Having community building activities for the first week of school is a great way to bring the students in your classroom together and involve everyone. Make your new class of students feel welcome and empowered by trying some of these ideas!
Having community building activities for the first week of school is a great way to bring the students in your classroom together and involve everyone. Make your new class of students feel welcome and empowered by trying some of these ideas!
At the start of every school year, It’s a good idea to have some lessons and activities that make the first few weeks back extra special. As the kids are adjusting, getting acquainted, and learning the new demands of a new grade, it’s nice to offer them fun and memorable opportunities to connect. Check out these 7 lessons and activities to make the start of school memorable!
Are you gearing up for the first days and weeks back to school? These 30 fun and inspiring activities and ideas will make your start to the school year memorable. Sit down, grab a pencil and your planner, and use these creative ideas as a starting point as you begin to map out your return to the classroom. You won’t be disappointed!
The first week of school is often harried with anxious students, the uncertainty of schedules, last-minute finalization of plans, and lots of coffee! Begin thinking about what you’ll do now – well before the first day, and remember these important points:
1.Get organized, plan your classroom management strategy, and don’t forget any important details with these ten tips for teachers for the first week of school.
2. Are you a new teacher? This list of tips for new teachers, based on what I wished I knew in the beginning, can help you get started!
3. Communication and showing that you care are important when meeting with parents that first week. Take these three tips into consideration to create positive relationships with families.
4. When you’re initially setting up your classroom routines, don’t forget these important details.
5. You will find awesome, actionable tips and activity ideas for your first week in this post geared for 3rd-grade teachers that first week!
6. Model appropriate behaviors, keep things positive and plan well, and you’ll be on your way. These 9 things will help you start your year off right!
Everyone wants to ensure that their classroom is a haven for community and collaboration. A place where everyone feels comfortable and invited to participate. Help your students feel part of the bigger plan by engaging them in some of the following activities.
7. It’s always fun to throw in some cooperation and teamwork activities throughout the day to build community. Try these fast and easy games and activities.
8. A classroom contract is a way for everyone to mutually agree on the goals and attitudes desired. Creating the contract together, encouraging students to follow it, and enforcing it are key to a successful classroom community.
9. On the first day of school, get warmed up with these five cooperative learning activities. Watch as your kids get to know each other and learn how to work together and communicate, setting the first day up to be a hit!
10. This easy activity to inspire a growth mindset will encourage your students to think positively about challenges and mistakes. It will also give them the vocabulary needed to promote courage and persistence.
11. These chit-chat cards (free printable) are really great for opening up lines of communication and breaking the ice. Try them with your class!
Start the year off with engaging activities that get kids excited about coming to school, and encourages them to grow and learn. These classroom activities will keep students smiling and looking forward to the next thing you have in store for them.
12. Give your students an opportunity to practice listening and following directions with this fun back-to-school bus directed drawing activity.
13. If you are looking for a meaningful literature-based activity that builds character and name recognition, this unit centered around the book Chrysanthemum will certainly do.
14. Help kids learn the names of their classmates with some of these fun name activities! You’ll even pick up on the new names quickly, too.
15. Here are lots of educational and motivational activities to try during the first week back. There are puzzles, games and exploration activities that will get the students talking and working together.
16. Browse these FUN back-to-school activities for neat ideas, including leaving a can of Playdoh on their desk the first day and quizzing the teacher on the first day.
17. Get to know your students, and help them to get acquainted with each other through these four first-day activities. including a FREE first day of school cootie catcher!
18. Toss a beach ball with get-to-know-you questions on it, and watch students engage in the friendly game and build connections.
Classroom management is something you really must have a handle on. Without effective strategies for maintaining order, teaching and reinforcing expectations for behavior, attitudes, and productivity, your classroom can very quickly become a chaotic mess.
19. Try a few of the 10 positive classroom management tips and tricks I’ve found to be the most effective.
20. Prepare ways to reward your students ahead of time with these 5 creative and cost effective options. Achievements, successes, and good behavior deserve praise and recognition!
21. Need a unique way to reward a child with something special, being a good listener, showing kindness, or some other achievement? These class coupons will come in handy.
