incur a fee or charge for this.
Sharon Creech's book Love That Dog is the perfect way to jump start a unit on poetry, especially in April, during National Poetry Month. It's funny, engaging, and really makes you feel all the emotions as you read about Jack and his dog.

I introduce my students slowly by creating this blown up version of the first page, and asking them to respond. We've been using whiteboard responses daily (idea from @miss5th on Instagram!) as a community builder. As soon as they walk through the door each morning, they look to see what's on the board and instantly start talking about it. The conversations I overhear are AMAZING. The discussion for this board was no exception. "Who's Jack?" "Why can't boys write poetry?" "Room 105- where's that?" "I don't want to what?" "I don't agree with Jack!" 

And check out those written responses! (Yes, there's one or two little stinkers who said they agreed with Jack and couldn't write poetry! Ha *cue evil teacher laugh*- just wait until later, friends!)

Now that I've gotten their attention, I show them the book and tell them how we're going to be listening to it in class. 

To prepare for our listening, I provide my kiddos with a couple things- 

  1. One book for each pair (so they can follow along visually, and also to refer back to later). If I can get one book per student, then I do that, but for this set, I have one for each pair. 
  2. Interactive tab books, that they help me prep with some quick cutting and stapling, with a little extra time to start to color the cover.
  3. A little dog-themed treat. I especially like using Scooby-Doo! Baked Graham Cracker Sticks, Cinnamon, 11-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 6), because they're shaped liked bones and all of my students (even the ones with allergies and braces) can eat. If food doesn't work for you, check these cute dog paw erasers...or these pencils
    ...or these paw-shaped notepads...I almost bought all of them but then I remembered I'm not throwing a party, just getting them hooked ;)
Interactive tab book :)

Now we're in business! To listen, you can read it out loud, buy the audio book, or even borrow the audio book from the library! My library has it available so I can access it through our internet which is awesome-sauce. 

After we read Love that Dog and work through our interactive tab books, it's time to jump into writing poetry. We start off just like Jack did- imitating poetry. We create a poem modeled after his "Love that Dog," which is of course modeled after Walter Dean Myers's poem "Love that Boy." These are so fun to do!

Once we've written that first poem, it's time to start our Poetry Writing Unit. We dive into a variety of poetry- acrostic, cinquain, color poem, concrete (see that awesome star below!?!), creature alliteration, and more. By the end, even my students who thought they wouldn't like poetry usually love what they created. For more about writing poetry, check out this blog post.

For a free pre-writing activity for a poem, see this post.

What do you do in your classroom to celebrate National Poetry Month?

So far, we've gotten students engaged here and we've done all of the pre-writing organizing it's time for writing conferences. You as the teacher need to meet with students and the students need to meet with their peers also. 

Here's the thing about writing conferences...they take time. Some are longer than others, but they can take time. I don't know about you guys, but sometimes I have 30 students in a class. 30! Even if they each take 5 minutes (minimum!!!), that's 150 minutes. And I only have 90 minutes for my language arts block. You know that time, when you have to fit in reading, spelling, and grammar in addition to the writing. Eek.

But, hold on, take a deep breathe. We've got this. I'm going to break this down into the who/what/how of writing conferences for you.

Who needs to have a conference? 

EVERY STUDENT. All of them. Molly, Frank, Christina, Ricky, and Billy. They need to meet with a peer AND they need to meet with you.

What do you say and do when conferencing? 

For students to peer edit, you'll need to coach them through that and show them how to give them suggestions. I usually set them up with forms to fill out and guide them through their conversation.

What do I say? Depends on the student. This is the best time to differentiate for your kiddos because you can push them the extra mile, or give them a more guided scaffold of what you expect. For example, in narrative writing, I have some students who can not only write paragraphs, but they can add dialogue and even create CHAPTERS for their story. Those are the ones I push the extra mile. Can you add more detail? Set the scene a little. Show HOW the character is friendly/scary/funny instead of saying it. 

For those darlings that barely have an idea, and need to really develop their writing more, I start questioning them. Where did the magic come from? How was the villain defeated? What does it mean when you say "Leroy ran away but then we found him"? How can we make that more exciting? What did he run from? How did you find him? What happened while he was gone? Depending on the student, sometimes I scribe their thoughts for them, or I write out the questions and send them to answer the questions before we conference again. 

It's important to remember that it's THEIR piece of writing, not yours. 

Also, I edit for spelling and grammar as needed, sometimes asking the student if they know how to correct it, and sometimes just showing them what needs to be fixed. 

But, HOW do I manage meeting with individuals when I have so many other students that need me?

First of all, establish that writing conference time is one-on-one time with you and another student and NO ONE should interrupt you unless someone is vomiting/bleeding profusely/clearly dying. 

When conferences start, most of my other students are either writing their rough drafts or peer editing. By the time, I've met with a few students and sent them to work on their final drafts, I have a list of 20+ names that I need to meet with. This is where a MUST DO/CAN DO chart comes in handy. 

MUST DOs include where they are in the writing process- write rough draft, edit someone else's paper, sign up to meet with Mrs. Veise, and write (or type) final draft. I always explain that sometimes there is a time that their MUST DO list is on pause while they wait for me (or for a student to pair up with). That's when they move to CAN DO. 

CAN DOs include:

  • Journal writing
  • Read a book
  • Extra activities packet (I always put together a set of independent work that reinforces skills we've practiced in class and sometimes it's themed with their writing project- for example writing plural nouns and the words are all Halloween-esque since we're writing a scary story.)
  • Word Work station
  • Write a book recommendation
CAN DOs can be switched up and changed around to fit your needs. So can MUST DOs. If you want them to use their "free" time while waiting to finish up an independent assignment, this is the perfect time. Work in their reading response journals, or put together part of their lapbook or interactive notebook. As long as it's something they can complete without bothering you during a conference, you're golden :) 

WOO- we've almost made it! The last step we're going to talk about will be publishing...and how to get creative with it. See you soon! 

P.S. Questions about writing? Leave them in the comments and I'll help you out!

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