In the first part of this blog post, we looked at the first four things you can work on at home to make your first week as stress-free as possible. Here are four more that you can work on at your leisure:)
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Create a Curriculum Pacing guide
Pacing guides are simply a list of all of the units or skills you will teach during the year and how long you will spend on each one.
If your school doesn’t already provide you with a pacing guide, you should definitely make one. It’s a great way to make sure you stay on track throughout the year, so you can cover everything you need to teach.
I worked in a semi-departmentalized fifth grade, teaching reading and science as my main subjects. My planning partner and I made pacing guides for each subject, and worked hard keep up with them. She was much better than I was at that, so she kept me going! So, if you have one of those “Keep-it-moving” type A teachers on your team, you may want to work with them on the guide.
(And if you are the type A teacher, be nice to us type Bs. Leave a little wiggle room in the pacing guide!)
Making a pacing guide isn’t a difficult thing to do. This is especially true if you are already familiar with the concepts and units you will teach. If you need more guidance on making one, here is an excellent blog that breaks it down into five easy steps: Create a Course Pacing Guide in 5 Easy Steps (& why you need one) by Linda Kardamis at Teach for the Heart. She always has lots of awesome ideas and information!
Use a google slide or doc to make a table in which to put your information, and you’ll be able to share it with teammates and work collaboratively on it. It can also be easily updated if necessary, and those who have access to it will be able to see those changes.
Prepare Your First-day Plan
I will never forget my first day of teaching. It was 1991. I was fresh out of college ready and eager to meet my first class of third graders. My mentor offered me some of the things she did that day, but I turned them down. I had prepared well for the first day and felt confident it would be the right amount.
Yeah. by the time morning recess rolled around at 10:30, I had used everything I had planned for the morning, and there was still over an hour until lunch.
I had to go back to my mentor and say, “Um, you know those activities you offered me? Can I have them?” Luckily, I had a fantastic mentor, and she just laughed and gave me more ideas for things to do with my kids. The day continued just fine, and I did have enough planned for the afternoon, thank goodness.
I learned from that experience that I needed to WAY over plan for the first day. My first-day plan was a long list of everything I wanted to accomplish. I had getting-to-know you activities, learning and practicing different class routines, some academic content, and all kinds of other things mixed up for variety, so the entire day wasn’t just sitting and listening.
This list of activities could never be finished in one day, and I knew that. I inserted segments of time into the rest of the week that were labeled “First Week Activities” and picked up where I left off during those times. Yes, if you follow this plan there are things you won’t get done, but it’s okay. If they’re important, work them in during the second week. If not, then ditch them or save them for another time.
Create Your First Week Lesson Plans
In the spirit of getting that first day completely ready, you also should plan out the entire first week. I know there will probably be interruptions or unexpected events that will mess some of it up, but it is critical to go into the first week super prepared. It will give you a sense of calm, purpose, and confidence that waiting to do the plans can quickly take away.
Unfortunately, I can say I’ve done it both ways. There were years I had an excellent plan all ready to go. There were years where I put off planning and felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants. Although you CAN make it work like that, don’t. It will cause you to feel like you’re constantly trying to catch up from the very beginning of the year.
Don’t have a planner yet? You can find some nice ones like this on Amazon for those who like to write everything down. There are also a lot of downloadable planners on Teachers Pay Teachers.
If you want to keep things simple, I suggest you try out Planbook.com. It works just like a regular plan book, but on steroids. You can bump interrupted lessons forward a day, and all the lessons after it will move too. No more arrows in your plan book. It’s also linked to the standards and you can insert them easily. You can make templates that are attached to the lessons so that any substitutes can read those routines in your plans. And you won’t have to write or type them out every time.
You can try Planbook for free for 30 days. I think you’ll find the $12 per year is well worth the money.
Make Your Students’ Name Tags
You want to be able to learn all your student’s names as quickly as possible, so get those name tags ready! Challenge yourself to learn all your kids’ names the first day. I had a song I would sing to them that used all their names so I could practice them. Then at the end of the day, the kids would move around to different seats. If I couldn’t remember their names while singing the song, they got a prize pencil. If you teach more than one group of students, you will probably need a little longer to learn them all. Make an effort to do it quickly. I gave myself until the end of the first week to learn the kids that I shared with the teacher next door.
Here’s a free name tag file which you can either print out the lined version and handwrite your kids’ names on them or add a text box to the blank ones and type the names in. You will need to make duplicate slides of the blank slide for that. If you use a number system in your classroom, the sun in the corner can double as a place to write the student number.
I know there are a thousand other things you need to do to get ready for the first week. If you work on these eight things at home you will be able to focus on what you really need to do in your classroom when you get there.
Did you miss the first part of this post? Read it here.
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