22. One way to show students the power of hurtful words is to use this “Sticks and Stones” activity. They will learn the harsh reality that words can cause as much damage to the heart as physical harm to the body.
An organized classroom is a well-run, predictable haven for your students, and saves you your sanity! Take a little bit of time in the weeks before school to make sure you’ve got your classroom organized and ready for kids.
23. Check out this round up of 20 things that teachers absolutely must have for back-to-school! See if you have all these things on your list.
24. Have you thought about how your students can help out? Having classroom jobs makes the day run smoother, and gives everyone responsibility in the classroom.
26. If you have a Silhouette Cameo, you’ll love these ideas for how to organize and create pretty things for your classroom!
27. Looking to spend the least amount of time as possible on classroom set-up? Rachel shows you how to set up your classroom in less than two hours! Impressive.
28. If you’ve ever considered alternative seating, check out this description of different possibilities as well as how well they worked for one teacher.
29. Pamper yourself by buying yourself these school supplies for teachers you can’t live without!
30. Be prepared and ready for any new students to be added to your roster by creating a new student welcome kit.
These 30 back to school ideas and activities are sure to get your classroom students motivated and excited at the beginning of the year! Try some of them out and your future Teacher-of-the-Year title will be well-earned. Have a great year!
Are you ready for the first day back to school? The students’ smiling faces after a summer of fun, and their anticipation about their new classroom, friends and of course, their new teacher, is always an exciting time. Here is a list of 20+ back to school teacher must-haves!
Your school may have the basic things like pencils, paper, sticky notes, and even bulletin board decorating supplies. But do you have the extras? You know, the things that make teaching FUN!
Here are some books I recommend that new and seasoned teachers will enjoy. Some are for you; some are for your students. Either way, here are a few suggestions to stock your classroom or personal shelves.
Classroom management is the foremost important thing to make sure you’ve planned well. Without a solid structure of rules and consequences, methods for managing behavior and routines, and motivational strategies, you may struggle to be productive and meet your goals for the year. Try out some of these ideas.
There are so many new ideas and opportunities in the world of teaching. So many ways to do it right, and yet it can be overwhelming. Here are some innovative and inspiring ideas that you can perhaps try out this year. They are proving to be great methods with which other teachers are finding success.
Get to know your students by having them create a self-portrait. Provide them with a variety of art and drawing supplies, and let them be creative. Encourage them to write a description of themselves for you to read. This is a fun self-awareness project for them and an ice-breaker for you to learn a little bit about each child.
Summer’s going to be over before you know it. Soak up the sun, rest and relax of course. But when you’re ready, these must-have ideas and resources will get you set up and ready. Let me know what things you’re going to do before the beginning of the school year by leaving a comment!
There is no doubt that children respond to rewards. The key is finding the right kind of rewards that don’t break the bank, yet keep motivation up. Teachers spend enough of their hard earned money already. Filling those treasure boxes with dollar store items can add up. It’s time for teachers to save their money and use alternative methods.
We all want our children and students to develop intrinsic motivation. Moving away from store bought items is a step in the right direction. Kids don’t need more “things” to add to their pile at home. Store bought items are exciting to get, but they quickly lose their “uniqueness” after they are received.
The key to success here is thinking of rewards for kids that are creative, fun, and make a lasting impact. Giving rewards that create moments and have meaning is what matters and what sticks in a child’s mind.
Below are 5 Creative and Cost Effective Rewards for Kids.
1. Praise and kindness
Praise a child when they do the right thing. Tell them descriptively what they did well. Give compliments when their actions and choices are the right ones. They are more likely to do those things again if they see and hear from an adult they trust that they did the right thing. Smile and be kind to students even on bad days. They look up to you and they want and need to see that you like them. Children are more willing to try and do the right thing if they feel supported and valued. Kindness and praise go a long way.
HOW: This type of rewards does not require any prep, but it does require acknowledgement and possibly a change in your thought process. Smile and say “Good morning!” to all of your students at the door. Make a plan to say something nice to each student at least once a day. For those students needing a bit more help and encouragement, make it a point to intact positively with them twice a day or more! Work hard to fill those invisible buckets!
