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Everything You Need to Know to Make Back to School Successful

Janelle Cox

It’s officially back-to-school time! In order to make back to school an easy transition, you’ll need to do a few things. From planning icebreaker activities and creating checklists to welcoming students back to school and easing their first-day jitters, we’ve got you covered. Here is everything you need to know to make going back to school a success.

Back to School Checklist

First things first, you need to get organized, and the best way to do that is to create a checklist. Not only will a checklist serve as a guideline to help you get things done, but it will also help to alleviate some of that “I’ll never get this done in time” stress. To create your checklist, you must first think of everything that you need to get done before school starts. An easy way to do this is to create categories such as classroom organization and arrangement, rules and routines, and preparing for the first week. Once you have created your categories, then it will be easier to list all of the tasks that you need to accomplish and check them off as you complete them. Here is an example:

Classroom Organization and Arrangement

  • Determine seating chart and desk arrangement.
  • Plan and decorate the bulletin boards.
  • Prepare and post announcements, menu, and classroom calendar.
  • Prepare student nametags and desk plates.
  • Create a substitute folder.

For a more detailed list of classroom responsibilities and essential tasks, you can download this back to school prep guide checklist.

Welcoming Students Back to School

It’s important that when you welcome students back from summer break that you do it in a way that’s warm and inviting. School is a place where students spend the majority of their day, so you want to make it almost feel like a second home to them. One easy way to do that is to make your classroom welcoming. Create a learning space that is comfortable. Hang photographs and student artwork on the walls, create fun, interactive bulletin boards, place a cozy chair in your reading nook, and set up an area that resembles home. All of these things will help students to easily settle into the new school year.

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First Week Icebreaker Activities

The great thing about starting a new school year is the relationships that are formed between not only among students, but between students and their teachers. However, in order to create a natural bond, you must foster a peaceful start to the new school year by creating team-building activities. These classroom activities will not only help to “Break the ice” but they’ll also help to create a classroom community.

There are many getting-to-know-you activities and games to choose from, but here are a few of our favorites.

  • Name Train – Students learn and practice names while making a train with their bodies.
  • Group Juggle – Students learn names in a fast-paced Nerf ball game.
  • Scavenger Hunt – Students work together to find common classroom items.
  • Name Web – Students learn their classmates’ names and one fact about them.
  • Meet Your Match – Students meet a new classmate by finding someone who has the same puzzle piece as them.

Try and have students partake in a different getting-to-know-you activity every day for at least the first week of school. This will help to make your classroom environment a place where students feel safe, at ease, and comfortable with their classmates.

Easing First-Week Jitters

Whether students are starting a new grade or a new school, the first week can be filled with anxiety and stress of the unknown. It’s important to make an effort to ease these back-to-school butterflies so students will feel comfortable and want to learn. The first thing that you can do to help students feel calm is to send a welcome letter home before school even starts. This letter will detail everything that they need to know and will be doing during the school year. Welcome letters are great because when students know what to expect, then it won’t be so scary.

Another tip to help make the transition from summer break to the classroom smooth is to talk about what’s worrying the students. The unknown can be scary (especially for the little ones), and even though you may have sent home a welcome letter, some students may still feel uneasy. Have a morning meeting every day and discuss what students should expect for the day, and give them the opportunity to talk about what’s on their mind. This should help students feel more comfortable, and the more they get to know their classmates and routine, the faster the jitters will go away.

As another school year begins, keep in mind that with every new group of students you get, you have another chance to mold the minds of the future. Take a deep breath, you’ve got this!

What do you do to make back to school a success?


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 a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for Thoughtco (formally About.com) for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators