For teachers, summer break is winding down and you are now turning your focus to the new school year ahead. Lesson plans, decorating and arranging your classroom; a new school year can be exhausting! As a Kindergarten teacher for 7 years, I learned a few tricks to making the beginning of the year a little less daunting. Here are some back to school tips for teachers to help you start the year off right, and create a successful and engaging classroom environment.
Back to School Tips for Teachers
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A successful classroom must be neat and organized. Seating should be arranged so that students can work with their peers, especially for young elementary children at the beginning of the year. It will allow them to get to know each other, learn to work with each other to solve problems and get help, as well as develop important social skills.
One of my best back to school tips for teachers: organize, organize, organize! Having systems in place BEFORE day one is the key to success. What materials do you use most often? Put them where they can be easily accessed by you and your students. Have your lesson plan system ready to go, and fully plan out the first two weeks to avoid overwhelm. I suggest including lots of time for practicing procedures, routines, expected behaviors, and social interaction, especially for preschool/kindergarten students. I also suggest easy, engaging activities to ease students into the school year (see some examples below).
You want your classroom to be colorful and inviting. You must also make sure the decor is functional and serves a purpose. Create a cozy reading nook where students can read independently or to each other. Create a space where you can work with students one-on–one. Use brightly colored posters that have important concepts your students can reference. It is also important to have a place where you can come together for class discussions/activities. A colorful rug or class seating area is a must!
Classroom Management Tips
In addition to organizing and planning, you must write down your behavior expectations, rules, consequences, and the strategies you plan to implement for creating a classroom environment conducive to learning. Establishing classroom routines and consistent discipline techniques ahead of time, as well as creating time at the beginning of the school year to properly teach them will help you create a positive environment for you and your students.
Establishing consistent classroom routines and structure from day one is essential. Your students need to know exactly what to expect. Take a substantial amount of time to teach them how to enter the room, how to line up, behavior expectations for the classroom, hallway, restroom, lunchroom, playground, and other areas of the school. Teach them how you expect them to treat you and each other. How do they need to get your attention? How will you get their attention? Also teach them the order of the day. I taught these expectations to my Kindergarten students EVERYDAY for the first two weeks of the school year. It may get really old for you, but I promise it will be worth it. Once these routines are in place, your students will be ready to learn!
Having clear rules and consequences, as well as having a system to monitor behaviors consistently is one of the most effective back to school tips for teachers. It is imperative to your success as a teacher. I think 3-5 rules are perfect for early elementary students. When teaching these rules, make sure students understand WHY the rules are in place and why they are important. Make sure students are aware of the consequences for not following rules. And you MUST follow through consistently.
I used a simple stop light method in my classroom. I had every students’ name on a card, with green, yellow, red, blue, and purple cards beside of their name in a chart. This chart was in the front of the classroom, visible to all students. Every day, students started with their card on green. If students were misbehaving during a lesson, I simply had to walk over to the chart and change their card. Because I had taught my students the rules/consequences, I could simply address the behavior using the cards and not my voice. The lesson continued without interruption. I found this method extremely effective for most students, as the behavior would stop immediately.
- Yellow – warning and/or short time out at recess.
- Red – longer time out a recess (I NEVER recommend taking a students’ entire recess. They need the activity! If possible, have students walk laps during their time out).
- Blue – a trip to the office and/or a phone call to their parents explaining their behavior.
I also used this method to address positive behaviors. If I caught someone doing something good for someone, listening intently to the lesson, or something else that was exceptional, their card was changed to purple. If their card remained on purple until the end of the day, they got a small treat (pencil, eraser, sticker, and so on). Very inexpensive for me, but very effective behavior management!
If you would like more ideas for positive disciplining strategies, be sure to read my post: The Discipline Techniques That Really Work
Developing Positive Relationships With Parents
Having a good relationship with parents is one of the most important back to school tips for teachers. Positive parent-teacher relationships hinges on effective and frequent communication. As both an experienced teacher and parent of a school aged child, I know that parents like to hear from teachers regularly. They want to know what’s happening in the classroom and how their child is doing. They also want to know how they can help their child at home. It is important to communicate both positive observations and areas that need improvement.
