Getting Ready for Back to School: 10 Easy Summer Prep Tips for Teacher

Maybe it’s just me, but I always find August stressful. So much prep is required to get my classroom back together and prepare for my new students’ arrival. Getting ready for back to school and creating effective classroom can be overwhelming on its own, and I often feel panicked with the addition of professional development and the never-ending mandatory meetings.

Over the years, I’ve worked hard to figure out how to reduce this stress because it leaves me struggling to sleep at night some years!

No one wants to start the school year already stressed out. I decided to share my favorite tips that can help you jumpstart your back-to-school prep as you transition into summer.

getting ready for back to school
Getting Ready for Back to School: 10 Easy Summer Prep Tips for Teacher 11

Easy Back-t0-School Prep: 5 things to do now to stop back to school stress

Each of these easy-to-implement tips is designed to take you 20 minutes or less. They’re easy to tackle as you close up shop for the year. While doing some of these in May or June may seem silly, you’ll appreciate having them done when you return to campus in the fall.

If you’re a new teacher, getting these things done now can really save you HUGE chunks of time and stress later. Don’t hesitate to jump in and mark a few of these off your list, even if you didn’t know they were expected.

1. Update your Meet the Teacher letter to simplify back-to-school prep.

Nearly all campuses require teachers to send home an introduction letter. This letter gives your students and their parents a chance to meet you before they’re back in school. Taking 10-15 minutes to update this letter as you move into summer means you’re ready to check this off your list when your principal asks for it during your first week back.

Once summer staff development hits, your to-do list will get out of control quickly. It feels great to immediately check something off and not have to worry about it again.

Set aside 10-15 minutes. Take a few minutes to review the letter you sent home with students on those first days of school. As you read, consider whether it gives families the first impression you hope to give.

You are much more likely to make meaningful adjustments when you aren’t stressed with 500 other things to print, laminate, or prep.

Upload your letter to your digital classroom. If you’ve got an extra copy allotment, you can print them and put them in your files for back-to-school.

2. File this year & set up for the next year.

Some of us keep binders, others have file folders, and some prefer to keep everything digitally. Regardless of HOW you organize, the end of the year is a great time to evaluate how your system works for you.

If you feel good about your system, there’s no reason to make huge adjustments. However, taking a few minutes to prepare your files for next year can be helpful.

Personally, I like to keep a binder. Before I walk out on the last day, I take a few minutes to clear out this year’s information so it is ready for next year.

First, I remove rosters, data, and other information I have on this year’s students. I put them into a folder I kept for 3 years before shredding it.

Next, I will print out next year’s academic calendar. This lets me write important dates into my planner when I start. I plan around these when mapping out units.

Getting Ready for Back to School: 10 Easy Summer Prep Tips for Teacher 12

In addition, I make sure to clear out the data and lesson plans portions of my binder. I keep my lesson plans in a file folder to easily find them when planning this year.

Finally, I clean out spare papers in my catch-all plastic folder tabs.

3. Do a little website update to ease back-to-school prep.

Out of all the ideas on this list, updating my website before transitioning to summer mode has saved me the most time.

We all know that parents look at your website when they get word that you will be their child’s teacher. This is often their first impression of who YOU are. It also gives them an idea of their child’s experience for the school year.

If you don’t have a website, this is also a great time to set one up. Blogger or Google Sites both offer simple, easy-to-set-up options. You can also consider setting up a Google Classroom for your students and their families. This can be helpful if your school has to close and you transition to distance learning.

Here’s a little peek into my class site for many years.

Back-to-school prep your website

Here are some simple action steps you can take:

If you aren’t starting from scratch, take a few minutes to make sure your links work. This can help reduce frustration when using technology early in the school year. Free tools, like Broken Link Checker, can make this fast & easy.

You can also take a few minutes to write a short description of each unit you teach. You can also create a bullet-point list of each unit’s objectives and related standards. This helps me communicate with families. It also gives them a better idea of what they should expect their child to be able to do.

