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6 Back to School Tips to Organize Your Classroom

Carol Brooke, M.S., M.Ed.

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning”

-Winston Churchill

“If you believe you can, you probably can. If you believe you won't, you most assuredly won't. Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad.”

 -Denis Waitley

In the midst of back to school madness, it’s easy to let yourself get overwhelmed with all the planning and prep.

You’ve visited the teacher store, reviewed your curriculum and spent a few nights tossing and turning. Whether you are an experienced teacher or new teacher, these back to school tips can help you organize and plan your time before school starts.

Get Back to School Ideas from Your Co-workers

As a first suggestion for the “to do” list, visit other teachers’ classrooms. Visiting in the teachers’ lounge isn’t enough. We can learn from our peers by observing the way they organize, plan and decorate their classrooms.

While visiting, be sure to look and listen. Let the teacher you are visiting do most of the talking. We can walk away with a new or different idea that may end up saving time and energy. Even a new teacher may have a different way of doing things, which you may find helpful.

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Map Out a Classroom Layout

Draw a map of your classroom. Think about how the layout can help streamline your daily routine. Is the classroom calendar, circle time rug, leveled book library, visuals (map, overhead projector or clock) in the most convenient locations?

Think about how your students’ desks are situated. Would you prefer to have the desks facing you or would you like to have the desks in small groups, so students can more easily work together during Readers’ and Writers’ Workshops? Moving classroom materials around is hard work, so recruit help if needed. This may be a good day to invite your spouse or friend to help out.

Share Prep Work with Volunteer Parents

Think about jobs for volunteer parents. Having a box with parent volunteer work can be a great time saver. If you have volunteers, start stacking up the work now. Busy parents are happy parents. Give volunteers a job to do as soon as they walk in the door. Keep the monotonous and repetitive jobs for your volunteers.

You’ve got lesson planning, instruction and evaluating student progress to attend to, and that’s more than enough. Seriously, don’t sit there and sharpen a pencil for each student before school starts. If you already have a parent volunteer in mind, ask her to come in before school starts to help out with a few things.

Share Prep Work with Student Jobs

Think about the jobs you want the students to have and post the jobs on your classroom job board before the first day of school. Be sure to assign the jobs on the first day, so the classroom stays organized and clean. About 30 minutes before dismissal, be sure the students complete the jobs and then meet for circle time. Review classroom job productivity with the students and make adjustments, if needed.

Prepare for Emergencies: School & Classroom Edition

Take a look at your emergency preparedness materials. Is the fire hydrant expired? Does the first aid kit have expired medical supplies? Is the clip board by your front door in the most convenient location? Is the emergency evacuation route map posted by the front door still accurate and easy to read?

Prepare for Emergencies: Substitute Teacher Plans

It’s very important to keep a folder on your desk filled with emergency substitute teacher plans. Keep the folder in an obvious and visible location, so if an emergency occurs you can rest knowing you were prepared ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to always keep big, yellow post-it notes in your lesson books, so the substitute can easily open the book to the appropriate page.

What are your organization tips for back to school? Share in the comments section!

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