A few weeks ago I wrote a post on things to do in July to be ready for August. I've gotten lots of positive feedback to that post, and guess what? Its nearly August! The summer just seems to be flying by. I've heard from many that they are already heading back. I, on the other hand, am prepping for a few days of district PD and cannot officially get back to my classroom until mid-August. Nice to have a long summer, but definitely wishing I could get into my room a bit earlier since every week counts when you are pregnant.
Since I am still out of my room and so many of you found my July tips so useful, I've decided to follow up with another post a few more things those of you who are still enjoying summer can do to help relieve the oh-so-common beginning of year stress. So without further ado, here are a few more things to start thinking about now instead of when that class list hits your hand!
1) Plan for Supply Drop-off
Don't get a special supply drop-off time? Then make a plan for how you'll handle those supplies and the first day. 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. Here's what I prepare in advance to make things run smoothly.
- Supply Labels & Directions Letter: I, personally, 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 really great and is super informative. I quickly get a sense of who can follow directions the family dynamic from this process. For example, there is a great deal to be learned from a family when the parent sits down and unpacks everything and the child just wanders around picking through my things…especially the things on my desk. Below is a copy of my direction letter in case you're looking for inspiration.
- First Day Forms: In year's 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 would put a transportation form, my informational letter, and 2 information forms for parents to complete. This year, in an effort to reduce paper, I've combined the two forms. I've debated about going digital, but I really 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 note 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 really get the chance to know them.) I also make sure I 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 basically contains all the information from the three original forms combined, which saves paper and my sanity! (Hint: I print it on SUPER BRIGHT paper to help when I file it in my binder…more to come on that in another post.)
- Welcome Present: There has been some discussion online about welcome gifts for students. I have done this for a few years, and I really 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 add a cute little note and put one on each student's desk. Takes all of 15 minutes (less if I have the paper cutter and hole punch at home at the same time), and I am ready to roll! 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?
2) Print Your Labels & Set Up YOUR Notebooks
This one is great. I prep all my labels in advance. I might be a little label crazy, in fact. After the supplies arrive, I label all the notebooks and folders with student numbers and the subject. This year I am going to shake things up a bit and have students put their own student number labels on their items, but I can still prep the sheets of labels in advance, and put a sheet on the correct desk that morning. Once supplies are turned in, I will have saved a ton of time because I can put the appropriate subject labels on each item and pack them away to hand back as items are introduced. Despite being a little sad about it (because I LOVED last year's labels), I've decided to go low-ink for this year and created some new labels.
I really love to have my composition books cut in half for subjects that they don't always fill. If you buy your own composition books (which I do for a few subjects), this is great because you double your money! Personally, I've had Office Max cut mine in the past, but I have heard that home stores (think Lowes or Home Depot) will do it, too! I've never had an issue getting them cut for free. Below is an example of what my half-journals look like…way less intimidating size for those kids who hate to write.
You'll notice the labels are more colorful, which I've changed. However, I still have the student number and if you look at the bottom left corner, you'll notice this version has a page marker. It took forever (and several burnt fingers) to hot glue those into my journals, but was pretty helpful. Haven't found the time to do it again since. The positive of buying journals to cut is that these notebooks can get labels before you ever get your class list since you know what subjects they will be and can number them for each student.
3) Plan Something Fun for Your First Day
At my previous campus this was called our “First Day WOW”, and at times it would end up being an all day project. The goal was to have your students go home excited to come back to school on the second day rather than sitting through a million rules and procedures. I definitely can get behind the premise, but I personally cannot take the idea of losing the first day of school and not getting a single procedure in place for the other 179 days. Therefore, I suggest a compromise. Spend a little time on Pinterest (or wherever), and find something fun the kids can do…but be sure it is something you can handle doing without rules or procedures in place in advance.
We will be doing two activities I've done a few years now at different points. The first is in place of my morning work and is a scavenger hunt. The kids have a great time and it helps ease that first day transition while parents trickle out. Plus it helps them locate items they'll be using all year around the room.
The other is a fun teamwork activity called Save Fred, and it is super easy and fun. All you need are some plastic cups, a bag of gummy worms and gummy Lifesavers, and paperclips. The kids have a blast, but some years you end up with LOTS of sticky fingers…I am not sure how (since they aren't supposed to be touching the gummies, but you do.) Here is a link to free directions and an explanation of the activity: Save Fred
4) Plan Your Morning Work
At the beginning of our day, we have about 20-30 minutes. The kids can come into the room about 7:40, and our school news broadcast ends around 8:00-ish. I've seen this time make or break a school day over the past nine years. If the kids come in and there is nothing to focus on, or no routine, chaos reigns. However, I also need these moments to check in with students, read those notes parents send from home, and just get my ducks in a row since daycare drop-off puts me in the door last second (UGH! Thank goodness we LOVE Little Bean's daycare because last minute arrivals are hard on me.)
In my room, my students have two morning work assignments. The first is a spiraled math practice. Mondays they usually need a little extra help because it is a new set of problems, but the rest of the week follows a similar pattern so I am usually only checking in with 2-3 kids per day to help them with their morning work problems the rest of the week. Since I'd most likely be checking in with these 2-3 no matter what assignment I give, it is truly time well spent for me. Friday's math is considered a quiz, and since they've had four days to ask questions about the concepts and types of problems there isn't a lot of support needed or given. If the kids (overall) do well, I may count this as a math grade. If not, I look closely to see the areas we are having trouble and build a little more time in for working on that skill. We check this math together as a transition in from specials at the beginning of our math block, which is a great refocusing time for the kids. Click the picture to the right to see the math morning work I use in my room. You can get it ON SALE for 28% off on Monday and Tuesday at the TPT Back-to-School Sale (Promo Code: BTS14).
I also give them either an editing passage or short (like a paragraph or two) reading assignment to work on, depending on the time of year. We correct these right after our morning broadcast, and the students who haven't finished them are required to follow along and help complete theirs with the class. Typically these are the friends who are struggling and need some extra support so the extra discussion helps them better grasp the material. I put the document up on the camera and have a student co-lead so I can walk around and help those friends as needed.
5) Go out to lunch…or for mid-morning coffee.
Ok, this one is really not a must do, but in a few more weeks both of these won't be an option again until Thanksgiving! Get out there and enjoy the fact you can do whatever you want, whenever you want (well, within reason, of course). Stop at Starbucks and 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 there you have it. My suggestions for a few more things to consider as we head into August. 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 go back, the whole world falls into place a little easier.
And in case you missed it above, don't forget to pop by Teachers Pay Teachers on Monday & Tuesday to shop the Back-to-School Sale. If you are like me, you've got a wishlist full of great items just waiting for purchase! (Unlike me, you'll remember to enter the promo code to get the extra 10% off!!)