Thursday, August 25, 2016

End the Chaos and 'ZEN' The End of Your Day!

Does the end of the day chaos leave you with a giant case of the grumpies? Have you ever had an amazing day with your kids only to have it ruined by the madness that ensues during pack-up? Do you ever feel like you become a Miss Viola Swamp because you’re just trying to survive and get these kids out while they’re each still in one piece?

There was a time where I felt this way too. It was awful. I would dread the end of the day and totally lose control of my kids. I am here to tell you how I’ve created Zen in my classroom at the end of each and every day!

When it is time to get ready to pack up the very first thing we do at the end of every day is Magic Scrap. We do this every single day, all year long, and it never gets old.

You might have heard of a version of Magic Scrap somewhere else, but this is what I do. As the day is drawing to a close I simply say, "I have a magic scrap in mind," The kids hear this signal and begin frantically cleaning ev-er-y-THING. They know that the magic scrap can be anything in the classroom. It doesn't have to be a scrap, it could be a glue stick with the lid off, a chair that's out of place, or Goldfish crackers crumbs. They clean faster than lightning and it takes 2 to 3 minutes and the classroom is spotless.

 Someone may have found the Magic Scrap I was thinking of in the first 5 seconds, but I don’t announce that it has been found until the room is clean. Once the room is clean I say… “The Magic Scrap has been found”. At that point, the kids know that they have 5 seconds to be in their seats. I tell them that if they're not in their seats after 5 seconds, they can't win the magic scrap. I don't know if I would hold true to that, but I've never had to, because they're always all in their seats at the end of 5 seconds. Teacher win!

Now is the fun part, I announce the winner by saying, "Oh, Florencia," and then they would all repeat. Next I say, "You found the magic scrap." and again they repeat. Sometimes we'll do it in an opera voice, or a little mousy voice, or a big deep voice, whatever just to keep it fun. Now we’ve just taken 3 minutes and our classroom is spotless and the kids are settled in their seats.

Kids have been sitting still for a good portion of the day, and expecting them to sit still for 5 to 10 minutes longer and do nothing, is a really unrealistic expectation. So next, I have a student pass out a half sheet of blank paper.  If kids would like to, they can doodle or color. They know that this is not the time to make their best masterpiece, but of course they can take it home if they would like. Some kids choose to put their heads down and rest or take out a book and that’s totally fine too. The point is that every kid has something to do while they are waiting for their turn to pack up or for others   to finish packing up. 

For the end of the day to go smoothly you need to have a clear set of routines that you have practiced and perfected together. Brooke from Teach Outside the Box reminded me at the beginning of the year, “When it comes to teaching procedures, assume they know nothing”. We need to teacher them the tiniest of details.

While the rest of the class is keeping busy on their art:
1.     A table excuser go around and they do a double knock on one table at a time.
2.     When that table it excused they follow the path around the perimeter of our classroom (tiny detail>>) They cannot weave or go between desks or tables). Following that path, they first stop and get their coat and backpack.
3.     Next they continue around the path and stop at the cubbies. (tiny ,but very important detail>>) They do not pack up at their cubby. They must grab their mail and take it back to their seat to put in their backpack. If everyone stops and to pack-up at their cubby it will take much longer and cause a traffic jam. These are the details they need to be aware of and practice. 
4.     Once the first table has cleared out of the coat area the table excuser may excuse the next table (tiny detail>>) They are in charge of avoiding traffic jams and keeping things flowing)
5.     After packing up at their seat they place their backpack beside them and work on their art piece.
6.     Each table continues the pack-up process while I complete all the important tasks that can ordinarily be overwhelming among all the end of the day chaos that now no longer exists!

All of these routines along with our clean classroom allow me to focus on checking in with kids at the end of the day, getting any last minute transportation notes in order, filling out behavior forms if I need to and I’m sure I’m missing a zillion and one other tasks that we’re responsible for.

The last piece is to make it fun. These are our end of the day challenges. They are fun and silly and we love them. 

You can click any of the pictures or grab them HERE!

We don’t have a challenge everyday, but the kids always beg to have one. Challenges have three main rules you always have the goal of being the quietest and the quickest and you must always be safe. Before ever beginning pack-up I let them know if we will have a pack-up challenge for the day and what that challenge is.  I watch for a single students or a table team that works really hard to complete the challenge whiIe packing up quickly, safely and quietly. 

When we are all lined up I announce the winner(s) of the challenge, and then they get some sort of reward. That reward doesn't have to be a treat. Sometimes I'll do the little erasers that you get in the dollar spot at Target. Other times it will be something as simple as the winner getting to leave the line first to walk out to recess.

Some of my kids favorites are “Smile-a-thon”, “Zombie”, “Criss Cross” and “Buddy-Pack”, but as I’m sure you can imagine that one is a bit less quiet.

It feels good to end each day feeling like the teacher I always want to be. I haven't seen that grouchy end of the day teacher in a long time and I never want to. Most importantly, my kids are leaving with smiles on their faces and they're excited to come back the next day. That alone can tell us we’re doing something right.

I hope these tisp will he you find “Zen” at the end of your day!

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