Preparing to go back to school? Whether you’re a veteran, a new teacher, or somewhere in between, heading back to the classroom can be overwhelming. In this post, you’ll find ideas to help you get focused. I could include a whole range of teacher topics from teacher wardrobe to classroom decorations, but this post is dedicated to the most important “checklist items” for my back to school teacher planning.
1. Lesson Planning
Before I do anything else, I have to map out a tentative plan for teaching. I wouldn’t recommend writing in pen or proclaiming you have every day planned until the end of the year. Teaching is successful when it’s responsive. Still, I’ve always found it helpful to have an actionable plan in place. Here is a general outline of my first nine weeks lesson plans.
In addition to having a general outline of which standards you want to address first quarter, some people also appreciate having a weekly organization or rhythm. Many students prefer the safety and comfort that comes with an overall structure and predictability.
And, of course! Make photo copies and add digital documents to your online platform for the first week of school. You’ll be tired, and the days will feel short. Having the first week ready to go will be a relief.
2. Classroom Environment
The way a classroom operates is determined in the first weeks of school. Teachers can set a positive tone while also clearly outlining expectations, procedures, grading policies, and rules so that everyone feels respected and the learning environment is safe.
Maybe you’re trying to find workable solutions to common procedures, like bathroom passes and absent work. Or, perhaps you’re thinking about how to prevent and address difficult behaviors or brainstorming how to implement classroom meetings to enhance community. Late work policies? That choice matters too because it’s tricky to alter mid-year. You can find posts that cover these topics and more here.
3. Student Relationships
One of the most important things I prioritize at the beginning of the year is building student relationships. Yet, it doesn’t happen accidentally. I have to be intentional about building in time for relationship building. I…
- …get to know students names. As soon as students walk in the door, I begin talking with them, trying to make a connection that will stick between their name and who they are. Each day, I carve out time not only for me to practice students’ names but also for students to learn each other’s names.
- …learn who students are as readers, writers, and people. I confer with them, make observations about them, and talk with them about reading and writing.
- …incorporate small group activities so that I can sit with students to talk.
Here is a reflective questionnaire with some additional ideas you could incorporate in planning for teacher-student relationship building.
4. Parent Communication
Reaching out to parents early and often is critical. At the beginning of the year, plan to send home this free parent questionnaire. You’ll get valuable insight about your students that will help you to build relationships with them and adapt learning to their needs. Plus, it gives parents a voice.
Take it a step further. When planning for the year, how often would you like to reach out to parents? Will you be making positive phone calls to build relationships? Are you planning to use an app like Remind? Will they have access to your classroom website, your Seesaw, Google Classroom, or other app? Where will you record emails, phone calls, and meetings?
5. Literacy Goals
No matter what the content area, think about your students’ goals for literacy. How often do you want them to read and write? How will you track their progress as readers and writers? Will you set up an independent reading program to prioritize daily reading? When will students check out books? What about a meaningful vocabulary program that highlights the importance of words?
The frequency, the type and variety of texts and activities, and the conversations around literacy will teach students more than just how to become better readers and writers. It will teach students that literacy matters in life, especially if it is emphasized across subject areas.
6. Classroom Setup
Classroom setup matters. True, many aspects of classroom setup are cosmetic. But think about the first day of school when you were a student. Upon entering each classroom, you formed opinions about the class. Whether it would be engaging or boring. If you would clique with the teacher or not. Whether or not creativity would be valued. Of course, decor matters to some degree, but classroom setup is more than decorations.
In this post, you’ll find over 20 tips for setting up a secondary classroom. From white boards to classroom libraries and from flexible seating to exit slips and QR classroom management tips, it will help you to brainstorm fresh ideas for your classroom. If you need a checklist of supplies, here are some of my favorite classroom supplies I’ve collected over the years that make teaching and learning fun.
If you’ll be running a mainly virtual classroom this year, or even a blended learning arrangement, here are some specific ideas for organizing digital learning.
7. File Organization
Knowing that you are organized on the back end before you begin will help to reduce stress. File organization? It can be something that is overlooked. Without a plan that works for you, however, it can make you feel completely unprepared.
In back to school planning, try to come up with a practical plan to organize your files. Will you be keeping digital or paper copies? Should you save them to drive, to your school’s network, to your documents, or somewhere else? Will you keep master copies in a crate with folders behind your desk or in a file cabinet nearby? Being consistent from the beginning will save you the headache of playing hide and seek later.
Hopefully these ideas help to reduce the overwhelm surrounding back to school planning for teachers. Teachers can begin the school year without having everything in place. So, think about what is most important to you as an educator. What lessons must your students learn? How do you want your environment to feel? Communicate expectations clearly, and focus on preparing for the non-negotiables.