COST: $0 and the positive results are endless!
Coupons are the perfect versatile reward system. Reward any behavior or accomplishment of your choice any time of day. When a child does something positive, they earn a coupon from a coupon box or drawers. Give children a choice of what coupon they would like to have. The coupons says things that children enjoy doing. They say things like “Wear Shades” or “Lunch with a Friend” or “Special Supplies”. Students love choosing what is important to them. Each coupon is motivating and fun.
HOW: Make an anchor chart of your classroom expectations and rules. Reward students who follow the guidelines with coupons daily. Whatever your class is working on or improving, use coupons as a motivator. Give the quietest students at the carpet or the student who solves a problem independently a coupon. Surprise students with coupons out of the blue when they deserve it, work hard, or try their best at something.
COST: There is only the initial cost of buying the coupons, printing and laminating them, and buying a coupon box or drawer organizer. You can try a free coupon pack to see how your students like it. Coupons don’t cost a thing once your materials are organized. They require some planning and time, but the enjoyment of getting and using them is limitless. Getting to pick their own coupons and experience fun at school is the reward.
This class management method is incredibly simple to initiate and effective for whole-class goal setting. Every time a marble is dropped into the jar, the class is one step closer to a predetermined reward. The goal is to fill up with marble jar. Students work together with their classmates to listen, work hard, and follow classroom expectations. They are rewarded at first with the marble in the jar and later with the class chosen reward. It’s the “hard work pays off” mentality. Success is achieved when everyone works together towards a common goal.
HOW: Have a class discussion about team work and working cooperatively towards a group goal. Create an anchor chart together and have students suggest ideas of whole class rewards. Encourage students with ideas such as getting extra recess, having a dance party, or going outside for a picnic lunch. Have a vote as a class and let the top choice be the whole-class reward once the jar is full.
Create a list for yourself of the time of the day that you will use the marble jar. Put the jar somewhere visible to everyone and easily accessible. Marbles make a sound every time they drop into the container. The sound will draw students’ attention to what is happening and remind them of what they are working towards. Remark to students how full the jar is getting as you add marbles to motivate them further. Once the jar is full, celebrate with your class.
COST: A few $ dollars at the dollar store to buy a few bags of marbles and a clear jar or container.
Students need recognition to know that what they are doing is right. Especially at school. Certificates are one way to give validation. Go a step further from praise and kindness. Let students know they have done a great job and to keep it up. Certificates are tangible and something to hold. They serve as a keepsake. Children often take them home to share with their families and post on their bedroom walls. They are a source of pride.
HOW: Decide what actions and behaviors warrant certificates. Ask yourself when they will be given, how, and to whom. Certificate rewards are great for celebrating milestones, such as reading achievements, having a birthday, or losing a tooth. They are equally special at the end of the year during a class awards ceremony led by the teacher. Prep the certificates ahead of time and organize them together in an accordion folder.
COST: Getting the certificates, paper, and ink are the only costs. The positive feelings are completely FREE!
5. Brag Tags
Brag Tags are mini versions similar to certificates. Brag Tags are given out at various times of the year to celebrate school events and to recognize achievements along the way. They are small and kept together on a chain necklace or binder ring. Classes may hang their tags together as a symbol of pride. Children love to collect them and to see their collections at the end of the year.
HOW: There is a bit more involved in preparing Brag Tags. You will want to print and laminate a class set of each type you plan on giving out ahead of time. There are many drawer organizers available that can hold Brag Tags in an organized fashion. Plan a way to give the tags out and how you will add them to their necklaces or rings.
COST: You will need white cardstock or colored paper, a printer, laminator, a heavy duty paper trimmer, a box with drawers or display shelf to house the tags, and chains or binder rings to hold the tags. Once you have your supplies ready to go, the excitement can begin! Consequently kids will feel so special as their collections grow!
Click both of the images below to grab your free reward coupons, Brag Tags, and certificates!
Do you use rewards? What are your favorite rewards for kids?
I hope the ideas above will save you money, let your class have fun, and leave everyone with good feelings inside!
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you would like more tips and ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay connected with the latest news and freebies!
