Making The Basics Fun Letter u had two eyes making it look like a smile face
End Of Day Classroom Routines Graphic

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Classroom Routines For The End Of The Day In Kindergarten & First-Grade

The end of the day can be chaotic in kindergarten and first-grade. We know our learners thrive on a predictable routine and schedule but they also need an environment that is playful and full of joy. That’s why making the end of the day routines a time of fun and relationship building is so important. We want our students happy and ready to share stories about their day with their families. And we want to have a little energy and calm for ourselves too. (Hey, you count… don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)

Learn From My Mistakes

In this blog post, I want to share my experiences and insights into creating these calm, fun, and joyful end of the day routines. I’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to.  These routines worked so well for me I invited my admin to watch for one of my observation times.  

End Of Day Routines Video

For more details (It’s really hard to get it into a blog post) and a complete walkthrough watch the video below. 

Text: Let Music Do The Work

The Gift of Time

In the kindergarten setting, time is a precious resource. I’ve found that allocating a dedicated window of 15 to 35 minutes at the end of the school day is a game-changer. It might seem like a lot at first, but these minutes are going to go quickly and they will ensure that everything gets done. These final minutes  allowed me and my students to: 

  1. Get cleaned up 
  2. Get ready to leave at the end of the day.
  3. Have fun.
  4. Build community. and
  5.  Leave with joy and happiness.
Text: Routines = Control

Simple Outline of The End Of The Day Routines

If you are like me I like to know the beginning, middle and end of any routine. I’ll go into each later but I want to give you a bird’s eye view to help you make sense of the rest of this post. 

I’m going to include an approximate time for each just so you have a bit of an idea how it might look. Here it is:

  1. 2:40- Kids hear the clean up song and clean up their activity. They head to their seats.
  2. 2:43 – I turn on the Star Wars Theme song and they scour the room for “yuckies”. They throw the yuckies into the garbage and return to their seat. 
  3. 2:47 – The “Death Star” (Me) searches the room for any missed “yuckies”. Students are awarded points based on how well they picked up. For every missed yucky a point is deducted.
  4. 2:49- I play the Pink Panther theme song. This cues students to let them know I am looking for kids who are ready to get themselves ready to go home.  As the song plays I tap kids on the head or shoulder. This releases them to do tasks like stack their chair, get papers from their mailbox, get coats, backpacks, lunches etc ready to go at their desk.
  5. 2:49-2:55 Students gather on the floor to participate in songs with motions. 
  6. 2:55 Student check in. How was the day? Thumbs up, middle or down? Talk with a partner about your day.
  7. 3:00 -Storytime. 
  8. 3:15- Line-up in go-home lines. Sing a goodbye song and leave.

The Power of Music Cues

As I’ve discovered, music is a magical tool for managing transitions. I’ve used specific songs to signal different actions. It’s amazing how music can make the transition from one activity to another smoother and more enjoyable. For instance, different songs could signal the time to clean up or tidy up. If you want to know more about the songs I used to transition kids check out this post complete with a song list. 

Text: Put Happy Helper To Work

The Role of the Happy Helper

A kid favorite aspect of my end of the day routine is the “Happy Helper.” This special role, assigned to a student, involves managing certain songs and activities. I tell them they are my co-teacher and they have certain responsibilities. They take their job very seriously and when we practice our end of day routines the happy helpers part is the part the kids love the most.  Involving students in such roles not only empowers them but also lightens my load, making the classroom management process smoother.

Clean-Up and Classroom Tidiness

Wanting a clean and organized classroom is an important part to building end of day routines. In my classroom, we made tidying up a collective effort. I called it “picking up pieces of yucky,” and the kids liked to do this because of the community and pride they felt in a job well done. Not only does it teach responsibility, but it also ensures that the classroom is left in excellent condition for our custodians.

Text: Cue The Clean-Up Song

Cue The Clean-UP Song

To make it fun I used songs to cue clean up. Basically they “flew” around the room to the Star Wars theme song looking for paper and other “yuckies”. By the end of the song they needed to be back to their seat. That’s when the real fun began. This part of the end of the day routine is so fun to watch. The kids are busy having fun and cleaning up.

Teachers Can Have Fun Too

I then “flew” around the room humming the Darth Vader theme song looking for any “yuckies” that they missed. They had a chance to win 10 points toward a class reward.  If I found 1 yucky they now only received 9. If I found 2 yuckies they got 8. You see how it goes. 

