About Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, at http://jenniferwolfe.net, and grab a free copy of "8 Tips For A Successful School Year" while you're there.

Have the teacher dreams started? Does your heart pound when you see the school supply section at Target? While you’re relaxing on the beach, have you defaulted to lesson planning over novels? To help calm your nerves, I’ve compiled notes about five top things every teacher should do before school starts – and guarantee you’ll have a great first day of school!

Organize your classroom

Kids (and administrators) love to walk into a classroom and feel the structure you’ve created. Think about how you (and the kids) will move around your room. Create clear traffic patterns to get in and out, as well as to the trash can, pencil sharpener, and your desk/computer! Make sure the ‘big’ furniture is in place before school starts.Make supplies visible – labels and signs help everyone know where to find – and put back – their stuff. Figure out your seating chart and how kids will find their seats. I use numbered groups, and each seat has the group number (ex, 5) and a letter (ex, A). I project the seating chart on the screen, and kids find their way. Make bulletin board space for students to put up their work/projects. I have an “A” wall for my kids to hang up work they’re proud of.

Plan Activities Get To Know Your Students – And Share About You

Think about how you can infuse a ‘get to know you’ activity for part of every day during the first week. And make sure you create a lesson to help kids get to know you, too! I’ve got some neat ideas on my Pinterest board, Beginning Of The School Year Ideas. Take something and adapt it for your grade level/subject and have fun!

Get Kids Moving On The First Day

There’s nothing more boring than kids listening to their teachers drone on about the syllabus on the first day of school. For middle schoolers (who I teach) that can really set the tone that your class is going to be B-O-R-I-N-G! Be that teacher who switches things up – I love to use stations for the first days of school. It lets kids get up and moving with hands-on activities, and I can observe and interact with kids as they work. Use this time to learn their names, to teach your classroom signals “1-2-3 eyes on me”, and to establish a student-centered classroom. You can read about my back to school stations here.

Plan On Using Technology

Teaching in the 21st century means meeting kids where they are, and technology is front and center in their lives. If you’re a veteran teacher, plan on how you can make some simple adjustments to use technology in your lessons. Have you tried Google Apps? Can you stream YouTube or Shmoop videos instead of direct instruction? What about trying lessons with kids using their personal devices? Whatever you do, think about your comfort level with technology, and find someone on your site who can mentor you. Join a twitter chat (#2ndaryELA is one of my favorites) and meet educators online who can give you ideas – and confidence.

Sketch Out Your Year

I’m a HUGE believer in balancing planning with flexibility. At the start of the year, I like to have a road map for what strategies I want to teach, and what content I’ll use to teach them. I’ve found using sticky notes really helps – as I set up my planbook for the year, I create sticky notes for novels/units/strategies, and place them on the monthly page where I think I’ll teach them. Moving the ideas around is much easier when I don’t have to erase – and I like the physical part of placing the notes. Then, talk to your colleagues – can you collaborate on projects, share materials, or build curriculum together? Collaborations is much easier when you do it with a friend! Finally, think ahead about what facilities or tech you’ll need, and sign up! Try not to be last minute and you’ll find that your teaching goes much smoother, and you’re able to conquer so much more than you ever thought you could!

I’m a HUGE believer in balancing planning with flexibility. Click To Tweet

For more ideas about things every teacher should do before school starts, check out two of my favorite websites – Education World and Scholastic – they’re full of great ideas!

Before School Starts

 

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