Social responsibility is about ethics and a duty for the greater good. As educators, we strive to teach students to understand and respect themselves, each other, and the world around them. It is promoting thoughtful interactions with others and thinking beyond oneself. It is about making the right decisions and solving conflicts.
If you have arrived at this post, I can assume it is due to a curiosity or a need. Perhaps you are wondering how to begin teaching social responsibility. Perhaps you are wondering where to begin and what steps to take.
I hope that this and future posts in this series give you actionable, straight-forward lessons and ideas that you can implement in your classroom today. I hope that you start seeing the benefits in the ways that your students interact, deal with the highs and lows of their day, and make decisions in the classroom and on the playground. I hope that you see the many little bodies in your classroom grow into ones that are fulfilled, peaceful, kind, and strong.
Each year we create a classroom contract. This multi-step process helps children identify what is important in a classroom and to take responsibility for maintaining that. A classroom contract is something that is built with the participation and ideas from everyone. It becomes something quite strong and powerful. It is also a nice alternative to traditional classroom rules.
Starting at the beginning of the year, we have conversations with each day about social topics. We talk about respect, community, team work, responsibility etc. I ask them questions and give them scenarios to discuss and answer. This encourages critical thinking and sharing of viewpoints.
I read books daily and choose stories that illustrate how children deal with different emotions and issues. We talk about the stories and students share their connections. This post includes my list of books that are perfect for teaching social skills and having those important conversations.
We gather as a class to create an anchor chart together. I have the chart ready with a title “A Great Classroom” and a Y shape below it to create three separate areas to add our ideas. Children are asked to give thoughts and answer questions honestly. You could change the title to something different that suits your class, such as “A Peaceful Classroom” or “Mrs. or Mr.’s Classroom”.
I start with asking them to imagine what a “great” classroom looks like (what they see when they look around in their classroom and at the children). As students raise their hands and share ideas, I add those ideas to the anchor chart. If I feel like an important idea has not been mentioned, I may give hints or ask questions until someone mentions it.
Some of the ideas for “A Great Classroom looks like include happy kids, working hard, fun, learning, helping, and more.
We switch to what a “great” classroom sounds like (what they hear in terms of noise and what people say). Children eagerly share their ideas and I add them to that section.
Some of the ideas for “A Great Classroom sounds like include quiet working, manners, laughing, kind words, questions, and more.
Lastly we talk about what a “great” classroom feels like (what feelings they have inside when they are at school and how people make them feel). This part is a bit more difficult for children. Encourage them to think about how they feel on a good day and when good things happen. This is good practice for kids to identify different emotions.
Some of the ideas for “A Great Classroom feels like include open, welcoming, respectful, happy, honest, and more.
Review and reread the chart with the class. Ask them if anyone needs anything explained or if there are any questions. While the ideas are still fresh in their minds, children get to pick their favourite three ideas. They choose one idea from each of the three sections and add a sticker to mark that spot.
Children line up and come up to the chart with their stickers. I ask them to say which ideas they think are the most important and I help them, if needed, to find those ideas on the chart.
As stickers are added, we begin to see a few ideas from each section stand out. After all the stickers have been added, count up and write the number of stickers beside each “big” idea. Those “big” ideas become the main components of the classroom contract. If children believe those ideas to be the most important, then they will be more prone to follow through and work hard.
As an extension activity, you could have students record their own 3-4 favourite ideas or the top ideas chosen by the class. Using the free templates, children can write their ideas and illustrate them, make their own anchor chart, record the final contract, and more. Their work could be posted along with the final signed contract on a bulletin board later on.
To use the FREE class contract resource, click the image below.
On a separate day, prewrite the class contract that includes the most important things decided upon as a class. I suggest writing them into a paragraph on a piece of chart paper that can be read aloud each day.
Read and practice it with the class. Each child can put their name or stamp a thumb print on the final contract to show that they agree. Post the classroom contract somewhere visible and review with the class often. I usually post it along a higher wall that we can all see and refer to often.
By developing a classroom contract with your students, you are letting them know that they are important members of the classroom community and that their ideas matter. This contract is a symbol of team work, cooperation, and respect. It lets children know and reminds them of what role they have as individuals. It is a powerful thing!
