Are you already thinking about getting back to school? Is your classroom management set for the year? Do you want more time to enjoy your summer? Then let me help you get more pool time and relaxation. I will help get you prepared for back to school.
The summer is passing quicker than you want. Those days at the pool are spent plotting and planning for the upcoming school year. What do I need to do? What do I need to change? What can make my students have more ownership in their learning?
I know that anxiety that rises in your chest, the one that cuts the pool day short because you have to get home and start planning.
Well let me help you enjoy those lazy summer days. Here are 29 things you need to know before the first day of school (plus a few FREEBIES). And if you really want to spend an extra hour, day, week relaxing, there is a link at the end of this post that has everything spelled out and easy to implement.
1. What are you going to do with those pencils?
It always amazes me that I can start on Monday with 100 sharpened pencils and end on Friday with half a pencil. Will you control the pencils? Label them?
2. How will you deal with snack time?
What will you (or what does your school) allow for snacks? When will students eat snacks? How will they dispose of them? Can you tie any health lessons into your snack choices? Are there any simple recipes you can use to “cook” snacks a few times a week? Maybe one that ties in math and science standards.
3. Will your students stay hydrated?
The water fountain… I swear the water fountain in schools are worse than water coolers in offices. They are the meeting places for note passing, gossip, annoying someone with a tap on the shoulder, and avoiding work. How will you help students stay hydrated while avoiding some of the trouble that starts while transitioning to a water fountain?
4. How to get and dispose of tissues?
I could go through a box of plastic gloves picking up tissues all day long. How can you get them to students. All year someone has a runny nose. But more importantly how can you ensure they will reach the trash can?
5. Supplies, Supplies, Supplies
Student supplies, teacher supplies, textbooks, paper, tissue boxes, and more. Imagine your classroom. Where can you store things you don’t need regularly? How can you arrange notebooks and student materials?
6. Computer Use/Technology
Most classrooms have several computers and student tablets. How can you help students make the most of the technology? What sites can you go ahead and bookmark? What instructions need to be posted to help them find what they need?
7. Communication with Parents
How often will you communicate with parents? What are the best ways for parents to contact you? Will you send weekly emails? Monthly Newsletters? Websites? Along with this, how will you document your parent communication? This is so important to have on file. You never know when you might need to let administration or parents know when you have reached out.
8. Turning In Papers
Papers, papers everywhere! What will you do with student work in class? How will you grade and/or collect homework, morning work, tests, projects? Having an easy system that the students know is the best way to ensure that all (well almost all) work ends up in the right places. Will you have file folders, collect as you go throughout the day or will students be moving about to turn them in or passing to a specific person?
9. How Students will enter the classroom
Each school has a different way of starting the day. Some schools hold all kids until a specific time, while others let the students come to class as they arrive. Either way can be chaotic. It is important to start each day on track. How can you greet each student, collect notes, etc? One of the best things to do each morning is teach the students how to turn in homework assignments. I also posted the homework for the day on the board and had the students copy their homework first thing. Will you have an assignment that everyone must do or will you have your games and learning centers open at the beginning of the day?
10. Lining Up
The line. I hate to say it but the control of your class is based on your line. I always told my kids that the more perfect our the line the better we could keep the secret of the fun we had in the classroom. I will tell you ALWAYS, ALWAYS walk two thirds to completely behind your line. They know you are watching. There are two tools I used to help. One, I taught students to use a FANS Line.
Arms by Sides
I would also pick one stick from my name jar (keep it a secret) and then tell the class that they would get a class reward (tally mark to a class reward, something) if the mystery student followed the line expectations. To learn more about Mystery Students click here.
11. Walking Down the Hallway
You know it, and you have seen it. The kids tripping on each other by not paying attention. The fingers running down the walls. The teacher leading the line with no clue what is happening behind her. How will you correct this? Use a FANS line? Have a mystery line walker?
12. Going to the Bathroom
Will you let students go individually? Do they need a buddy? Or will you have a whole class trip scheduled several times a day? If you do individually, how will you document when the students are in the bathroom? You never know when an incident may occur and you need to know the times a student was in the bathroom. It never fails that when the fire alarm goes off you have one student in the bathroom. If the whole class goes, what will you do with the students who are waiting? Play a game, study for a test, read silently, do a read aloud?
13. Student Jobs
Want to get it all accomplished and walk out the door with the stuff you can carry in one trip? Let the students help. The busier the kid is, the bigger the responsibility you should give them. When my own kids are tired or whiny, I let them help. I make laundry a game. Do the same thing in your classroom. Kids like to feel needed and have ownership. Create jobs that will help you get it all in.
14. Packing Up
This is always a crazy busy time. You feel like you have time and then you are rushed and everyone starts going 25 different directions. Will you have students pack as they go throughout the day? Will you guide students through packing up?
Dismissal can be one of the most stressful parts of the day. With girl scouts, after-school programs, and students going home with other students, EVERY day was different. I had one afternoon where one student forgot girl scouts and went home on the bus and another where the students thought he had his after-school program and missed the bus. I still panic every time I think about this afternoon. That evening I made 5 posters, one for each day of the week. I listed the bus riders for the day, car riders, after-school programs, daycare van riders, and then I left a box for changes. I always had a note or two telling me that someone was going home a different way. I laminated the pages and kept them by the door. Each afternoon I stood at the door and dismissed each student based on the dismissal page.