Save these in a Google Doc or other location. Share them with parents throughout the year to give them insight into what you’re learning.

By having these pre-written, you can add them to your site or unit descriptions without the hassle. Now, you won’t spend time updating your site to share the same information each year!

4. Prep for Back-to-School or Parent Night

Not only is there a ton to do at the beginning of the year, but you’re also contending with the extra stress of preparing for Parent Night.

Ladybug Teacher Files has a great editable parent night template that is a great way to save time. It took me some time to personalize it, but now I can prepare my presentation in 10-15 minutes by adjusting the times and adding any updates. This is a huge time and stress reliever during the busy back-to-school season.

I also had a few slides of my own to help cover some gaps between my school’s expectations and her available slides.

Here’s what I added to my Parent Night Presentation: 

Parent Night getting ready for back to school,back-to-school prep
  • Technology: We use a lot of technology in my room (and on my campus, in general). As a result, many parents come ready to ask questions about what their child will be doing with the technology.
  • Special Campus Programs: Two campuses I’ve worked with have had special models – one used Renzulli’s Enrichment Model, and the other was a PBL-focused campus. I wanted to ensure parents knew how these programs were implemented in my classroom.
  • Classroom codes: I added a slide to share our class QR code so they could sign up for our class’s digital reminder system. Doing this as a part of my parent night slides saved me tons of time later. Just make sure you don’t share this info on a website accessible to the public.
  • Before You Go Checklist: This is the slide I leave on the screen as a reminder of what they need to complete before leaving.

This year, I will be adjusting some things and making some clarification on items parents asked a lot about last year, but this still should only take me under 20 minutes.

I will also probably put together my forms and other papers into parent file folders so maybe an hour and a half tops!

5. Clean your Pinterest account as back-to-school prep.

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself mindlessly saving neat teaching ideas in your Pinterest account while you’re on your phone or computer.

The problem is, you never get around to half of these cool ideas because they get buried somewhere & you never see the pin again…or you see it after you’ve finished the unit.

Well, now is the time to get organized. It’s summer break. You’re on Pinterest anyway. Spend 15-20 minutes deciding what you can do to organize your boards for usability.

Organize your Pinterest Boards
Getting Ready for Back to School: 10 Easy Summer Prep Tips for Teacher 13

Create Pinterest boards for each unit you teach. Then sort your pins into these boards so you can quickly and easily find what you’re looking for when you’re unit planning.

This can save you tons of time, and it can also prevent you from falling down the rabbit hole of Pinterest.

6. Print your labels and Set Up Your Model Notebooks.

I always print all my labels for journals before leaving for the year. I know it seems silly, but it means I can quickly and easily prepare folders and journals in the fall.

Since I am going to have to spend a good chunk of time taking all my things back out of boxes, it seems like a good trade-off not to have to fight with the printer while everyone else is trying to figure out how to get their labels to print on the correct side!

7. Make a summer shopping list to get organized.

Before I pack up for the year, I start my shopping list for the next year. I always look for anything that is broken or needs a better organizational system.

I love doing this for two reasons. First, I can wait for sales because, let’s be honest, what teacher doesn’t spend a ridiculous amount on their classroom each summer? And second, I hate the rush of people hitting the stores in August…plus what I need always ends up sold out.

8. Outline your plans for the first week of school.

You probably still have your lesson plans from this school year. You know what first week of school activities you did that you loved, were engaging, and helped you build your class community.

Plug those into your plans for next year…or at least make a list of them (and copies if you have some left).

Sure, the schedule might change, but won’t it be great to have a little less planning to do once you come back?

9. Plan your morning work.

Make arrival a no brainer next year by getting your ducks in a row now. At this stage of the year, you already know what is going well and what isn’t with your morning routine, and you have a solid idea of how your students behave during those early minutes of the day. In most cases, next year’s group will fall into the same patterns, so why not address this NOW?