Looking for more lessons and activities to help build community and social emotional skills? Check out the mind+heart SEL curriculum!
This back to school bus directed drawing creates an adorable result that is perfect for the classroom at back to school time.
This directed drawing can be adapted for any primary classroom or completed at home with a few simple materials. You will need white art paper, a pencil, an eraser, a fine black marker or Sharpie pen, watercolor paints, and larger paintbrush. I recommend proper paper meant for painting because it can handle the water and shouldn’t tear the paper if used properly.
When teaching this art lesson to a class I recommend standing front and center and using a large easel and chart paper to draw on. Students can sit at tables with their supplies. I take things slow and draw each step and give each instruction one at a time. I give my students plenty of time to follow along and ask questions. You will have the most success if you model the lesson this way and take your time.
Below are all the steps for the back to school bus directed drawing art lesson.
Place a large white piece of art paper in landscape orientation. Starting by drawing a curved line at the top of the page that comes straight down on both sides to the middle of the page. Draw a curve and straight line down from the side. Repeat on the other side. Do not come too far down the page to leave room for the bumper and wheels. Connect both sides with a line going across.
Draw two straight lines going across. One near the top of the bus and one near the middle. To complete the bumper, draw another line at the bottom and connect with curved lines on the sides.
Draw two large eyes in the center of the top part of the bus. Draw the eyes one at a time so that they can connect. Add a smaller circle inside each eye. Draw a line going across the middle so it connects both sides. Erase any lines that may have been drawn into the eyes. For the window, draw a curved line going up from the middle on both sides and around the top.
Now add the details. Draw a U shape about an inch wide under the bumper on both sides of the bus for the wheels. Draw a few circles for lights on the front of the bus. Add a smile to the front of bus to give it a mouth. Give the bus ears by drawing a curved line on both sides. Write the word SCHOOL along the top of the bus and draw two more circles for lights.
Use a fine point black marker or Sharpie pen to trace all the lines of your school bus directed drawing. Erase the pencil lines with a good white eraser.
I usually complete the activity over two days or periods of time. On day one we complete the drawing and the tracing with a black marker. One day two we paint. If your class hasn’t used watercolour paints before, you should demonstrate how to make proper brush strokes with a paintbrush and the water to paint ratio. I usually use larger paintbrushes instead of the small ones that are normally included with watercolour paint sets.
Use watercolour paints to paint the body of the school bus first, starting in the center and working your way outward.
I used yellow for the main parts of the bus and other fun colours for the details. Bright colours really pop! Use one colour completely before moving on to the next colour.
You could continue to paint the background a different colour or leave it as is. You could also cut the school bus out and glue onto construction or other special paper.
Once everyone completes their back to school bus directed drawing, place them somewhere to dry completely. Don’t make the mistake to hang them or place them upright. Paint and water would drip down onto the pictures. Once dry, I recommend hanging them up or creating a fun bulletin board display for back to school time.
You can download and print the instructions for the back to school bus directed drawing to use in your classroom during your art lesson by clicking the image below.
Add directed drawings to your weekly lesson plans to help children follow directions and build drawing skills. There are 5 different directed drawings included each month of Drawing Mats!
The ultimate guide to teaching directed drawing in the classroom. Directed drawing art activities help kids produce masterpieces and build confidence. This guide provides a listing of directed drawing resources, suggested materials, and FREE step by step tutorials. Click HERE to check it out!
Click images to view these popular posts!
Have you ever met a teacher that didn’t love….and hoard children’s books? Me neither! Including me!
Every teacher needs to have a few books ready in their toolkit for back to school. There are a ton of great reads available that can help set the tone in your classroom. Books can help you teach expectations and social responsibility. Books can get children ready and eager to learn new things. Books are also a fantastic tool for introducing something new.
A great collection of children’s books are a must for any classroom. I use children’s books to help me teach many topics. My post on the best children’s books for teaching math is filled with tips to help you incorporate books into your math program.
Today I am sharing a few of my favourite children’s books for teaching writing. The book I am mentioning is fantastic for the beginning of the school year and setting up your writing program. This book and others I will mention can be used to help students generate ideas for writing.