16. Field Trips (FREEBIE – My Field Trip Bag Checklist and BINGO)
The number one trick I had for keeping up with all of my students at any time of the year but especially on field trips was to assign each kid a number. I got so familiar with my numbering system that when I looked at the kids I saw their name and number in my head. So how will you keep track of everyone? How will you collect money and permission forms? What should you add to your field trip bag to keep you sane? Field Trip BINGO is a great way to reflect on a field trip. It is the perfect lesson to squeeze in after a field trip. Be sure to get this FREE download at the end of the post).
17. Classroom Library
How can you make your classroom library user-friendly? Will you have a sign out for the students? Will books be sorted by subject/genre or will it be alphabetical? Will you have student helpers to assist in keeping the library running and easy to use?
18. How will you record student behavior (FREEBIE)
I spent years trying multiple methods of keeping up with behavior. After a few years I decided the easiest way to keep up with the behavior was to let the students do most of the work. I use a Student Self-Assessment to communicate behavior weekly. I keep a clipboard with little notes and use this daily reflection sheet for myself, but most of the recording and communicating behavior with parents is done by the student. Want to learn more about using this self-assessment? Read The #1 Way to Improve Student Behavior.
This is a touchy subject in some parts of the world. How much do you give? Will you give it out each day or post it for the week? How is it collected? What are the expectations for grading homework and what is the expectations from your school and district? The best advice I can give you is plan for homework (including reading) to last no more than an hour. You don’t have to give 30 math problems to assess mastery. Give 5. I’d much rather reteach after a student did 5 problems wrong than practice the wrong method 30 times. Mix up content areas and give on alternate nights.
20. Morning Work
What are you expecting your students to do as you start the day? Will students work on a handout, a journal? Will they work in learning centers? Can students use them time to practice study skills or play educational games? Keep in mind that you will have late students, late buses, issues that arise that must be dealt with ASAP. Don’t stress yourself out with an assignment that you expect everyone to complete and turn in at one time.
21. Important Notes/Emails
Oh the dreaded notes and emails. Most of the time they are simple requests, but there is nothing worse than “that note” first thing in the morning. Make your expectations for notes and emails clear. Set aside a time to read notes and emails when you don’t have 28 people who want and need your attention. I checked emails in the morning when I dried my hair. I did one quick check when I turned my computer on at school and then I didn’t check it again until lunch. For notes I had a basket at the door and I would take a look at these once everyone was in the classroom and engaged in an activity.
22. Running Errands
Did you forget a paper at your grade level meeting? Forget to check out the new read aloud? Need to send assignments to the front office for an absent student? How will you keep track of who runs errands and where they are going? Will this be a class job? Will you randomly pick a helper?
23. Parent Volunteers
So many jobs and so little time. As a teacher you wear more hats than you could fit on your head in any given year. Referee, teacher, learner, secretary, accountant, web designer, therapist, cheerleader, and the list goes on. Parents want to help, but many times they don’t know how. Create a list of things you could have parents help with both in and out of the classroom.
24. Early Finishers
How will you keep students who finish early on task? Also how can you keep these early finishers from disrupting the students still working? Will you have an assignment already prepared, will they be able to leave their seats? How will you hold them accountable?
25. Classroom Rules
This is one that I reinvented every year. I liked making the rules with my students and the fact that they had ownership in creating them really helped them follow them quickly. Will you stop here or can you expand to creating a class constitution?
26. Answering Questions
How will you have students answer questions? In some conversations I let students call out when they have a question or answer, especially when I am working with small groups. Sometimes I need a system for making sure I call on everyone. Will you have a cup with students’ names on a stick? Will you use an app for keeping up with who has answered? How can you ensure that all students are actively engaged in the lesson?
27. Group Work
What expectations do you have for students when they work together? Will students grade each other? Will they have specific roles?
28. Independent Reading
How can you ensure that the students are engaged and monitoring their reading? When and how will you talk with students about the books they are reading? Are you going to model reading independently? Will students have the opportunity to tell the class about what they are reading?
29. How will you get students to make up missed assignments (FREEBIE)
There is nothing worse than trying to pack up and have the office call and say that the absent student needs their work for the day and the mom is currently waiting in the office. Avoid this mad dash with this Make Up Work Freebie. After taking attendance I make a form for each absent student. I set it on the table close to where I dismiss students. If I have responsible students I will assign one for each absent student. The form will be filled out with what was missed and the materials they need to make up are stacked. This simple task alleviates the anxiety of teaching while gathering assignments. I tell parents this procedure at open house and it lets them know what to expect and how I prepare for absent students.
Are you ready for your FREEBIES? Download your FREE guides now.
Do you want answers to all of these questions (click the link or the picture)? This Teaching Time Savers – Classroom Management Made Simple has the answers. My friend Erin Shurbutt and I wrote this ebook with the super-organized to the organized-chaos teachers in mind. Multiple strategies, forms, and tools are available to print and use. Editable forms have also been provided. If you want to learn more, you can hop over to her blog and read more about Starting the School Year Strong.
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