End of Year Cleaning

The school year is wrapping up, and it’s time to start thinking about that end of year cleaning checklist. Those of you who work in schools, how do you handle this? Do you have a routine? Do you involve students? It can be a bit overwhelming some years.

I don’t know of many jobs where you have to pack up your entire office and work area on a  yearly basis other than teaching. I am glad for it though, because it provides an annual opportunity to reevaluate materials and setup. It’s a scheduled time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, what was useful and what is just taking up space.

For me, it’s also a time to plan for next year. We have to have our classroom furniture setup taped to our board before we leave for the summer, so our generous custodial staff can arrange it for us when they return things to the room after clearing it out to clean. I cannot say how grateful I am to them for doing this. This is the only school I’ve heard of where they don’t just dump everything in the room and leave it to the teacher to arrange upon our return. It is a huge blessing! It does mean I have to have my layout planned several months in advance of the new year though, and once I get started with planning one aspect I just keep going…

I like to involve my students in cleaning on the very last day. I’m not going to get any productive, academic work out of them, but it’s still important they have structured tasks to do. I think it also helps students develop a sense of pride in their classroom and responsibility towards the classroom community, especially since two-thirds of my students will return to my room next year. They get to see their handiwork and feel pride in preparing the room for the incoming sixth grades.

This year I stumbled upon a cool idea for end of the year cleaning task cards for students over here at Chalk and Apples TpT store, and I decided to develop a similar idea. My students already have classroom jobs through the year, and we use a classroom economy. However, there are always a couple students who end the year in debt, and I’ve never really known what to do about this. I don’t want to roll the debt ever into the next year, because I like everyone to start on a fresh, positive note. There’s no practical consequence though, so this year I thought I would have students work off the debt by helping with end of year packing and cleaning. They were going to earn so much debt cancellation for different chores that needed doing. That didn’t work out very well, because all my students wanted to help clean, even though I gave the debt free students the option of free computer or phone time. So, while this activity failed to be a consequence for ending the year with debt, it was a very successful and helpful method for structuring the end of year clean up and organizing all the tasks students could help with.

Anyway this is what I came up with:

eoy job mat

What do you think? You can download your own copy here at my TpT store. I laminated it and had students check off each task as they finished. Student favorites were the bulletin board and the supply closet. I actually had 2  students working together on the closet with my assistance. They really liked organizing everything and deciding where our supplies for next year would go. I also let them take home anything I didn’t want anymore.

I decided to go crayon free for next year. My middle school students have decided crayons are too young, and they haven’t been touched in my room for two years. I let my pencil sharpener take home as many as he wanted and then had him create bags of crayons for students to take home and give to younger siblings.

So, what do you do on the last day of school? Do you involve your students in cleaning and packing? If so what tasks do you have them do? Is there anything you would add or remove from my menu board?

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T4: A Novel by Ann Clare LeZotte

T4

How many of you teach social studies? When you cover World War II, do you discuss the T4 program and the experimentation and attempted extermination of people with deafness?

Every year, I am amazed at my students lack of knowledge about T4. It would seem an easy way to make the Holocaust relatable to our DHH students, yet the majority of my students have no idea that it wasn’t just Jews who were targeted during the war but individuals with disabilities, among other populations.

In my first year teaching, I discovered a fantastic book for a literature connection to my WWII unit. T4: A Novel by Ann Clare Lezotte is a historical fiction YA about a Deaf teen in Germany. Paula was mostly uneducated and isolated by her language that was limited to home signs. When the T4 program begins in Germany, a local priest convinces Paula’s family to send her into hiding. Paula is only distantly aware of the war and why she is leaving her home as she is hidden in one place after another. Along the way, Paula gains communication skills, independence, and confidence she never had when she relied on family to do everything for her. She also meets a young man, Kurt, who is also hiding from the Nazis, but for different reasons. Paula and Kurt develop a deep connection that eventually becomes romantic.

Boys and girls of all ages can find something within this novel to connect to on a personal level while still making those important text to world connection on both a historical and current level. The book is written in free verse form (perfect for April National Poetry Month). It is appropriate for even low-level readers with support and provides plenty of opportunity for grammar/language lessons, poetry lessons, and figurative language identification and discussion. Students gain a different, more personal perspective about the European WWII experience.

I use this book every year, both as part of my ELA classes and my social studies class. I’ve also used this with itinerant students and GED students. It works well for ages 11 and up. Strong readers could read it younger. All my students have had “aha!” moments when reading this book, and most of them really enjoyed it, even if they don’t normally admit to liking books. It is definitely one of the more popular books on my shelves.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I do wish there was more history included, but Paula’s isolation and lack of awareness prevent too much detail from being included. Other than that, this is a fun, well-written and genuinely powerful book about love and independence under the obstacle of social isolation and war.

Have any of you read this book? What did you think? Please share your opinion and any lesson suggestions.