Make sure to read to the end of the post for a free writing resource for generating ideas, as well as a giveaway and tons more posts and ways to use books in September.
Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon is a must read! This adorable book is perfect for primary grades. It features a likable kid, named Ralph, who struggles during this classroom writing time each day.
He has a hard time coming up with ideas about what to write. His classmates help him realize that he does have stories and encourage him to look at small things to find those ideas.
Ralph realizes that he does have ideas and stories to tell.
As teachers, we can all relate to this story. Maybe we’ve had students like Ralph who just can’t think of anything to write everyday during writing time. Those kids often sit there while time wastes away. We try to help them think of ideas, but they may just be stuck on a thought that their ideas are not important or good enough for writing about.
Ralph Tells a Story is a fantastic book to read to let children know that their ideas are valuable and worth writing about. Writing time should be an opportunity to let our ideas flow, to express our ideas, and grow as learners.
The writing tips from Ralph are especially sweet and remind us all that writing should be fun. Use this page as an example and have students create their own writing tips. Grab a free writing template to use for this lesson below.
I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the school year on generating ideas for writing. Before we begin to write, we talk about what we can write. Below are lesson ideas I suggest teachers use at the start of the year to help strengthen your writing program. I try to incorporate each of these lesson ideas on different days.
Create an anchor chart filled with writing topics that children suggest. Write “Our Writing Ideas” in the center and brainstorm ideas around it. The anchor chart should not be completed in the first lesson, but could be something that is built upon and reviewed at the start of any writing block. The chart can be posted in a visible place for children to look at when the need arises.
Sharing ideas together like this is a powerful thing. Children are listening to their peers share ideas that they may connect too. They may hear someone mention a topic that interests them or that they may have a personal story about.
I encourage students to share ideas and topics from their own experiences. Like Ralph and his classmates, learning to first write “true” stories from their lives is the easiest and best first step.
Another useful way to help children generate ideas is through list writing. Encouraging them to write lists of words and ideas is helpful when they get stuck. List writing is like a personal brainstorm of ideas and words onto a sheet of paper.
After the class has shared plenty on the ideas anchor chart, have students complete their own list of writing ideas. Here they can share ideas they heard that interest them, as well as new ideas they come up with. The list is kept in a writing folder and available for when it’s needed. Grab a free list for writing template below.
Leaving strips of writing paper at your writing center is another way to encourage list writing. If a child is not ready to write a “story” yet, they may feel more comfortable writing a list of words related to a certain topic. The Writing & Words resource includes different list writing sheets for every season, as well as many other valuable writing activities.
The book Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills is a sweet book about a dog, named Rocket, who wants to make his own story, but can’t think of one. He goes on a journey and discovers small details around him. He writes down those small details, much like a list, and those small details help him think of an idea.
One of my favourite beginning of the year writing activities is creating heart maps. A heart map is a heart drawn that is divided into sections. In each section, students are encouraged to write the name of and draw what is important to them. The book My Map Book by Sara Fanelli includes a page with a heart map. It provides a nice visual for students before they create their own.
We discuss what is important and what matters the most to us. The people in our family, our friends, pets, homes, hobbies, and our favourite things and places help fill our heart maps.
Heart maps are helpful for generating writing ideas because all of the things on our heart maps make great writing topics. When the heart maps are complete, keep the hearts in a writing folder or place that is accessible to students. In the beginning of the school year, I will leave the heart maps up on a bulletin board or on student desks during writing time. Grab a free heart map template below.
I have each of these books in my writing toolkit and I highly suggest you seek them out.
Grab FREE writing templates to help your students generate writing ideas. A heart map, writing tips, and list writing templates included.
Click HERE to sign up and grab them today!
Back to school has got to be the most important time of the entire school year. There are so many things to think about in order to have a smooth transition from summer vacation to classroom instruction. From classroom management and organization to choosing curriculum and planning units to getting ready for your students to enter your classroom door, you must be ready and equipped ahead of time! This can be stressful…but enjoyable too!
Adequate preparation for the first week is essential for success. I am excited to share with you the most important tips of what has worked for me as you head into and during that all important first week. I hope to help you start the new school year off feeling confident, ready, and at ease! If you are a new teacher just starting out, make sure to also read this post with tons of tips to start you off right and this post with many ways to save time.
