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Keep It Clean!
Quick Ideas for Clean-Up Activities

More than a dozen ideas to make class cleanup both fun and productive.

Do you find yourself spending precious after-school time each day picking up crumpled papers, assembling abandoned puzzles, collecting forgotten art materials, storing classroom supplies? Have you tried classroom clean-up time and decided it wasn't worth the chaos or the loss of learning time? Maybe all you really need to turn class cleanup into a fun and productive activity is a little help from some creativity colleagues. The following teacher-suggested clean-up activities should get you started!

Before beginning cleanup, look around the room and pick out an item that needs to be put away. Announce to students that you have chosen a mystery item and that whoever puts it away will win a prize.

Select a class clean-up song. When they hear that song playing, students know it's time to start cleanup. When the music ends, they must return to their seats immediately. Check out Songs for Clean-Up Time for some ideas or choose a favorite song of your own. One teacher we know uses a John Philip Sousa march and ends cleanup with a "pick-up parade."

Sing your own clean up song. Some teacher-suggested songs include: "Everybody pick up toys, pick up toys, pick up toys. Everybody pick up toys, in our classroom." (to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down.) "If your name is Henry, please pick up. If your name is Ricardo, please pick up." (to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know It.) Post within each area of the classroom required clean-up tasks for that area. Each week, designate a clean-up captain for each area, and make the captains responsible for getting the tasks done. Provide captains with a supply of stickers to award to other students who pitch in to help.

Turn cleanup into a learning activity. Working as a group, instruct students to pick up five blocks, two items that are blue, one item that begins with a "b", six items that are made of wood

Play Beat the Clock! Set a timer and tell students they must finish cleanup before time is up. When the timer rings, everyone must "freeze." If cleanup is complete, award the class 5 minutes of free time at the end of the day. If cleanup isn't complete, students must use the five minutes immediately -- to finish picking up. For younger students who are learning to tell time, you might use a regular clock instead of a timer. Students must be finished by 10:05, for example, to earn their reward.

Have students apply for classroom clean-up positions: Post a list of clean-up job descriptions and requirements, including a small treat ("salary") for each position, depending on its degree of difficulty. Each week, during writing time, have students write a letter applying for the job they want, describing their qualifications and why they think they should be hired for that job. You select the best candidate for each job -- making sure each student has an opportunity to hold each position at some point during the year. Classroom jobs might include chalkboard eraser, computer duster, fish feeder, plant caretaker, learning center inspector, line leader, bookcase arranger, pencil sharpener, paper passer, and so on.

Add a little fun to cleanup time by playing Go!Go! Stop! as students clean. When you say "Go," everyone works. When you say "Stop," they freeze.

Role-play during cleanup is fun for younger children. Invite them to act out their roles as busy bees, robot maids, trash-collection trucks, hauling helicopters, and so on. One creative teacher casts this spell on her students before cleanup: "Dinner will be franks and wieners, make these children vacuum cleaners!"

Make a traffic light out of cardboard. Color and cut out three cardboard circles; one red, one yellow, and one green, and attach double-sided tape to each. Display the "green light" during free time. Five minutes before free time ends, replace the green light with the "yellow light." The "red light" means free time is over and cleanup must begin.

Write the names of clean-up tasks on index cards. Have students close their eyes and pick a card, and then complete the task on the card they select. To add a little suspense to their selections, include a few non-tasks, such as "Relax in the reading center" or "Inspect the room when cleanup is done."

Play Simon Says. Give such commands as, "Simon says put the crayons into their containers" or "Pick up the blocks." Continue the game for a brief time after cleanup is complete to transition to the next activity.

Invite each student to "give you five" when cleanup is complete.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
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