I was scouting around on Pinterest the other day. (Ok, I’m on there every day. I’m an addict) And while I was there I saw posts for things you should have ready as soon as possible before school starts to make the first week of the year smooth. I saw a post for 29 things to do before school starts. 29 THINGS? Talk about overwhelming. Maybe the items were all small, simple things to do, but just the sound of it had me scrolling right past.
Summer is a great time for getting things done ahead for school. I know you want to ignore work and replace it with outdoor activities, vacations, spending time with the kids, and just sitting and relaxing and catching up on soap operas. (Any other General Hospital fans out there?) But it is nice to have time to sit and think about what you really want to accomplish this year and what kind of tone you want to set from the first week.
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So in the spirit of keeping it simple, I narrowed it down to eight things you can do at home, so you are well prepared when your kids arrive for the first week.
If you’re a new teacher, these are things you are probably looking at already. If you’re a veteran teacher, you may need to tweak your previous plans and get them ready for your students and their parents to see. Either way, I’ve added some technology ideas to make these tasks even easier for you to use and share with all those important people.
Create a Classroom Management Plan
Make the Rules
The first step in this plan is to decide upon your rules. In my room, we called them goals. Our overall goal was to have a comfortable, friendly classroom where students were able to do their best work. The rules were designed to help the students reach that goal. Once you have determined your rules, list those rules out in a prominent place in your classroom.
Be careful not to confuse rules with procedures (more on that later). Raise your hand to get a drink is a procedure because it is specific to one task. Stay in your spot is a rule because it applies to a variety of situations in the classroom. You only need about five rules posted.
There are many people prefer to have the kids help make the rules. They have excellent reasons to do that. So I understand perfectly, but my personal opinion is that the kids need to know from the beginning that the teacher is the authority figure in the classroom. I do not mean you should stand there and bark out the rules at them. Make them interesting. Interact with the rules. Read over them and act out what those things would look like and sound like in the classroom. Do this several times during the first week. This activity gave them a connection to those rules and a clear understanding of how they were to follow them on a daily basis.
Develop Parent Communication
Another reason to have your rules ready is so you can develop any parent communication tools you will use to keep them informed of their child’s behavior. If you have to wait until after the kids develop the rules, you will already be pulled into the craziness of the school year and may not be able to think it through as clearly as you can during the summer. If you choose to have the kids a part of making the rules, you might have to wait to develop these tools.
Choose a Tracking System
You also need to decide on a tracking system for student behavior. I love Class Dojo! The addition and subtraction of points made it super easy to keep track of their behavior and update the parents. Some parents will sign up to see their child’s points at home, and some won’t. I suggest sending a note of some sort on a regular basis. I did it on Fridays. Look at the points each child earned for the week and mark it down on a parent update form. Keep it really easy and make the behaviors on Class Dojo match the behaviors on your form!
Another way to keep track of behavior is the clip chart. There have been a lot of great improvements on the basic clip chart lately. If you use a sports theme for your room, make a chart with levels like “In the game” and “Time out.” What about a video game theme with levels like “Getting Started” or “Leveling Up”? Check out Pinterest for some fresh ideas!
I also found this amazing idea for keeping the clip chart on each student’s desk! You can find a lot of different clip charts online if you don’t have the time or desire to make one yourself.
With a clip chart or other classroom display that gets reset every day, you need to be able to record the results. Simplest idea? Take a picture of the chart and save those photos in your Google Drive. You can also keep a class list with space after each child’s name to make notes for the day.
Decide on Your Classroom Routines
What expectations do you have for your children at various times during the day? What do you expect them to do when they first walk in the classroom in the morning. When do you allow them to get drinks or go to the restroom? Where do they put their completed papers? What about papers for you?
There’s a lot to be learned in the first week of a school year. The students are wondering what is in your room going to be like, and learning about these routines right away will give them a sense of what to expect all year.
Think through your day. Scribble down a list of all those routines you need to teach. Once you have a good list, it’s a good idea to make a checklist or even a Google Form where you can mark them off as you complete them with the kids. During that first week of school, teach these routines. Have your students act them out. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The more they do it, it should become automatic.
There are some procedures you may want to post. Don’t add them to your list of class rules. Instead, make a small poster to hang in the area where it will be useful. For example, if you want kids to fill up their water bottles only at certain times during the day, post the times above the water fountain.
Here’s a free editable checklist you can use for your class. It can be checked off online or you can print it.
Parent communication plan
How are you going to keep the parents informed about classroom activities and their child’s progress? Your plan will depend somewhat on what your school requires you to do. The most efficient system for me was completing a sheet with work habits, behavior, and grades sections. I filled them out every Friday and sent them home in the weekly folders to be signed.
For your newsletter, try the Bloomz app. Instead of making a single newsletter on Fridays, post what’s going on in class as it happens. Daily updating is great because you are less likely to forget something than if you are hurrying to create a newsletter with all that information in it on one day. Also, with only a short amount of text at a time, your parents will be more likely to read it.
As part of my Bloomz newsletter, I made a Google Slides presentation to share the basic information with the parents. I had the current topics of study and special classes next week. The file actually had two slides. The first one was the current week, and the second was for next week. I updated the second slide as I had time during the week and on Friday, I moved it up to the top ready to go!
Here’s a free slide that you can use to make a Google Slides newsletter of your own! The color matched shapes can be moved, resized, deleted, whatever you want. Add your own text and you’re good to go.
Do a welcome back letter
Save your district money! Email it! You can ask for the parents to respond in some way that they received the letter. If you have parents that do not have email or if their email has changed (and sending this information before the beginning of the year will help you figure that out very quickly) you can send the paper copy to them. Every district and class are different, but usually, 90% of my parents had working email addresses making this an effective way to communicate.
What should you put in a welcome back letter?
- Tell them what they’re going to learn in your class.
- A little about yourself
- Your favorite thing about teaching ____ (your grade or subject)
- How long you’ve been teaching
- Your family
- A few of your favorite things
- Back to school night date and time
- Things they need to bring to school the first day
- A picture of you and maybe your classroom
- Explain one activity you will do during the first week
Here are some cute papers that you can write your welcome back letter on. Just add a text box and type away! There are different colors to choose from.
There are the first four of our eight things! Want to see the other four? Click here to read Part 2.
Technology added into your everyday classroom routine should be useful and practical. If you’d like to see some ideas for technology you can use in your classroom tomorrow, join my mailing list and receive “Free Low-prep (or no-prep) Technology Activities for Your Classroom” TODAY!
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