Maybe this is a no brainer, but it must be said! Setting up a classroom and getting things ready for a new school year takes time. There is a ton to prep and set up. Leaving it until the day before or even during the first week can add unnecessary stress to your week.
I suggest going into your class at the beginning of the week before school begins. You may already be there to have meetings with the staff or your team, and if not, this is a great time to reconnect with your colleagues. Check in with your administrators and let them know you are looking forward to a new school year.
Find some time when you can close your door and stay focused on what needs to be done. Get those bulletin boards ready and set up your furniture and seating plan. Be comfortable with the layout of your classroom and make sure it is organized and ready for kids.
Now I am not telling you to spend your entire last week of your *precious* summer vacation in the classroom! Just make sure that you get some things done so that you can enjoy the time with your new class once the first week hits.
Having a classroom that is organized and ready for students is incredibly important. Making sure the important items in the class have a place and that they are accessible is key. Everything does NOT have to look perfect and have matching colours, labels, bins, etc. While those things are great and nice, they are not necessary.
Having a clean and organized set-up for your classroom books is helpful. I use a standing bookshelf that holds my theme and seasonal books. I also have shelves of books in bins that are labelled to make it easy for students to find what they are looking for. This post HERE outlines how I set up my classroom reading program and how I organize the books my students read. One Sharp Bunch has an amazing classroom set up with tons of great organizational and back to school ideas (check it out HERE).
I suggest also taking the time to organize your classroom resources either in tubs, boxes, folders, or whatever works for you. Keep them together and ready for when that time comes. Organize learning materials for the different subjects in different areas of the classroom. Have an area for school supplies and math manipulatives, have a different space for your centers, and of course, a teacher area with your own personal materials and supplies.
Where do you start? Use the FREE Teacher Checklist to help you get organized. Let me also suggest Pinterest. It is a fantastic place to go for ideas and to see what you might like in your own classroom. Check out my Classroom Organization board for a ton of helpful ideas!
If you can get a hold of your class list, LABEL EVERYTHING!
Decide before the year begins about what your classroom management will look like. If the strategies you choose require certain materials, have those prepped and ready for the first week of school. Spend a good chunk of the first week of school teaching your students those strategies. Practice and role play different scenarios so they understand the expectations in your classroom.
I am HUGE believer in the power of GREAT classroom management. Classroom management can take on many different forms and it means so many things in a classroom. Without it, our classrooms would probably fall apart and total CHAOS would ensue (kidding, but seriously it’s important)! I have my favourite strategies in a MUST READ post HERE.
My 4 favourite classroom management systems are class coupons, class jobs, class meetings, and team points (click to read the posts). I love these approaches to handling children because it are positive, rather than punitive. They encourage kids to be their best selves and work to improve themselves. They encourage kids to be open minded and responsible. If you are looking for more strategies and ideas, check out the ultimate classroom management resource HERE!
Let me start off by saying that you do not need to have the most beautiful classroom or the most color coordinated one either. Your classroom will be wonderful no matter what colors you choose for your bulletin boards or your bins. But chances are if you are a teacher, you have an idea of how you want your classroom to look. You have probably searched Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers for design inspiration…and there is a lot out there.
I encourage you to choose a theme or a few colours and stick with them. Decorate your classroom like you would a room in your home, with care and consideration of its purpose and who will be in that space. Ask yourself if it will encourage student learning or distract them!
Once you have picked and thought up a style that suits you, you get to GO SHOPPING (kidding)! TpT has a ton of classroom decor products. Some of my favourite looks are OMBRE, rainbow chevron, and neon. There are also a ton of DIY projects out there to get you a certain look (HELLO Pinterest). Amazon and the Target Dollarspot are my ONE-STOP-SHOPS for affordable class decor items.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to do some pre-planning. It is an overwhelming task, but one that needs to be done and better sooner than later. Read and know the curriculum for the grade you teach inside and out. Spend some time before the school year begins mapping out the units and themes you will be teaching. Have an idea of what each month will look like in your classroom.With some planning done ahead of time, you will feel much more relaxed and in control during the first week of school.
