Written by Casey Jeffers, Owner of Fair Winds Teaching & MSEA Second Grade Teacher
Packing up your classroom at the end of the year can be exciting and also challenging at the same time. However, I promise you… if you spend some time setting yourself up for success at the end of the school year, you will be so glad you did at back-to-school time.
I have a box that I pack up and place on the top pile of all of the classroom supplies at the end of each year. These are all the items I will need first at the start of a new year, or in my case, my long-term substitute will open. I am expecting a baby over the summer and will not be starting my school year with my kiddos this school year. I want my substitute to be ready and not feel overwhelmed the day they start setting up my classroom in the Fall.
The box doesn’t have to be fancy, although you can use a nice plastic storage bin as well. I upgrade my Amazon box each year (because it gets bigger and bigger) and write myself a fun little note.
“Let’s Do This!” “You’ve Got This!” “You Go Girl!” “You Can Do Hard Things!” “Crushin’ it!”
- Back-to-School event items
- Simple Teacher supplies
- Birthday favors
- Bulletin Board items
- Cleaning supplies
- Master copies for the first week of school
- Motivational Note
- Water bottle and snack (that won’t go bad)
- $5 or gift card
Putting together your own box can be done this summer if you haven’t started one before… check it out now!
Back to School or Sneak Peek Event at School – At my school, we always have a sneak peek event (for new to the school families) during the school day. It usually occurs on the 2nd teacher work day back and our classrooms are NOWHERE READY for school. The families pop in and say hello and want to see their new classroom. Instead of stressing out about this, I have things ready in my box for a cute setup for a table outside in the hallway.
The box includes a dollar store plastic table cloth, a blow-up number 2 balloon (for 2nd grade), my mermaid sand bucket with donations needed for the school year, and a small gift for each student that comes by. Grab the mermaid bucket donations needed template here.
Some of my favorite sneak peek gifts are popcorn, mini pop-its or blow pops with these adorable tags (Thanks for Popping In), mini or full-size erasers with these Mistakes labels, or a slinky with these Spring into School tags. Check out my full list of where to buy these items!
Lastly, I place a sign on my classroom door that says, “Under Construction.” You can grab this freebie now, I have it available for your bulletin boards, library, and much more.
In the box, I also have stuff for my formal Back to School (BTS) evening event that is after my classroom is fully set up. I placed a couple of plastic bowls (for serving snacks and candy to my families), fun photo props, a BTS Welcome Bag full of goodies, and their All About Me Bag assignment to bring to school their first week of school. Each family also gets a sticker when they walk in that says, “ I am the Proud Parent/Grandparent/Family of _________!” You can grab those here.
Simple Teacher supplies – Next up in the box is all the simple teacher supplies needed to start the school year. I make sure I have a couple of types of tapes (masking, painters, and scotch), a good pair of teacher sizes scissors, stapler and refill staples, a stapler remover, a black magic marker, a pack of sticky magnetic dots, post-it’s, a couple sharpened pencils, my FAVORITE wireless hot glue gun and refill glue and a tape measure. Not spending time ripping apart boxes to find all of these items will definitely save you time. Now, if I can just stop myself from talking to every teacher that walks past my classroom, we would really be able to get some back-to-school work done
Birthday Favors – This is an overlooked item that I have added to my BTS box over the years. I never want to forget to celebrate the summer birthdays in my class (I am a July baby myself, and I never got to celebrate at school). My best tip is to go shopping at the end of every summer to grab class set deals that are basically free. Every year, the chalk, bubbles, sunglasses, slime packs, and summer beach balls are on sale at the end of the season. I buy up at least enough to cover a huge class size (30), then any I don’t end up using goes in my prizes box for the following year. You don’t necessarily need to add the items in the BTS box, but I always have the birthday gift tags printed and ready in my box to remind me to celebrate those kiddos that had July/August birthdays. The past few years I have found amazing slime deals and have used these gift tags, grab them here!
Bulletin Board Supplies – If you are anything like me, the base of the bulletin boards is the first thing I do when I get back. I want to make sure to grab the butcher paper color that I love before it’s all gone (a.k.a. teal and hot pink) and it is an instant way to make your room look pretty. I make sure I have my small bin of bulletin board supplies (see my bulletin board blog post here) and then my Amazing Work Coming Soon & Construction site signs printed and ready to go! Grab these freebies and then have your students help you design your classroom bulletin boards.
Cleaning Supplies – No explanation needed – Cloxex wipes, paper towels, Magic Eraser & Goo Gone. Want to see where I buy all my BTS Box supplies, check out this master list with links.
Master Copies – My in-service BTS week is when I work with specialists and teammates to start planning out the first quarter of ELA and Math content. This time is so valuable and I want to make sure all my “getting to know you” and “setting up routines” papers and lessons are ready to go. I make sure I have my master copies ready in a folder in my BTS box. I do not try to guess how many copies I need ahead of time, I make the copies on that first week. However, if you have leftover paper at the end of a school year and you are at a school that makes you wait for your first paper order when you get back, MAKE ALL THE COPIES BEFORE YOU LEAVE for summer.
I make sure to have my Back to School Bingo, First Day of School Sign (blow-up numbers), Time Capsule, All About Me Bag, and Welcome Bag copies. I also have the first week of school writing papers, design your own name tag template, Do Unto Otters craft, and some Math About Me papers. Lastly, whether you do flexible seating or not, having your student’s name tags glued onto their hard case pencil boxes is a great way for them to actually use them as a resource and easy for you to make desk changes through the school year. I have them available for grades 1-2 and 3-4. It also saves your custodians from scraping off all that glue leftover at the end of the year. They will thank you!
Motivational Note – Before you close your box up and give it a good tape, grab a blank piece of paper or adorable stationery. Write yourself a BTS motivational note for your future self. Give yourself some advice or simply tell yourself, “You’ve Got This!” This note will seem silly while you are doing it, but will brighten your day (because you will forget about it). It’s a great touch to help start your new school year off with a bang!
Treat Yourself or Treat Someone Else! – Throw a $5 gift card to Starbucks or Dunkin’s or $5 cash to treat yourself to something on your way home from your first day back. If you don’t feel like using it, give it to a coworker that looks like they might need it that first day back. You can also grab a water bottle and a non-perishable snack and throw it in so it’s ready for the first day!
I hope you found this BTS box list helpful, it took me a while to know what I wanted in mine and it will evolve as you get to know your BTS habits.
HAPPY SUMMER & BACK TO SCHOOL PREP!
Casey Jeffers is a second-grade teacher at Butterfly Ridge Elementary in Frederick County, Maryland. She was recently recognized as the national winner of the NEA Foundation’s 2021 Teaching in Excellence Award. Casey is the proud owner of the Education Resource Blog, Fair Winds Teaching, and loves to connect with her education community through her TeacherPayTeacher’s business.