Back to School in Style: Tips and Tricks with The Teaching Texan

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The back to school season can get a little pretty hectic.  Inservice, prepping for the first day, setting up your classroom for the year, Meet the Teacher Night, the list goes on… My to-do list during this time of year is never ending.  Whether you’re a list person or not, prioritizing what needs to happen now and what can wait is so important.  Today I’d love to share with you a few tips for prepping for the new year that will get you off to a smooth start and save you time throughout the year!

My first tip may be something that is not on your to-do list, but I highly recommend adding it if it’s not.  Sending your future students a little hand-written note before you even meet them is a great way to kick start your year.  Even if you don’t get your class list until right before school starts snail mail only takes a day or two to travel locally.  My team just prints some cute artwork onto cardstock and fold it in half to create our cards.

These.  Saved.  My.  Life.

But seriously, during my first two years of teaching I could never come up with an effective way of helping kids keep up with their unfinished work.  I failed pretty miserably at keeping track of who had unfinished work.  One thing my team taught me last year was to create a simple “Unfinished Work” folder for each child that he/she keep in his/her cubby.  Whenever a child finishes an activity early they are trained to go look in their green folder first.  This also works fantastic for putting differentiated activities in.
If you use anchor charts that are very similar to each other (letter bubble maps, word families, etc) make them ahead of time.  I have all of my letter bubble maps and word family charts ready to go for the whole year!  Whenever we start a new family I just have to flip to the next anchor chart and we add the pictures together!

I mentioned that this is one of my tips to do at the end of the school year for the next year, and if you haven’t already preprinted your BOY assessments and copies for F&P/DRA you should definitely consider doing so before the year starts!  Nothing is worse than sitting down to do a running record and realize you don’t have any copies of the Level A fiction book form.

Create a binder with a tab for each child to house notes on math, literacy, and social emotional development.  If I notice a child struggling with a concept/skill or a child who is especially proficient at a skill already, I jot a note down in his/her section.  This helps tremendously when I sit down to do small group plans or pick differentiated activities.  It’s also a great tool when conference/report card time comes and you need to write comments!

This is also a great place to keep running records/F&P/DRA assessments.  Anytime I call a parent I also put a note on the coordinating page (math/literacy/social emotional) to keep track of parent contact.  This record is so nice to  have whenever something not so positive happens.

I make a folder in my e-mail titled “Parent Communication,” then create a folder within this folder for each child in my class.  This is a great way to keep your e-mail organized throughout the school year and it gives you a place to keep track of parent communication.

This one I’m still working on, but I’m getting better!  For anyone who is new to the classroom (or maybe even if you aren’t), being indecisive is a surefire way to kill your momentum when getting ready for the school year.  Let’s make a pact together that we will all make a decision and take action without pondering every single detail or outcome.

If you’re looking for even more tips and tricks for back to school check out this Pinterest board!

Here’s are a few more great tips from friends of The Teaching Texan!

Cat H.:  My favorite tip is to have my room set up before the pre-service week. My principal always has tons of meetings that week and I never have time to finish.
Chrissy S.: Make a few extra new student folders at the beginning of the year when you are making them so that you have them pre-made if you get a new student later in the year.
Karen C. from Planet Happy Smiles: My tip is keep your take home bag out and ready during those I service days so you can put anything inside that you can do at home watching Netflix. Focus on the things you can only do at school first.

Stephanie T.:   have a 1-31 folder to place papers/items that I am going to teach on that day. So when Sept 2 rolls around, for example, I go to folder 2 and pull all my materials for that day. Easy to organize and helps me store materials I have ready ahead of time.

Bess G:  I mark the spines of our journals with different duct tape (color coded by subject) so they are easier to identify in student cubbies.

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