To organize the school year, I suggest creating a year long curriculum map with the themes and topics that you will be teaching each month. Jamie from Play to Learn Preschool has some helpful suggestions when planning out your year in PreK. Her ideas and FREE unit planner would work in many primary classrooms.
Once you know what your weekly schedule looks like, create a weekly plan layout with the different subjects in different blocks of time. Enlarge the template and make many copies to leave in your work space. Keep your plan ready and easy to glance at whenever you need. Below is an example of a weekly planning sheet I used previously.
You may also need detailed plans for your individual lessons. Have a template ready that you can use during your lesson planning. Create a template for the different subjects (i.e. math, reading) you teach daily and attach those to your weekly plan. Stay organized and on top of your daily tasks with a FREE teacher task list template that will help you save time!
If you have a yearly plan ready and know which resources you will be using to teach different themes and topics, prep them ahead of time. Get to the photocopier when no one is there and run off your class sets of booklets. Get those notebooks ready. Prep those unique materials for different subjects. Print those resources that need cutting and laminating (with these amazing laminating sheets) and get them prepped and ready. Set up your centers, gather your materials, and get bins of manipulatives together.
Use that first week of school (and before if you can) to get everything together that you will need for your first few weeks or even months of school. You WILL be exhausted once school is in session and will not feel like creating, setting up, or organizing your resources. Don’t be the chicken with your head cut off! DO IT EARLY! (you’ll thank me later)
The first day and week of school will come and go very quickly, but they are super important. Those days and moments with your new class will set the stage for the rest of the school year. It is important to make good use of that time together. Think of what kind of year you want to have and how you want things to run. Plan activities that will help set those plans into motion. Take time to build a community together through community building activities (read THIS POST with tons of ideas).
Have a few activities for each day of the first week of school planned ahead of time. This post with back to school tips suggests a few fun welcome activities, including the name art seen above. Over plan activities that encourage new relationships to form. Be flexible because important topics, discussions, and activities may need more time. Teach and use brain breaks frequently! Go outside to play and enjoy the nice weather before it’s gone!!
Spend a good chunk of your first week of school teaching classroom rules, routines, and procedures. There is nothing more important during the first week. Take the time to teach each procedure and routine that you want students to learn one at a time and practice them. Do not assume that they will remember them or do them properly if they are not told, shown, and allowed to try!
Decide early on what your classroom rules will be either on your own or decide together as a class. We spend a few class periods working on our classroom contract. This contract starts as a brainstorm of what we want our classroom to look, sound, and feel like. We vote and choose the ideas that we like best. From there a contract is written that we can all agree on. The contract is something that is referred to often throughout the year. It helps start the year off on the right track!
Each day we recite the Whole Brain rules. They are combined with actions and this encourages students to really develop a connection to their meaning. You can grab a FREE set of Whole Brain rule posters HERE.
Get to know your students before they enter your classroom door. Send a note or make a quick phone call home to your new students welcoming them and their families to your classroom. Encourage them to stop by and say hello when you are there prepping your class before school starts.
Read each student’s file ahead of time so that you can NOT MAKE JUDGEMENTS, but be better prepared to meet their invidual needs. If necessary, set up times to have informal meetings about particular students with the resource and support teachers to be more informed and ready.
Set up a time to chat with the previous year’s teacher and see if there is anything you need to know ahead of time. Ask them for any assessments they completed at the end of the year and copy those for your files. PLEASE Stay open minded! Know that each child responds differently to different people and different styles of teaching. What one teacher may have found to be a problem student, may be a perfect match for you.
Make or find some time during the first week of school to do a quick assessment of your students. Make observations. Take note of how students act in the class, how they respond to you and their classmates, and what basic skills they have or lack.
Create a quick assessment that you can give to students. Assess those skills that they should know from the previous year to see where they are academically. Add also those skills that you plan on teaching to them over the next few months and see what they know. Do what you can to get a basic overview of each student to help you plan the future.
Do not worry too much about what they do and don’t know. Focus more on getting to know them during the first week. Make them feel comfortable and at home in your classroom.