One effective tool for communicating with parents is a weekly newsletter. My parents knew they would receive a newsletter each Monday. I always included the story we were reading in class, the math, language arts, and other content we would be covering, homework, important classroom and school news. This helps parents feel connected to what is happening. We cannot depend on students to tell their parents everything we are doing!
Whenever we started a new topic, I always sent a school-home connection to parents. This provided a more detailed look into exactly what I expected their child to learn as well as a list of activities they could do at home to support their child’s learning. If a child was struggling with a particular concept, I gave individualized feedback of specific skills their child needed extra practice with and additional activities to they could complete at home. Regular conferences/phone calls are also super important for struggling/misbehaving students! Be sure to always include something positive about their child in the conversation.
As I mentioned before, organization and planning are essential to having a productive and successful start to the school year. This includes planning easy and engaging lessons to help students transition into this new setting. Here are some back to school activities you can plan for the first two weeks of school.
Beginning of the Year Activities
- Introduce the story Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten. Have students identify the author, illustrator, and predict what they think the story will be about. Read the story aloud, having students discuss how the characters got ready for school Create a Class Book about how each student got ready for school.
- Introduce story: The Kissing Hand. Have students predict what they think the story will be about. Discuss the author/illustrator of the story. Read the story aloud to students, having them identify the different emotions the characters are feeling. Create an anchor chart of the different emotions felt by the character. Have students identify their own emotions. Have students draw how they felt on the first day.
- Read Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? Have students complete these Brown Bear, Brown Bear Activities.
- Introduce story: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Have students predict what they think the story will be about. Discuss the author/illustrator of the story. Read the story aloud, discussing the story events and what they think would happen next if the story continued. Complete this craft with students.
- Read A Very Hungry Caterpillar. Have students discuss the sequence of the story. Have students complete this sequence activity.
Looking for more back to school tips for teachers? Here are some of my other recommendations:
Websites to Use With Your Students:
ABC Mouse is a great educational website for children learning basic skills. There are games, puzzles, books, songs, art, as well as other activities to help students learn reading and math skills, and about the world around them. An individual learning path is also available for each child where they can progress at their own pace. If you are a teacher, ABC mouse can be accessed in the classroom or at your home for free. There is a yearly fee for parents who are not educators. If you would like to learn more about ABC mouse, please visit their site at http://www.abcmouse.com
Starfall is another educational website where children can practice their age appropriate skills. There are interactive activities, songs, and printables for phonics, reading, and math skills through first grade, and select math practice for second grade students. There are also fun holiday themed activities that your children will enjoy. A free version of Starfall is available, as well as an expanded paid version at a very affordable fee of $35 a year. You can also browse their store for curriculum products, books, practice books, home school and classroom kits, as well as other teaching tools for use at home or in your classroom. You can access this site here.
Reading Eggs is a web-based literacy learning program for 3 to 13 year olds. The online program is built on the 5 essential elements of reading instruction: Phonemic awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension. They use over 500 highly interactive games and fun animations to deliver these elements of reading. Your students will complete lessons designed to help their reading skills progress in a particular order. They will also complete quizzes at certain intervals to ensure they have mastered the content they’ve been taught, and their results are emailed to you. This site offers a more advanced program for older children called Reading Eggspress, and also Reading Eggs Junior, a program for younger children ages 2-4.
Mathseeds is a full math curriculum offered on the same site as Reading Eggs. Your students will complete lessons that teach numbers, shapes, addition, subtraction, as well as many other math skills in a specific order that gradually increases in difficulty. Like Reading Eggs, Mathseeds gives quizzes at certain intervals to check their understanding, and again, you will receive an email showing their progress. You can purchase Reading Eggs and Mathseeds separately, or together for a better price. As someone who has used both of these programs in my classroom and at home with my five-year old, I believe they are worth the money. If you would like to know more about these programs, visit their site here and sign up for a free trial.
When I worked in the classroom, I LOVED using GoNoodle for brain breaks and transitions into a new activity. This site has tons of silly songs and physical activities to get your students up and moving. They can practice skills while being active, or just use up some energy on a rainy day. The best part is that it’s FREE for school or for your home. You can create your account here.
Inspiration and Encouragement:
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