How to Decrease Chaos at the End of the School Day

The end of the day during dismissal was one of my least favorite times of the school day ever.  I don’t know about your school but our dismissal time is 20ish minutes. Those 20 minutes feel more like 3 hours sometimes (especially on a Friday).  

Problem is, I’m totally worn out from the day and have little energy left to engage students in something productive. This leads to some wild behavior while I try to catch up on email or prep for the next week. Like one time, when a kid fell into a desk and got a bloody nose as his bus was being called. 🤦 

1. Implement and practice a routine

Packing up at the end of the day can be really hectic. Start implementing a routine step-by-step from day 1. Allow yourself ample time to review, practice and then review and practice some more. Having to rush around to get ready is the main source of end of the day chaos. If you are one of those teachers who has difficulty keeping track of the time, make sure to set an alarm or pick a kid to be the time keeper so your lesson doesn’t run over.

Set an alarm on your phone to make sure you give ample time to pack up as students learn the routine. Then, time students to see how long it takes them to follow the steps. Set a goal to improve the time to become more efficient.

Then, go through each step of the routine by modeling and practicing as many times as it takes! Don’t be afraid to go over it again whenever necessary! After winter break is a perfect time to review everything and tighten up your expectations.

2. Play some Music

Think calm, something classical or instrumental. Playing some music while students are packing up and waiting for the end of the day announcements helps keep the volume level down and conversations to a minimum. 🎵 My favorite tunes to play are by a band called Khruangbin. Their music is super chill and without many lyrics so it’s perfectly school appropriate.  

TRY THIS: One of my favorites is called “A Calf Born in Winter”. I know it sounds weird but just trust me!

3. Clean Up

What better way to channel that afternoon energy into something productive than clean up the classroom? Some kids will be all for it while others might need some motivation. This is one of the reasons I had my students apply for classroom jobs and didn’t change out the positions until they stopped performing the job (why give up great help?).

So, at the end of the day, you could have your select crew work on tidying up the room or get the whole group involved. Either way, this is a wonderful way to finish the day while focusing on being responsible building a better learning space!

Tape monsters are the secret to a spotless floor.

👾 Favorite clean-up trick is Tape Monsters. Tape monsters are RARE creatures that get hungry especially on Fridays after a messy craft. They feed on scraps and other random floor junk. The kids EAT it up. “Fill them up! They only get to eat once a week!” I say. Oh and I also assign random points. That one ate a lot, it is worth 20 points. That one looks like a 40 pointer. The points mean absolutely nothing and everything at the same time. 

4. Try a quiet activity

Keeping some quiet activities in your back pocket for the end of the day can be key to survival. These 5 Quick and Fun Time Fillers are perfect for the end of the day. My personal favorite is Memory Games. Your students will be so focused on memorizing everything in the picture that they will forget to talk!

5. Bus Tracker

One of my worst teacher nightmares is kids missing the bus. And, unfortunately, it’s come true a couple of times. Those first few weeks, I’m on them like a hawk. I stand by the door with my bus list and make sure every kid knows when it’s time to leave. However, as the year goes on, we all get comfortable and I trust my little 7-and 8-year-olds to listen (do they?) as buses are being called.


It never fails that once a year I have someone slip through the cracks. They were talking and didn’t hear it. So-and-so who rides the bus with them was absent so they didn’t notice they left. This bus tracker started coming in handy. It makes for a great class job and provides an extra layer of visual reminder for when buses have left the building! GRAB IT FOR FREE!

6. Listen to a book

My final suggestion is to take advantage of the extra time to listen to a book! You could have a student read to the class, invite a student from an upper grade to come read or play a book from YouTube. I’ve curated a collection of monthly read alouds (or would they be listen alouds?) for your class to choose from! You can download the collection of virtual libraries. There’s one for every month of the school year!

I have never met a teacher who loved the end of the day (well, besides leaving, of course.) You’ve just taught your heart out for 6+ hours and you’re spent! Trying out some of these tips should help keep things relatively under control while you use the time to prep for the next day, or sit and catch a breath.

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