Back to School Ideas: Reader Tips!

Looking for some great back to school ideas? Today is my FIRST installment of “Reader Tips”, a new feature on my blog where I work to collect some of the GREAT expertise from my readers on a certain topic. My first question was simply a request for back to school ideas and tips–and I think you’ll agree with what you read below!

Tips about building classroom culture…

Jessica from Arizona writes…”On the first day of school, I have my students write me a letter about themselves and things they think I should know about them. It gets them writing, helps me get an initial writing sample, and gives a lot of insight into their lives and perspectives. Even if students do not share deeply, this exercise communicates that I care about what they have to say and want to build a relationship with them.”
“Always great your students at the door. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily “back to school” but is something that should be implemented starting Day 1. I always tell my kids they can give me a hug, handshake, or a high five before entering the door. It really helps monitor their attitude as they enter and if I see a student is already having a rough morning, I make an effort to have a mini conference with them where they can share what’s going on if they’d like to. With those special students, this has really made a difference and it’s clear to them that you care and are invested in their overall well being.” (shared by Mrs. Bathman, grade 4/5 teacher)
Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind says, “Don’t spend the first day going over rules, Dos and Don’ts. Have something fun and engaging. Hands on activities that get students back into gear.”
“Enjoy the moments of new discovery. The details of routines and expectations will fall into place as your students see that you are there for them and want to share learning together.” (from Mrs. T, 16 year teacher)

Back to school ideas to help with classroom management…

Celeste writes, “Always make at least 5 extra copies of your class information packets and keep them handy. They are good to have for students who join your class during the year.”
Becca (blogger at Chalkboard Creations) says, “In order to save as much time as possible on the first day of school, I print my students’ names and all the subject areas on address labels. Then, when we are getting our folders and binders ready, I just hand each child a sticker with their name and the subject for them to label their belongings. I also have address labels printed with their user name and password for our school’s online lesson plans. This way they never lose their password!”
Jen, another fourth grade teacher writes, “Stocking your classroom with books can be expensive. There is no way to be able to buy them all so I always try to utilize my local public library to “try out” new books and expose my students to favorites as well. I spend some time a week or two before school starts checking out books that I can put on display for back to school. These books often become favorites for my students and it helps me to know what new books to buy to add to my library at a later date. Teachers spend a lot of money on supplies for going back to school, but using the public library is free – it doesn’t add to our already tight budgets!”
“On the 1st day of school, hang a brightly colored fabric for a backdrop and take 1st day of school pictures in ABC order. I use these pictures for a multitude of things. First I’ll upload all of the pictures to my computer and rename them to the student name, recording their number 1st (01 Mike, 02 EmmaT, etc.) so it stays in ABC order. That night use the picture to memorize student names, quizzing yourself on their names with the file names hidden. This always makes me better prepared for Day 2 knowing most, if not all, of their names.
These pictures can also be used for various beginning-of-the-year activities and projects for display. At the end of the year I’ll take another picture to include in my end of the year slide show. It’s fun to see how much students have grown and changed over the school year. This year I even had one student wearing the same thing for both pictures, which was funny to see.” from Megan, a reader from Chicago

and finally…

Ms. BBZ, grade 2 teacher, reminds us, “Remember that simple is better! So many of us like things to be cute and beautiful and perfect, but that’s not always the best use of time. Be purposeful with the ways you spend your time. If your to-do list is full of “cute” stuff, stop and ask yourself whether all those things are going to make an impact on kids’ brains, or just their eyes. 🙂 And then with the time you save, do something for YOU!”

Looking for some more back to school ideas and resources to help you get started?

Reader's Workshop forms, lessons, activities and more

Back to school student surveys--ready to print or use digitally

Growth mindset lessons, activities, and resources
Fish in a Tree novel study, lessons, and activities

Back to school word problems

Meaningful, standards-based math warm ups
Teaching teamwork lessons and activities which are great for back to school

Back to school PBL math problem solving challenge

Great set of open ended math tasks for back to school or fall

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Meg

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