Back-to-School Checklist: Planning Tips For New and Veteran Teachers

Are you ready for the first day?

It’s back to school soon! Whether you are a veteran or first-year teacher, your mind is probably swirling with all you have to do, and you’re afraid you will forget something vital. Here is our back-to-school checklist to help you start your year off right.

Class & Classroom Prep

Set Up Your Classroom

  • Plan it out. Think about how the ‘traffic’ will flow, how materials will be accessible to students, how to minimize distractions, where you will sit so that students are visible.
  • Sketch out your setup before you start moving furniture.

Put up Bulletin Boards

  • Keep it simple. It’s easy to think you need a lot of fancy things on the wall, but some blank board with colored paper and a title are best. It is best to put up charts and the things you create with your class through the year, things they are learning, and student work. Ideally, your classroom walls are an ever-evolving space where students can reference and review what they have learned.

Review Your Class List

  • Label Items: If you are a homeroom or elementary school teacher and your students will be with you for a significant portion of the day you may want to label desks and assign seats.
  • Identify Special Needs: This is an excellent time to look over your list and ‘get to know’ your students before they come in. Who has a 504, IEP, what accommodations do they need? Talk to past teachers so you are ready to hit the ground running. Check out resources like the Transitions Curriculum® and the Circles Curriculum® to better cater to the needs of these students.

Prep and Over Prep the First Day (and Week)

  • The early few days of school are more unpredictable than most. Until you get your specific group of kids in your room, it’s hard to know how that first day will go. Some years you may make it through hardly anything you plan while others you get through a lot.
  • It’s better to have too much than not enough. Don’t just prepare for the first day, plan at least the first week. The last thing you want to do after the first day of school is plan the second. You will be tired.

Plans & Procedures

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures

  • I do, We do, You do. When you teach procedures to write out the steps with students. Follow the I do, we do, you do method. First, model for your students. Second, practice it together. Third, have your students put it into practice.

Plan Something Fun

  • Covering procedures is vital but you want to do something to make the day suitable for kids. Plan some games that will build your classroom community. Do something to get to know the kids in your class that first week; let them bring something from home or tell about themselves. Do a class art project that you can hang up sometime in that first week.
  • This is also a great time to practice social skills! You can use a variety of tools like improv, VideoModeling™ curricula, or even apps to keep your kids busy while honing in on skills they’ll use for the rest of the year (and their life).

Tour the School, Learn School Procedures, and Connect (or Reconnect) with Coworkers

  • If you are in a new school, you’ll want to tour the school and make sure you know where everything is and how everything runs. Attend all meetings and trainings and ask questions, so you know exactly what is going on. Find out about schedules, support staff, etc. Don’t be shy. Connect with your coworkers. Teaching can’t be done well in a vacuum. You need some support, especially if you are a first-year teacher. Take some time to go to lunch together and get to know each other.

Family Time & Personal Time

Prepare for Back to School Night

  • First, think about what parents and kids need to know. Prepare any forms you need parents to fill out. Create sign-up sheets for parents to sign up for volunteering. You can run a presentation about you and have a letter/disclosure handy that answers common questions such as questions about homework and how parents can best get in touch with you. Also, include information about yourself and your background. A little gift for the students is a lovely touch.

Take Care of Yourself

  • The weeks leading up to and the first few weeks of school are stressful. Don’t overlook taking care of yourself. Get enough sleep, try to eat something healthy and do something you enjoy. Most teachers spend the first few weeks before school working a LOT but give yourself at least one day per week to put your school stuff on the back burner, so you can spend time with family and friends and unplug. If you are burned out or too tired, you can’t be an effective teacher.
Enjoy It

The beginning of the new school year can be daunting but should be exciting too. Surely, your students are excited for the first day too, so start with a smile and enjoy your new year.

By: Amy Curletto

Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.

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