Text Teacher vs Students... Guess Who Wins?

Teacher vs Student For The Win

It was a bit of a Teacher vs the Class competition.  Little did they know… either way… I win with this end of the day routine ! 🏅

End Of Day Routine - The Gradual Release

One of my favorite strategies for creating a smooth transition is the concept of gradual release. Instead of directing all students to complete tasks simultaneously, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to dismiss them one by one. This gradual release minimizes chaos and allows me to maintain better control over the process. But how did I make it fun? How did it feel like a game?  Keep reading. 

Text: Cue More Songs

More Songs To Help Manage The End Of Day Routines

To help facilitate the gradual release at the end of the day to get coats etc, I used my co-teacher (AKA a song.) 

I would put on the theme to the Pink Panther and sneak around the room looking for students who were ready to go home.  If they were ready I’d tap them and they could get all their go home routines going. First, they stacked their chairs, then got the stuff from their mailbox. Lastly, they got their coat, backpack and other belongings out to their desk where they could organize themselves and then walk over to the meeting area. 

You Have Control… And That’s Awesome!!

With this gradual release I could control a lot and still have fun doing it. If I knew certain students couldn’t be trusted to be in the coat closet together then I didn’t tap one until the other exited.

I could also make sure that some of my students who needed a little extra time got tapped first allowing them to have a few more minutes than the speedy ones. 

Text: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

End Of Day Relationship Building and Vocabulary Builder

Encouraging students to reflect on their day is another important step andI believe that kids need to talk. The more time we can give them to talk the happier and smarter they become. That’s why at the end of the day we had a check-in time. I’ve used simple thumbs-up, middle thumb, and thumbs-down gestures to allow students to express how their day went. This provides a platform for them to share their feelings and for me to gain insights into their well-being.

Let Them Talk

Then they were given time to talk to a partner about their day and sometimes share with the whole class.  If they had a downturned thumb they were encouraged to find a way to spot a positive in the negative experience. 

Turning Bad Days into Learning Opportunities

On days when things don’t go as planned, I’ve adopted an approach of turning bad days into learning opportunities. Instead of viewing these days as entirely negative, I encourage students to find the lessons in these experiences. This not only promotes resilience but also nurtures a growth mindset.

Text "Word Are Power"

Encouraging Self-Advocacy

I firmly believe in teaching students to advocate for themselves. When they practice talking with a partner at the end of the day they can now have a framework of sharing with family members. I encourage them to share their experiences with their parents and guardians, reminding them to mention how amazing their teacher is. This not only strengthens the connection between home and school but also instills confidence in students.

If you want to know more about how this looked make sure you watch this video about the end of day routines in kindergarten and first grade. 

Classroom Organization for Efficient Transitions

Text: Line-Up, Line-Up

An organized classroom goes a long way in ensuring that the end of the day routine runs smoothly. Stacking chairs, collecting mail, and gathering belongings are part of the process. Different lines for various activities, such as bus, walker, and after-school lines, help me keep things orderly and ensure that I have a clear view of where each student is headed.

There's A Line For That

Having separate “Good-Bye” lines made it easy to stager kids and know for sure they were heading in the right direction when they left the room. I had an after-school program line, a walker line, a bus line, a pick up line and a “I have to call my mom”. 

Text Bring The Fun

A Joyful Goodbye with a Song

To wrap up the day on a positive note, I’ve adopted the practice of using a cheerful goodbye song. As my students leave the classroom, we sing it together, creating a sense of unity and joy. This end of day routine became a highlight of the day and reinforced the fun and learning we experienced.

"Hi-ho, Hi-ho! It’s home from school we go. We’ve had some fun but now we're done. Hi-ho, Hi-ho."

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

I hope that you can use some of these routines and ideas to build an end of day routine that you and your students will love.

In conclusion, crafting an effective set of end of the day routines in a kindergarten or first-grade classroom is more than just a logistical endeavor; it’s about creating a joyful and positive experience for both the teacher and the students. 

By allocating the right amount of time, incorporating engaging activities, using music cues, and teaching students responsibility, you can create an environment where everyone leaves with a smile, ready to share their positive experiences with their loved ones.

In these challenging times, teachers need to support one another more than ever. Please share your own tips and experiences in the comments section to contribute to the growing community of educators dedicated to making each day in the classroom a memorable one. 

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Angie K

Angie K

I love to help teachers create an amazing teacher life.
I've taught for 25+ years and I want to help you find joy and energy in each day.

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