If your kids come in and there is nothing to focus on or no routine, chaos reigns. However, I also needed these moments to check in with students, read those notes parents send from home, and get my ducks in a row since daycare drop-off puts me in the door at the last second (UGH! Thank goodness we LOVE Little Bean’s daycare because last minute arrivals are hard on me.)

Therefore, I’ve decided we will start our day with a quick spiral review task. The first is a spiraled math and language arts practice. You can grab the one I’ve used with my kiddos for years here.

language spiral review
Getting Ready for Back to School: 10 Easy Summer Prep Tips for Teacher 14

10. Get organized for Meet the Teacher/Supply Drop-off

On my campus, families are invited to school a few days before the official first day. They meet their teacher and unpack some very full backpacks. My first year teaching this was NOT pretty. Supplies EVERYWHERE! Thankfully, since then I’ve gotten smart.

If you don’t have a special supply drop-off event, plan how to handle those supplies on the first day. Here’s what I prepare in advance to make things run smoothly.

Supply Labels & Directions Letter

Use index cards with a printed label that I’ve laminated to use each year. I set up supply boxes around the room, and give the families a sheet of directions on where things go. This system is great and is super informative. I quickly understood who can follow directions and the family dynamic from this process. For example, a lot to be learned from a family when the parent sits down and unpacks everything, and the child wanders around picking through my things…especially the things on my desk. Below is a copy of my direction letter if you want inspiration.

Example of Supply Drop-off Letter

First Day Forms 

In years past, I’ve prepared a file folder for each student (no names because I collect and reuse these plain file folders yearly & at Parent Night). Inside, I put:

  • a transportation form
  • my information/welcome letter
  • 2 information forms for parents to complete

This year, to reduce paper, I’ve combined the two forms. I’ve debated going digital, but I like the portability of my binder and seeing the actual page in front of me. So we shall see if I make it that far.

On top of the folder, I put the Supply Drop-off Directions and an index card for the notes students are asked to write me.

If you don’t already do this, I HIGHLY recommend it. You have an instant writing sample and can learn quite a bit about your students before you get to know them.

I also make sure to have a spot in the room labeled for parents to drop off the forms. Here is a copy of the form I will be using this year. It contains all the information from the three original forms combined, which saves paper and my sanity!

Hint: Print it on SUPER BRIGHT paper to help when I file it in my binder…more to come on that in another post.

Updated Student Info Sheet getting ready for back to school,back-to-school prep

Welcome Gift

There has been some discussion online about welcome gifts for students. I have done this for a few years, and I like the connection it helps build instantaneously. Plus, it only costs me about $2 for the whole class!

Each year around this time, the Target Dollar Spot (aka Teacher’s Best Friend) has glow bracelets. I can guarantee your Dollar Tree has some if they don’t stock them.

Add this cute little note and put one on each student’s desk.

It takes 10-15 minutes – less if I have the paper cutter and hole punch at home!

Want to do the same thing? Click the picture below to access this freebie!

That’s it! That is all the preparation I do for Supply Drop-off Day, and nearly all of it can be done from home in under an hour! Does it get any better than that?

Blog Pic getting ready for back to school,back-to-school prep

Bonus Points: Go out to lunch…or for mid-morning coffee.

Ok, this one is not a must-do, but in a few more weeks, both won’t be an option again until Thanksgiving!

Get out there and enjoy that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want (well, within reason, of course).

Stop at Starbucks, sit in one of their cozy chairs, and sip your latte uninterrupted for 30 minutes! Go out to lunch and eat with friends for a WHOLE hour. Be wild, be crazy…and enjoy!

So what are you waiting for?

So there you have it. My suggestions for a few more things to consider getting accomplished before you walk out the door for summer break…or as you’re leisurely thinking about what’s to come in the middle of your summer downtime.

There are (of course) always little campus-specific things you can do, but I truly believe if you can get the little things like these done before you return, the whole world falls into place a little easier.

5 Ways to Reduce Back-to-School Stress - Things to do at the end of the year to smooth things out for next year.

Looking for more ideas to simplify back-to-school prep? Check out this post with three MORE things you can do to ease back-to-school stress.

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