Sunday, July 30, 2017

6 Tips for a Great School Year

A great start to the school year.....that's what we all want,  right?  But it sounds easier than it is.

So how do I keep things organized, the kids from going crazy and make sure I'm well prepared? Here's my top tips on keeping that first week on point!

Tip #1 Start out slow

Your school year should be thought of as a marathon, not a race.  I know, we all have so many standards to cover during the year and sometimes it's hard to take it slowly.  But that's exactly what you need to do.  

Try not to rush into too many heavy things that first week.   The kids have to build their stamina for being back in the classroom for 7-8 hours.  The first week of school should be a time to get to know each other, establish rules, discover the classroom, the playground and the rest of the school.   

Give the kids a break....literally.  Do a 30 minute activity....then take a 15 minute break.  Maybe put on some Go Noodle ~ have you seen this website?  It's perfect for little breaks in the day and....FREE. You can check it out here.   Now, do another 30 minute activity.....then take another break.  Maybe take the kids out to the playground for 15 minutes.  Rinse and repeat.  

When you begin slowly, you not only give the kids the opportunity to build up their also get a chance to get to know the kids and they get to know you.  They start to warm up to you.  You learn their little quirks.  They learn yours. It's a dance.  And it's ok.....nobody is going to fail the BIG END OF THE YEAR TEST just because you let them have a little downtime on the first week of school.

Tip #2  Be prepared

Just like every good Boy Scout knows, being prepared is a good thing. Make sure you have your plans written out and your materials ready.  Write down everything that you plan to do that first week, get your papers copied and your supplies ready.  

Are you planning on reading some books to the kids? (I hope so!!) Make sure you have those books pulled from the shelf and ready to go.  Are there papers that you are planning on doing with your kiddos?  (Probably!) Make sure those papers are copied and ready.  

How about art projects?  I always like to do at least one or two crafts with my Firsties that first week of school. (It's just sort of fun for them and it gives me cute stuff to put on my bulletin boards!) Make sure you have your construction paper cut, your paint you need paint cups? How about glue or glitter or whatever?  Get it out and have it ready!

Tip #3  Be organized 

I am a big believer in planning ahead.  I like to do my lesson plans for the next week and have everything ready to go before I walk out the door to start my weekend.  

I have some baskets behind my desk on a shelf labeled Monday - Friday.  I put all my materials for the week in those baskets.  I also have a table in front of my desk where I put my supplies for the day.   Every night, before I leave school, I lay my papers, art supplies, books etc on the table in front of my the order that I am going to use it during the day.  OCD? Maybe....don't judge......LOL... it works for me.  

Do you have a place to put your materials for the week?  I always make sure my plans are done, copies for the week are made and in my baskets before I leave on Friday night.  That way, I know that I am well prepared for the following week. If you do this, your classroom management will be better and you never have to worry if you have to call off sick or get called from the classroom.  

Where can you put your daily baskets?  Do you have a shelf?  Maybe you want to put your stuff in hanging files to save room? Think about how you can organize your materials so that you are ready every day. 

Tip # 4 Establish Rules

During that first week, your students will test you.  They want to know the boundaries.  Give them boundaries. Start establishing rules on the very first day of school.  

I think that you should make your rules with your students.  That being said, these rules have to work for you!

Create an anchor chart for your rules and post it in your classroom.  I like to make this a shared experience and so I have my student actually write the rules on the chart.  

One of the first books we read is "No David" and after discussing the behavior of David in the book, we make a chart called "Our Class No No's".  The kids write the chart themselves using interactive writing. (Interactive writing is where the student and teacher share the pen.  We sound the word out together as a class and I write parts of the word and I call on students to write parts of the word or sentence)

It's not super pretty....but it's made by the students and they came up with the "no no's".  I usually also make another rules chart that has more "general rules" like "Treat each other with kindness and respect", "Keep your hands and feet to yourself", etc.

#5 Teach your classroom procedures

One thing I learned a long time ago....never assume the children know what you expect.  I think it's a good idea to think about all the classroom procedures you have and make a list.  Plan to touch on all of these within the first week or two of class.  When children know what is expected of them, they generally try to meet those expectations.  So.....what kind of things should you talk about?  Here's a sample list of things that I will want to go over with my Firsties right away:

1. How to line up
2. How to push your chair in
3. How to hang your coat in your cubby
4. Where to keep supplies
5. Pencil sharpening procedures
6. Bathroom procedures
7. Lunch procedures
8. Recess rules
9. Routine when you enter the classroom
10. Homework expectations
11. Where to put their daily folder
12. How to sit at the carpet

There is probably more than that....but you get the picture.  Teach the students what you expect for EVERY LITTLE THING.  If you need to, add things to your rules chart. Make it a working document.

#6 Establish routines

Contrary to popular belief by some, kids love routines.  They really do.  It makes them feel safe and secure.  They know what is expected of them and they try to meet those expectations.  But they are kids....and so things will not always be perfect.  But they try.  So think about how you want your day to go.  What do you want your kids to do when they first enter the room?

My Firsties have their "Morning Chores".  I have a photo "list" posted by the classroom door.  I show the kids this list on the very first morning and explain it to them.  On our list we have to:

1. Sign In (they put their name tag in a pocket chart for either buying or packing lunch)
2. Put their Daily Folder in the red basket (I keep a basket for their daily folders near my desk)
3. Wash their hands (they must go to the restroom first thing and go to the bathroom / wash their hands)
4. Choose a seat for the day

My kids always have something to work on at their tables.  We start with play dough or tubs. Sometimes it's a coloring sheet.  As the year goes on we do morning journals or other work. But they always know there will be something for them to do at their seat.

So there you have it.  If you follow these tips, I think you will have a GREAT start to your first week of school!  And don't forget to get yourself a tall cup of coffee or tea.  That first week (or maybe month.....) is EXHAUSTING and you will need it!  Be sure to check back next week...I'll have more tips to help you with your first week planning and schedule!