Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Getting Ready for Back to School at the End of the Year


If you're anything like me, you have a million things going on right now as you start to wrap up the school year...But if you're also like me, a tiny little voice in your head (okay, mine is more like the Allstate Insurance man) is urging you to start preparing for Back to School, 'cause having been through a few summers, I know what's coming, and the new school year will be here before you know it.

Before I detail all of the things you could do to get ready for Back to School, let me tell you to feel free to do one or two, all or none of these things. If you are feeling like one more thing may push you over the edge, then it's worth it to just focus on getting through the year and knowing that you can come back in the summer or right before school starts to get things done. Totally up to you of course!

But, if you've got the energy and you'd like to get some things done so your to do list is shorter when you come back, here are some ideas of things you can do to get ready? Of course what you actually do varies from classroom to classroom, but here is my list of the top ten things I like to tackle before I walk out my classroom door for summer break:

1. Write Lesson Plans for the First Week
This is a great time to get out your new planner and pencil in those icebreakers, getting to know you activities, procedural training talks, and of course the first few lessons of reading, writing, math and more. Just setting these down on paper, helps relieve some of the stress of not knowing exactly what you're going to do during the first few crucial days of instruction.

2. Copy and Prepare Everything You'll Need for the First Week
Once I have my lesson plans, I figure out what we'll need and I make copies now, before the mad rush to the copier happens a few days before school starts. As soon as they're copied, I stack the papers and put them into my teacher cubbies to keep everything straight.

3. Put Up Any Bulletin Boards That You Can
Even though our custodians clean for the summer, they leave all of the walls alone. This makes it easy to staple colorful paper and borders to the walls and add any lettering that's needed. Once this foundational part of the bulletin board is done, it's ready for the kids to add their artwork or projects later on. If you can't put them up now, you could at least plan whatever bulletin boards you'll be using and what will eventually go on them.

4. Prepare Take Home Packets for the First Week
Our office sends a boatload of papers home on the first day, but there are also a few informational forms that I send home each year. Once I do a quick edit for the correct school year and grade (I'm usually 4th/5th but sometimes only 4th or 5th), I really like getting my papers copied and ready to go. 

5. Copy Handouts for Back to School Night
Every school handles this differently, but my school has a special night for Back to School. It takes place a few days after school starts and is for parents only. At Back to School Night, Teachers give a short presentation of what types of things they'll be doing for the year and also go over class expectations and so on. I love to copy the Back to School Night forms ahead of time, so when the craziness of a new school year starts, I'm much more able to keep my cool. I've written about some Back to School Night tips on my blog and I actually have a freebie at my TpT store of the main handout that I use for Back to School Night. It's totally editable, so you can personalize it to suit your needs. 

6. Copy Year Long Units When Possible
Okay, so here I am copying again. I do so love to have big units printed out and ready to go though. Things like vocabulary, handwriting pages, Grammar by the Month, and morning work are great to have on hand. The only trouble I've found is finding a place to put it all, but it is so worth the storage challenges to know that I won't have to run to the copier each week for these ongoing types of materials. 

7. Make a Shopping List for Classroom Supplies
While you are actually in your classroom physically, it's so much easier to remember all of the little things we need to replenish before the little ones come rushing in. Think about what you need personally, as a teacher, as well as what your students will need each day.

8. Order Any School Supplies Your School Site Allows
I know each school does this a little differently. I've been at schools where the parents purchased all of the school supplies and I've also been at schools where everything was provided for the kids. Our school has a combination approach, where we purchase a number of things and then ask parents for donations for the rest. So...I do make sure to get in on the ordering by sending my list to our wonderful secretary (wonderful secretaries run the school, don't they?).

9. Get Your Whiteboards From Home Depot/Lowe's
If I had to pick one of the most useful items in my classroom, it would have to be my whiteboards. Every summer, I make the trek to Home Depot and get a huge piece of white shower-board, which they cut into 12 x 12 inch pieces for me. For about $14, I have a great set of whiteboards for the entire class. These work really well (as long as you stay away from red marker) and last the whole year. Besides whiteboards, I cut a carpet sample piece for each child too, and we use these as erasers. 

10. Make a Preliminary Schedule of Next Year's Units
Taking this year's lesson plan book and tweaking it where necessary, I like to make a month by month game plan for the next school year. Of course I don't put everything in it, but I like to jot down the major units or concepts we'll be working on and approximately which time of the year we'll be working on them. I know that nothing is set in stone, but this year at a glance gives me a sense of direction and serves as a framework for all of the specific activities and day to day lessons that I can add to my lesson plan book later on.

What kinds of things do you like to prep in advance? I'd love to hear from you!

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