things teachers should do before the first day of school play dohJPG

5 Things Teachers Should Do Before The First Day Of School

Have the teacher dreams started? Does your heart pound when you see the school supply section at Target? While you’re relaxing on the beach, have you defaulted to lesson planning over reading novels? To help calm your nerves, I’ve compiled notes about five things teachers should do before the first day of school – and I guarantee you’ll have a great start!

Things teachers should do before the first day of school:

  1. Organize your classroom

Kids (and administrators) love to walk into a classroom and feel the structure you’ve created.

  • Think about how you (and the kids) will move around your room. Create clear traffic patterns to get in and out, as well as to the trash can, pencil sharpener, and your desk/computer!. Make sure the ‘big’ furniture is in place before school starts.
  • Make supplies visible – labels and signs help everyone know where to find – and put back – their stuff.
  • Figure out your seating chart and how kids will find their seats. I use numbered groups, and each seat has the group number (ex, 5) and a letter (ex, A). I project the seating chart on the screen, and kids find their way.
  • Make bulletin board space for students to put up their work/projects. I have an “A” wall for my kids to hang up work they’re proud of.
  • things teachers should do before the first day of school organize

 2.  Sketch Out Your Year

I’m a HUGE believer in balancing planning with flexibility. At the start of the year, I like to have a road map for what strategies I want to teach, and what content I’ll use to teach them. I’ve found using sticky notes really helps – as I set up my plan book for the year, I create sticky notes for novels/units/strategies, and place them on the monthly page where I think I’ll teach them. Moving the ideas around is much easier when I don’t have to erase – and I like the physical part of placing the notes. Then, talk to your colleagues – can you collaborate on projects, share materials, or build curriculum together? Collaboration is much easier when you do it with a friend! Finally, think ahead about what facilities or tech you’ll need, and sign up! Try not to be last minute and you’ll find that your teaching goes much smoother, and you’re able to conquer so much more than you ever thought you could!

things teachers should do before the first day of school plan
Paper planner or digital?

3. Plan Activities Get To Know Your Students – And To Share About You

One of the most important things teachers should do before the first day of school is to think about how you can infuse a ‘get to know you’ activity for part of every day during the first week. And make sure you create a lesson to help kids get to know you, too! I’ve got some neat ideas on my Pinterest board, Beginning Of The School Year Ideas. Take something and adapt it for your grade level/subject and have fun!

things teachers should do before the first day of school play dohJPG
I surprise my students with Play Doh the first day – they make something that represents them!

4. Get Kids Moving On The First Day

There’s nothing more boring than kids listening to their teachers drone on about the syllabus on the first day of school. For middle schoolers (who I teach) that can really set the tone that your class is going to be B-O-R-I-N-G! Be that teacher who switches things up – I love to use stations for the first days of school. It lets kids get up and moving with hands-on activities, and I can observe and interact with kids as they work. Use this time to learn their names, to teach your classroom signals “1-2-3 eyes on me”, and to establish a student-centered classroom. You can read about my back to school stations here.

things teachers should do before the first day of school stations
Back to school stations can adapt to any curriculum or grade level!

5. Plan On Incorporating Technology

Teaching in the 21st century means meeting kids where they are, and technology is front and center in their lives. If you’re a veteran teacher, plan on how you can make some simple adjustments to use technology in your lessons. Have you tried Google Apps? Can you stream YouTube or Shmoop videos instead of direct instruction? What about trying lessons with kids using their personal devices? Whatever you do, think about your comfort level with technology, and find someone on your site who can mentor you. Join a twitter chat (#2ndaryELA is one of my favorites) and meet educators online who can give you ideas – and confidence.

things teachers should do before the first day of school tech

For more tips about things teachers should do before the first day of school, check out two of my favorite websites – Education World and Scholastic – they’re full of great ideas! And if you have any teacher friends, please share this post and add your ideas in the comments!

What other ideas do you have for a great start to the school year?

Best of luck for an inspiring school year!

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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What Do Kids Think On The First Day of Middle School?

Summer is finally over. Parents are secretly smiling as they shoo their kids out the door, snap a few first day of school photos and sigh. Yes, some of you might shed a few tears over the passage of time and the impending high school graduation – even if it’s still five years away. And some of you try to walk your kids to their first class in middle school (a big no-no) and even more of you hover in the parking lot or your local coffee shop and quietly wonder what’s happening to your kid inside the walls of their 7th and 8th grade classrooms.

As I start my 25th year of middle school, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek. And one thing your kids say might just be true: the first day of school can be a real snoozer. Far too many teachers fill their first moments with kids drilling them with rules and consequences, with syllabi and seriousness.

Fortunately, I came to my senses and gave that up long ago. Middle school is about relationships. It’s about smiling, about showing you care, and letting kids know that school can actually be fun – even when it’s not lunch or passing period.

On the first day of school, I like to mix it up and actually do an activity that gets kids thinking, analyzing and moving straight away. One of my favorites is called “Post the post it on the poster”.

My motivation here is two fold: I want kids to know what I’m thinking about as I start the year, and I also am surreptitiously watching how they move, who they gravitate towards and of course, how they respond to my questions.

How would you answer these?

middle school teachers

One of my favorite (and most common) responses: little did I know I’d have to channel my inner entertainer when I began teaching middle school!

middle school teachers

Do you think this kid is serious, or just trying to make nice with the new teacher?

middle school teacher

No, this wasn’t the “what kind of a teacher do you want” question – this one was about what kids should be doing in the classroom. Ha ha!

middle school kid advice

I love when they tell me what to do – and boy, do they love to tell me…

middle school teacher advice

And yes, they definitely have their priorities straight about why they’re there:

middle school

Of course, I have to bring it back around to the beginning of the year, and have them think about themselves (middle school kids LOVE to think about themselves!):

middle school goal setting

No pressure, huh? Can you believe how many of them set goals around their grades? Is that their parents talking?

middle school goals

This one was my favorite. I wish I knew who wrote it, but then again, it doesn’t really make much difference. Be the best we can be. Be open to new things. If we can accomplish that goal, we’re going to have an amazing year.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Touchdown Confirmed: First Day of School Complete

Day one of the school year was pretty decent – my job is to build up my students who think they are less than, cannot make it, or don’t see where they will fit into the world.

So I showed them a video of the Mars Curiosity landing.

Touchdown confirmed.

Everyone heard about this a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until I read Brene Brown’s post and saw the video clip that I realized how perfectly it fit into my first day of school message.  I don’t like to spend that day pouring over rules, syllabi and other boring stuff-I like to teach straight away.

I think at first my students thought I was crazy – perfectly fine with me.  And then they got it.

Failure is not an option.

Touchdown confirmed.

Day 2 awaits.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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