By Teachers, For Teachers
Luckily, when it comes to planning ahead, teachers usually have it down pat. We are well known for our organizational skills, which help to ensure that every moment in the classroom is dedicated to keeping students engaged. The secret to back to school success is to not just to plan, but to overplan—you can never have enough lessons or activities ready. Here are a few strategies you can use to help prepare for a strong start this year.
This will help you identify all of your classroom responsibilities and think about all the major details involved ahead of time. It helps to divide the checklist into areas of importance—such as essential and instructional jobs. As you go through the checklist, be sure to mark off each task as you complete it.
If you’re a new teacher (or if you changed grade levels), it’s a good idea to contact your school to find out which materials and supplies you’ll be given. Take advantage of everything that you can get for free, and then create a list of all of the other items you may need to get you throughout the year. Additional items may include pencils, pens, paper, folders, staples, dry easer markers, and other essential classroom necessities. This is also a good time to make your hall passes, attendance forms, and seating chart.
This is key to establishing a well-managed classroom. But rather than just dictate a set of rules the first day, encourage your students to collectively come up with a list of rules as well. Research has shown that when students share in the rulemaking they tend to follow them and hopefully, a lot of the rules that they brainstorm will mirror your own.
Create a user-friendly webpage (i.e. Wordpress, Blogspot) to help communicate information to students and parents. Keep the design simple and include the following: telephone numbers, homework assignments, project dates, rules and procedures, classroom schedule, and pictures.
Having a daily, morning routine will help kick off the first week smoothly. The best way to do this is to prepare seatwork for students to do as they come through the door. Creating learning center games beforehand will also ensure that every minute in class will be spent on fully engaged instructional time.
The first day of school is filled with jitters and excitement. Make sure you review your icebreakers so students may feel safe and comfortable in their new classroom quickly. In addition to that, review your first week’s lesson plans and be sure to create extras just in case. The first few days will let you gauge your classroom’s pace and overall makeup—you may get swamped or finish early, and it’s best to be prepared for those unexpected moments in either case.
This will help you start on the right foot with students and their parents. Mail the letter a few weeks before school starts and include: Information about yourself, the supplies needed, what kids can expect the first day of school, school policies, classroom rules, curriculum overview, how parents can communicate you, as well as adult volunteer opportunities.
It’s crucial to provide parents both a clear channel and open-armed approach to their children’s classroom. In doing so, it also helps to give parents a variety of options (text message, email, newsletter, website, phone) to help cater to different communication styles. This will help you establish a rapport and build a solid partnership for the year.
Bulletin boards are a proud classroom place to display student work, provide an easy reference for classroom assignments, or just act as a daily calendar. Dress up your board with fabric or construction paper and add visual elements like a title and graphics. Make it a place where students and parents alike look forward to visiting.
Classroom furniture should be arranged according to your teaching style—desks can be arranged into traditional rows, cooperative clusters, or a horseshoe shape. Once you’ve decided that, place your desk strategically where you can see everyone clearly. Dedicate the last available space to a class library filled with a variety of books and possibly a comfy chair or small couch.
Your classroom will be your home away from home for the majority of the next year. And just as you’d plan to decorate your actual house, planning ahead for your school-based residence can be quite beneficial in its own right. Remember, the secret to a successful start of the new school year is in the details. Have a great year!
Teachers, how do you prepare for the school year? Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Feel free to comment in the section below. We would love to hear your ideas.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.