It seems as if summer has flown by, and that means just one thing: school is almost here. How do you get everything done in the short time that you have left? Here’s an easy-to-follow checklist so you can divide and conquer with plenty of time to enjoy the last days of summer fun.
Setting up the perfect environment for learning takes some thoughtful planning. Benefits of a well-arranged classroom include easier transitions and help with behavior management.
- Before you move a piece of furniture, sketch a layout that incorporates the spaces you want in your classroom.
- Plan for student seating, small group workspaces, learning centers, supply areas, class library, etc.
- Make sure your teacher’s desk is positioned so you have a good view of the whole classroom. Stock it with your favorite supplies.
- Ask a friend, family member or colleague to help you set up the room. (If you ask a fellow educator to help, make sure you reciprocate with his/her room.)
- Familiarize yourself with the classroom technology and equipment. Put in any repair requests.
- Put up classroom posters and bulletin boards. (Pro Tip: Leave bulletin boards blank with a sign saying, “under construction,” and plan to post student work there.)
- Decorate your front door to welcome students.
- Add student name plates to desks and cubbies if applicable.
- Post the emergency evacuation procedure.
- Set up fans for the first warmer weeks of school.
Set up the systems for classroom organization and you’ll appreciate the ease with which you can access items and key dates all year long.
- Find a place in your classroom for all your materials from art supplies and math manipulatives to textbooks, whiteboards, etc. Try these inexpensive organization hacks.
- Label your shelves and supply boxes to make it easier to find what you need.
- Set up student files/portfolios and your grading system. Review class lists, IEPs, allergies, and any other pertinent student information.
- Set up your planner/calendar with pertinent dates for the school year, and especially for the first marking period. Don’t forget to mark Back to School Night.
- Make student name tags for the first day, if desired.
- Have a plan for collecting and storing the school supplies that students will bring the first day.
Rules & Routines
Set the expectations right at the beginning, so that your students know the rules and routines. That will make class time more enjoyable and productive.
- Make a list of classroom rules. Include consequences if rules are broken. (You can prepare this even if you will do a similar exercise with student-led, class-created rules because you already know your behavioral management)
- Determine the rules for leaving the classroom, including bathroom breaks and visits to the water fountain.
- Finalize your procedures, including morning routine, dismissal routine, homework policy and systems for students to turn in work. You will be teaching these during the first weeks of school.
- Set your signal to get student attention. Choose the behavior management tools you will use.
- Determine student responsibilities and how you will rotate classroom duties among students throughout the year.
Keep students on track with clear daily goals for student learning. Remember that effective planning also includes some built-in flexibility to respond to student needs.
- Decide how you will structure each week based on specials, prep periods, etc.
- Prepare lessons for the first two weeks. Include icebreaker activities and lots of practice with routines.
- Plan a stress-free, no-skills-needed bellringer or morning work activity to use as needed.
- Make copies for the first week so you won’t have to worry about them. You’ll also avoid the long lines at the copier.
- Determine how, and whether, you will use music in your classroom.
- Consider classroom transformations that you may do this year as part of the curriculum.
- Write emergency sub plans. You never know when you might use them.
Building the connection with students’ families will provide a support system that enables the learning to continue at home.
- Prepare a student/family welcome letter or video. You may opt to mail the letter prior to the school year, hand it to students on the first day, or post it to your class page.
- Set up your classroom web page. Include an overview of school hours, class schedule, brief highlights of curriculum, dress code or uniforms (if applicable), and your contact information.
- List academic websites that students will use, such as leveled reading sites. Determine where you will post homework assignments and set up homework for the first week.
- Ask for class parents and parent volunteers in your welcome letter or on your class web page.
- Prepare a list of responsibilities for class parents. If you have a project in mind, like building a class library, you’ll be able to get them started.
You’re not only in charge of a classroom of students, but you’re also responsible for yourself. Make sure you take the time you need so that you’re set up to do a great job.
- Get your professional clothes out of the closet. Determine if you need to update or replace any.
- Pick out your outfit for the first day of school.
- Go food shopping for healthy snacks and lunch items.
- Plan what you will pack for the lunch the first day and the first week.
- Remember to practice self-care as you return to the classroom.
We know from experience that there’s always something more to do. Don’t feel as if you must do it all. Take a breath and know that you’ve got this. Have a great year!
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