End of the Year Survival Guide
















Let’s face it, at this time of year, we all feel like the owl on the right. Keeping students engaged at the end of the year is like running a three-ring circus, leaving teachers tired and exasperated. Use these 8 tips to survive (and enjoy) the end of year countdown:

End of year collage

1. Create portfolios: Showcase students’ finest work samples with student-made portfolios. Make durable portfolios by folding pieces of poster board and stapling along the sides. Students can draw a detailed picture with crayon and then add water color to make a beautiful crayon resist effect. While the class is working, help students individually determine which pieces to include in their portfolios. Be sure to include rubrics and learning scales that accompany each piece.

Creating portfolios

My students used this owl template as a table of contents for portfolio contents. They colored and added craft feathers to owl and glued onto the dried portfolio after completion.

Owl portfolios

Portfolio 3

Portfolio 2

Students wrote Author’s Notes on the back of portfolios that provide a short biography and current picture. We studied several examples from our favorite authors first. Students were so proud to have their very own version just like many authors they studied throughout the year.

Meet the Author notes

2. Reflect on learning: In the beginning of the year, my students completed reading and math attitude surveys, giving me vital information about their background knowledge, strategy application, and confidence level. I was surprised at how many lacked strategies and self-help skills. I gave the same surveys at the end of the year and the growth was tremendous. Students could easily explain strategies they used and all were very confident. I included a picture of one of my favorites. When asked what students do when they need help with reading, the student responded, “I use my strategies, obviously!”.

Students can also track their own assessment data on bar graphs, creating a meaningful visual of growth throughout the year. My students graph their DIBELS fluency scores, monthly Morrison McCall Spalding spelling tests, and Saxon fact assessment scores. Tracking growth helps students take ownership in their learning and is a great way to celebrate success.

Reflection 1

Reflection 2

3. Create end of year journals: Use This Year Was A Hoot! to reflect and record key highlights from the year. This customizable journal includes A Note From The Wise Old Owl (write a special note to your class), OWL-Stars (place for class photos), Branching Out (students record what they learned, became, who they met and how they felt), HOO-Ray! (students write top 10 events of the school year) and much more. My students loved OWL of these activities! Parents enjoy seeing the end of school year journals too.

Pages from ThisYearWasAHootEndofSchoolYearJournal

4. Review with sidewalk chalk: Review and practice important concepts using sidewalk chalk. Give students a story problem to solve or a reading response question and allow them to use sidewalk chalk to complete it. Chalk is perfect for spelling and fact practice as well. Plus, it washes off easily with soap and water.

Sidewalk chalk

5. Hold an awards ceremony: Celebrate accomplishments with a classroom awards ceremony. I purchased these inexpensive plastic trophies from Party City and used address labels to make these customized awards. I award trophies for top reader, most improved reader, good citizenship, perfect attendance and much more. Students LOVE them and some actually think they are real gold.

TrophiesParty City Trophies6. Plan cooking projects: Find recipes for a theme-based snack or a craft project to use as a culminating activity. Students love these and they provide an opportunity to read functional text. We just finished Charlotte’s Web so my students read a recipe to create these cute pig cupcakes.

Cooking projects7. Make review bags: Create review bags that include worksheets, games, and text at students’ instructional levels. Encourage students to read and review for at least 30 minutes daily. During the first week of school, I provide a reunion breakfast for students who completed the summer review bag. This is a great incentive to review throughout the summer, plus it provides a wonderful opportunity to catch up with former students. I use a Bashas’ brown bag to hold materials because the sturdy handles allow for easy transportation.

Summer review bagsSummer review bag

8. Provide an end of the year gift: Books make the best gifts and there are always great deals through book orders. This year I made these adorable owl gift bags and added our decoding and comprehension bookmark from Really Good Stuff and an owl lollipop. I can’t wait for them to open them!

OWL Treat BagOwl treat bag materials

Have a great end of the year survival tip? Please share below. Enjoy your last few days with students–we can make it!


Jessica’s Summer Story

The Astute Hoot girls are living some amazing summer stories! Tina is nearing the last leg of her 11,000-mile Creative RV Tour with her husband, Nick. Jen is venturing to Northern Arizona with her husband, Todd, and their boys, Alec and Jake, to witness the splendor the Grand Canyon for the first time. While both of these adventures sound incredible, I needed a little tropical infusion embedded into my summer story. The beach has always been my place of peace and solace, one where I can completely unwind. I usually travel to San Diego, but this year I needed a change of scenery and decided it was the perfect time to visit my brother, Jordan, in Miami. Boarding the plane, I was thinking only of the tedious 4.5-hour flight, completely underestimating the powerful impact this trip would have on me.
Upon the first few hours of arrival, I settled into my summer relaxation mode: lots of lounging accompanied by a little shopping and some delicious cuisine. After four peaceful, yet fairly non-descript days, Jordan and I packed up and headed to the Keys, the beginning of a truly perfect vacation. I don’t know if it was the salty, sweet ocean air, the friendship shared with Jordan or the magic of the islands, but I was finally able to relax, reconnect and enjoy the little things.

Here are a few of my favorite highlights:

1. Relaxing at the beach: There’s nothing better than laying on a beach on a hot summer day.


2. Touring Key West: We started at Duval Street, famous for cold drinks, loud music and long nights.  We walked all over the island and then took the trolley tour to experience all of the architecture and Key West culture.






The Gullah people of Africa believed that ocean water scared away evil spirits so they painted the roof overhangs a pale blue to represent water and prevent spirits from entering house. Many people in Key West carry on this tradition; I might try it on my classroom to prevent a few "evil spirits" as well.
The Gullah people of Africa believed that ocean water scared away evil spirits so they painted the eaves of their roofs a pale blue to represent water and prevent spirits from entering their houses. Many people in Key West carry on this tradition; I might try it on my classroom to scare away a few “evil spirits” as well.
Jordan and I experiencing the Key West trolley tour.
Jordan and I taking the Key West trolley tour.

3. Eating Key Lime muffins:  We stopped at Harriette’s Restaurant, a tiny greasy spoon in Key Largo. Jordan and I decided to try their famous Key Lime muffin and it was THE BEST thing I ate on the entire trip (I don’t even like muffins).key lime muffin

4. Visiting the Turtle Hospital: All 7 types of sea turtles are endangered due to extreme pollution, boating accidents and hunting. The Turtle Hospital treats a variety of ailments, rehabilitates and releases nearly 75% of  treated population. It was so moving to see these turtles up close and watch them receive treatment. Most were incredibly friendly; we were even able to feed them!IMG_6314

I had to fight the urge to pet them.
I had to fight the urge to pet them.
This one was very friendly.
This one was very friendly.IMG_6360


We hope that you are living an amazing summer story! Don’t forget to enjoy the little things!




What’s Your Summer Story?




Summertime is quickly approaching…..what is planned for your 2014 summer story? The Astute Hoot girls have several plans.





Jen is planning a road-trip with her family to visit the Grand Canyon for the very first time.


Jessica is going to visit her brother in Miami and also hopes to spend some time in San Diego (the beach is her favorite escape).


Tina is in the middle of a creative RV tour across the country with her husband Nick.



As a thank-you for your support, we are running a summer giveaway for a Kindle Fire–a perfect addition to any summer story! Click on the link for more details: http://tinyurl.com/oehe7z4


The Astute Hoot Girls


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