Summer is a time for teachers to slow down and take some time for themselves, but if you are like me, you can’t take your brain away from thinking about your classroom for long! Summer is a great time to prep for back to school by working on some big projects and getting organized for the upcoming year. I have created a summer prep guide for teachers, and today, I am talking about “Things You Should Think About” over summer break to help you be more prepared for the upcoming school year. Get yourself a notebook, some fun pens, and let the brainstorming begin.
What rules do you need for your classroom? Does your school have a set of rules for the building? What rewards/ consequences will you put in place? Think about what worked last year and what didn’t work with your classroom management system. Can you try or do some things differently this year? Do you have a coworker that is stronger at classroom management than you? Reach out to them over the summer for some tips/ tricks. Are there any books you can read on the topic? What about incorporating an app to help like Class DoJo? Do you want to set the rules or have your class create rules during the first few weeks of school?
Action Step: Create a list of rules/ behaviors you want for your classroom. Narrow your rules/ behavior expectations list down to 5 or less. Brainstorm a list of rewards to incorporate into your classroom. Some reward ideas are free learning center time, technology game play, Fun Friday, classroom privileges like teacher helper, extra recess or indoor free play, small treat/ prize, etc. What consequences will you use? Make a list of ideas and pick a few. I have found that missing out on something fun/a reward is a great motivator.
My biggest tip for new teachers is to have and teach classroom procedures REPEATEDLY over the first few months of school. I remember learning in college that you should practice classroom procedures so often that your classroom could run itself! Although my classroom could probably never run itself for an extended length of time, I could deal with important matters and my kids did what they were supposed to do the majority of the time.
So what classroom procedures should you teach and practice? EVERYTHING! No seriously, think of everything you want from your students. What will you do when you want to get their attention? How do you want students to get your attention? What method will you use to handle sharpening pencils? Do you have expectations for walking down the hall? Anything and everything that happens on the regular in your classroom should be a thought-out procedure that you teach and practice with your students.
Yes, it does get old going over and over the same expectations day after day, but I promise you, it will be worth it if you can stick it out. I have added a master list of classroom procedures to my Freebie Library for you to think over and use for your classroom.
Action Step: Create a master list of how you want to handle things in your classroom. Make it easier on yourself and use my planning chart!
Having a morning routine saved my sanity. Seriously. In my early teaching years, the mornings were mostly a rush of craziness with students wanting to give me papers or tell me about something that happened last night, trying to get attendance posted before I was put on the naughty list, collecting lunch money, a kid’s hair getting stuck in the backpack zipper (happened ALL.THE.TIME.), and so on.
It wasn’t until I created a morning routine and taught my morning routine explicitly for weeks, that the morning became a peaceful way to start the day. So what do you want your mornings to look like? What should students do when they enter your classroom? Where do notes/ folders/ papers for you need to go? How do you want your students to talk/ share with you in the morning? How will you handle attendance? Homework collection? Are you going to host a morning meeting? Do you have school-wide morning announcements? How will you greet your students each day?
Action Step: Create a checklist of things that have to be completed by you within the first 30 minutes of the day. Laminate this checklist and put it near your desk for daily use. (You can even check completed items off with a dry erase marker.) Create a place for students to put homework, Take-Home folders, notes, field trip forms, etc. when they are unpacking in the morning. Make a generic good morning slide to project on the board with reminders of what to do when they enter the room. Give students 1 thing they must do and a few items they may do. Whatever task you have students complete, make sure it is something that students can do independently.
I liked to incorporate morning work to review skills previously taught. I created a monthly-themed unit for most months of the school year that works perfectly for morning work. It is aligned to third-grade standards, but many pages can work in grades 2-4.
Parent Involvement in your Classroom
Do you have a lot of parent involvement at your school? I have worked in schools with great parent involvement and pretty much no parent involvement. If you are fortunate enough to have parent volunteers at your disposal, what tasks can you give them to complete? Know your school rules of having parents in your room, grading student work, etc. beforehand. Do you like parents helping in your classroom? Could you give them anything to copy? Grade? Assemble? Staple? Cut-out? What big classroom activities could you use some extra help with? Can they get your folders ready to send home each week? Can they listen to that struggling reader a few times a week? Brainstorm a list of activities that a parent could be of help with. Teachers have SO much on their plates everyday. Let a willing parent shoulder some of that load for you!
Action Step: Prep for back to school by making a list of daily/ weekly/ monthly tasks that parents can help you with or take over. When school begins, present a list of possible tasks for parents to volunteer for. Include tasks that must be done at school and those that could be completed at home. Find time to train your volunteers to let them know exactly what you need and want from them.
Frequent and open communication with parents is a must for all teachers. Parents are not in the classroom, so it is your job to communicate what’s going on. How often do you communicate with parents? How do you want parents communicating with you? Email? Phone calls? Do you want to send a weekly newsletter or email? Do you want to use an app like Remind, Edmundo, or Class DoJo to handle your classroom communication?
Action Step: Prep for back to school by deciding how often and what method you want to use this year to communicate with your parents. If it is a newsletter/ email, go ahead and set up a template to use. If you are using an app, download the app and play around with the features until you are very familiar with it.
I loved using Take-Home Folders or Friday folders in my classroom. The folders included graded papers from the week, school handouts/ notes that needed to be sent home, and a weekly newsletter for parents to see vocabulary words for the week, skill we were working on, important reminders, etc. I liked to send mine home once a week with a reward for those that returned it the next day. Do you have a need for a daily or weekly classroom folder? How do you want to send home student work? Important school notes?
Action Step: Prep for back to school by deciding if and how you want to use a take-home folder. Pick a day/ days you want it to go home. Think about how you will encourage students to return the folder. When will you assemble the folders? Create a time during the day/week to get the task done. (This is great task for parent volunteers too!)
The summer is a great time to think about field trips you want to take (or get rid of!) for the upcoming year. What major units are covered in your grade level? Is there a local or nearby location that correlates to that unit? Can you attend a play, visit a zoo, walk to a nearby historic site? What educational opportunities are near you? Do you have any celebration or “just for fun” field trips during the year?
Action Step: Prep for back to school by reflecting on previous field trips taken. Decide if you want to repeat those trips or add new ones. Make a list of field trip possibilities and begin researching locations and costs involved.
Small Group Instruction
If you are like me, you are always looking at how to improve your small group instruction time. I love teaching math and reading in small groups, but it does take more planning and organization. How do you want to incorporate small group instruction in the coming year? Will you pull small groups daily or as needed? What subjects will you teach in small group? Is this something you want to incorporate with a fellow teacher? How many groups will you have? When will you change student groups? What will the rest of the class be doing when you are teaching a small group? What procedures do you need to teach/ have in place to minimize small group interruptions?
Action Step: Prep for back to school by determining what subject(s) you plan to teach in a small group. Come up with a rotation schedule and number of groups based on average class size. Decide what you will use to determine small group members. Brainstorm ideas of activities the other students can do while you are teaching the small group. This could be a rotation between seat work, learning centers, computer practice, etc.
I gave you a lot to think about today, but the good news is you have most of summer left to think and plan!