At the end of the school year, most teachers are focusing on keeping students engaged, writing report cards, communicating with parents, figuring out new placements, and packing up the classroom. With all the hustle and bustle of the final months of school, it is hard to even wrap our brains around preparing for for next year. That is what the last week of July is for right?!? Today we have rounded up fellow teachers who know the spring struggle, but also have some easy and effective tips for creating a smooth back to school season by doing a little preparation now. We think you will thank them come August!
Retta from Rainbow City Learning has a great book recommendation that you can read now and use later:
A favorite first week read of mine is Amelia's Back to School Survival Guide by Marissa Moss. Just read some parts of it, and your students will beg for more! Inside my falling-apart copy (or your shiny new one!), you will find two diagrams: the ideal student and the total disaster. Kids always love seeing these side-by-side. A great activity on the first (or second or third) day is to ask your students to make a poster (I use 11x18 white construction paper.) of their idea of the ideal student STARRING THEMSELVES. Each student draws a large version of himself/herself on the page and adds arrows to body parts indicating how to be the ideal student. I call it the Ideal Fourth Grader and have been displaying the posters in the hall outside my room every September since the ink dried on the first copy of that book. LOVE!
Jen from Sparkling in Second Grade has some words of wisdom for getting supplies ready:
Back to school can be a stressful time. I know for me, I spend hours in my classroom just wandering around thinking "what should I start with?" and before I know it, the day is over and all I did was label some folders! The best back to school tip I have for you is to have all the supplies ready! Yes, you heard me. I get EVERYTHING that each student might need for the first week of school all set out in a cubby at each group of tables. They come with all (or none) of their supplies, I give them a bag for them to throw it all into and label it, then we move on! We have a zillion things to do in the first day of school and it can't be wasted looking through each student's supplies. I wait until after school or even later to go through and take what is for our classroom and leave what is for each student. It makes it so much less stressful to have everything already at their finger tips and they don't spend 30 minutes fiddling and opening everything. Do they need 100 erasers right then? NOPE. Save it for later! Here is a quick glance at my cubby system for each table. I am blessed to have some supplies given to me by the school, but I also use places like Donors Choose or Reddit Teacher Exchange to get what I may need for the beginning of the school year. I also scourer the office supply Back to School sales and take advantage of my two favorite places-Dollar Tree and the Dollar Spot @ Target! Best of luck, happy teaching!
Heather from Wild About Words wants us to get cooperative:
Identify 3-5 basic cooperative learning strategies (ie. Hands Up, Pair Up) to introduce the first week with fun team building exercises. You can then use these strategies for the rest of the year for continued team building and engaging content review. And don't forget to create anchor charts with students as you introduce each strategy. This reminds you and your students of the tools you have available when planning!
Brian and Eric from Wise Guys advise us to spend some time thinking about class routines for next year:
Probably the most important aspect of classroom management at the beginning is establishing routines. Classroom procedures are one area you will want to teach the first few weeks of school. From how students enter the classroom, to taking bathroom breaks, all the way through end of the day routine, you will want your students to practice these procedures. It will make a big difference throughout the school year if your students know what are the expectations in your classroom. Trust us!
Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead tells us to pack strategically:
When you are putting away your things at the end of this year, or packing up a classroom, leave the materials you need right away in the fall in a special place so they are easily accessible! I sometimes even bring my beginning of the year binder and a box or two of essentiasl home so I know I can get to them first! This is a clever way to be prepared and organized before you even really start getting ready to go back to school.
Heather from HoJo’s Teaching Adventures says that now is a great time for experimenting:
Start looking at your classroom management. If there's something you know you want to change next school year, try the changes now. This group already knows your rules and expectations, so it's easy to implement change with them so you have a better idea of how it will work in the fall. If you love the idea, start it right away in the fall! If it's a flop, move on to something else or stay with your tried and true methods that are already working for you.
Anita from Primary "Teach"spiration says to get a jump on the paperwork:
My back-to-school tip is to prepare ahead now as much as possible before this year ends. For example, copy the entire year's worth of daily worksheets, printables, etc. that you know you will need for each subject and stack them in chronological order ready to use. No need to do this all at once, just a few sets at a time from now until the year ends. Also, start cleaning up, organizing, and storing materials such as centers/games. Employ the help of your students for this; they LOVE cleaning for some odd reason! :) Prepare your back-to-school bulletin boards and cover with old newspapers for protection. Basically, have everything done that you can do ahead of time before you walk out the door for summer break. You'll be glad you did when the next school year rolls around!
Susan Berkowitz offers advice for the Speech-Language Pathologists among us:
Back to school time can be hectic for SLPs who are juggling students in a variety of grades and classes and schedules. If you are a SLP who works with students who use augmentative communication (AAC) my #1 tip for you is this: Please remember to back-up everyone’s AAC system and make a paper-based back-up of every high-tech system. This is one of the most important things you can do. It will save you untold hours trying to re-create customized vocabulary if a system - or more than 1 - fails. You only have to have one crash and lose valuable time and vocabulary to change that habit. Everyone is in a rush these days to get to high tech AAC. However, technology all too often fails. The students with whom I work can go through iPad screens on a weekly basis. And even without destructive behaviors, computers freeze and glitch and cause all sorts of problems. And then….. the student has no way to communicate. Teams frequently look surprised when I mention making a paper back-up. Nobody wants to go back to the bulky book of pages. But sometimes you just have to. Make sure the back-up book is organized with the same structure and vocabulary organization and location as the tech system. You don’t want the student to suddenly hit a steep learning curve when he’s also lost his voice. Don’ts for back-ups? Be careful about just printing out the pages from the high tech system without adding a way for the student to navigate, such as tabs. Don’t revert to basic choice boards or PECS in the interim. This will take away valuable communication opportunities for all of the wait time.