As you prep for back to school over the summer there are three things I would keep in mind as you wonder the stores and peruse the online ads. Below are three things I reflect on every year to help me prepare for back to school!
Organization is not always my strong suit, but I try really hard not to make it obvious. I have coworkers who are much better at organizing things than I am. I find it to be a huge compliment when I have parents or coworkers tell me I'm organized and I just quietly think to myself, "Ha, if you only knew about xyz hiding in my file cabinet." My point, that I'm slowly getting to, is that each year I pick an area to focus on for organization. This area changes based on my goals for the year, the content I teach, or district initiatives. When I first started teaching I focused on keeping my desk cleaned off or at least not piled so high that you couldn't see me behind it. As I got better at making my stacks look neater I moved on to things such as organizing my stations for students, my book area, and my homework collection etcetera. You may be fantastic at all of these things and you may choose a totally different area to work on that someone else. That is the beauty of picking one area, you are growing yourself.
Now, as you pick your area to organize, you may have the opportunity to buy some new fun containers. What teacher doesn't like containers? I found tons of options for my reorganization of my student library at Dollar Tree while shopping this last week. Here is a sneak peek at their options.
The second thing to consider as you enjoy your summer break is what decorating needs are you going to have? For me, I am a big theme person. I love for my classroom to have a theme because it gives me direction and helps me to plan other things such as my newsletter templates, bulletin boards, and Back to School & Open House paper work and gifts for students. Its good to begin thinking about this early in the summer so you can keep a look out for things that will align with your theme as you travel and enjoy summer.
For instance, this past week my friend was at the NASA Space Center in Houston on vacation. She knows I am doing a Space Theme in my classroom next year. So because my friend is awesome, she got me some cool inflatable space shuttles, NASA cups for my kids for Meet the Teacher and a really cool NASA shuttle magnet for my board.
If you want a theme, but you just don't know how to start this process, I encourage you to visit my blog Smart Puppy Learning and tune into my post on building a theme for your classroom. You can find it here.
For the past two years I have done a Superhero theme in my classroom. Below you will find a link to my Welcome Packet for Meet the Teacher and my student gift that I give. Both are Superhero theme. These are examples of incorporating your classroom theme into other aspects of the room. I have found that having a classroom theme helps to build my classroom climate because students automatically have something in common and something to like. I have gone as far as to have students pick Superhero names for their groups and I have made my students shirts with our superhero logo on it for Field Day and other events. Do not underestimate the power of a well decorated classroom.
When I first started teaching I would try to tackle five, six or ten topics. It was overwhelming and I was burned out before I even started. Cut yourself some slack in this area. Choose one thing, do it very well and move on to another in the spring or the next year.
This next year, as I move down I will work on improving parent communication in ways they can help students at home. For the past three years I have taught third grade. As I go back down to the lower grades and emphasize reading, I know it will be important to bring parents in on that process and to have their help on things. One way I plan on doing this is by bringing in teaching tools that parents can use at home that are easily accessible.
I teach in an area where parents often do not have internet or computers at home. They do however have cell phones with internet. One of my goals is to provide them with activities that have QR codes that their students can access using their phones or other handheld devices that they do have. Here is a FREE Phonics product I have created to use with my students. You can get it by clicking on the photo of the product below.
Thanks so much for reading about Back to School here at Classroom Tested Resources! I hope that you are having a restful summer and that you have some time to reflect on the coming year. Please connect with me over at my blog Smart Puppy Learning for other great tips and resources to get your year off to a great start!