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1. Send a Welcome Letter to Your New Students
This is something I liked to do every year and my students loved it! I usually sent this welcome letter home to students in August as we started school after Labor Day. Sending a welcome letter to your students is a great way to calm their fears and build excitement for the coming school year. In this welcome letter you can introduce yourself to the class and tell them why you decided to be a teacher or why you love teaching. You can explain your classroom procedures and what to expect, send a supplies list home, talk about upcoming field trips and other new things to look forward to in the coming year. For example, I taught 4th grade so a few new things my students could look forward to in 4th grade were getting lockers, playing the recorder, and taking swim lessons.
2. Plan the First Day
The first day of school can set the tone for the rest of the school year! You want to make a good first impression with your students and build trust right from the start. By planning a fun first day, your students will see right away that you care about them and want them to have a fun school year. Here are some ideas of things to do on the first day. First, you want to give students some time to find their new desks and put all their supplies away. Next, you will want to plan some ice breaker activities like these first day of school get to know you graphs, and this back to school bingo game. Oh and (not an ice breaker but) if you teach grades 4-6 these back to school logic puzzles are sure to be a hit! Then you can pass out books and explain procedures and the daily schedule (this would be a good time to explain what special classes your students may have each day too like PE, art, music). Another fun idea for the first day is to leave a small gift (i.e. pencil) on your students desk with a note that says something like, “I’m so glad you’re in my class this year, we’re going to have a great year together”.
3. Get Organized
There are so many things you can do to get your classroom organized before the school year starts that it can be overwhelming! That's why I've created a free back to school checklist (which you can find in my free resource library here) to help you prioritize and keep on top of everything. One way to help your students navigate their new classroom is to label everything with classroom supply labels. When everything has it's proper place and everyone knows where that is, things will run more smoothly in your classroom. I also liked to label all my binders so I could easily find what unit we were studying. You can use these editable binder covers to help you label your teaching resources. And of course you'll want to put name tags or labels on your student folders, desks, lockers, and other personal items. Check out my classroom organization Pinterest board for lots more tips, ideas and hacks!
4. Run off Copies for the Year
Before you go throwing rocks at me, I don't mean to run off copies of EVERYTHING you'll need for the year but just those things you know for sure you'll be using and can run off ahead of time. One precaution for new teachers...you may want to check with your school first as some have limits to the number of copies you are allowed to run off each month. Some papers that I would run off for the year are my spare time activity booklets (these are just a collection of monthly themed activities that students can do in their spare time), logic puzzles (which I would keep in a center), spelling lists, pretest and tests (since they were just blanks and could be used with any list). I can't tell you how nice it was to have some of these papers all run off and ready to go - one less thing to stress over or have to do at the end of a long day! Think about what things you can prep in advance and you will thank yourself later!!!
5. Prep Your Bulletin Boards
In my 4th grade classroom I had 5 bulletin boards (two that were extra large). I also had some bulletin boards to prep in my resource room. With that many bulletin boards you will save your sanity if you plan some boards you can leave up all year! I had 3 boards I left up all year and then I only had to change two each month (which I usually switched out with each new unit we were studying). Here are some ideas for year round bulletin boards. A calendar board where you can just switch out the month and rearrange the dates. Even older students enjoy seeing what's coming up in the month (i.e. field trips, birthdays, holidays, etc.) Here's one that could work well for younger students and here's a good one for older students.
Some more ideas for year round bulletin boards are a, "This week's V.I.P." V.I.P. stands for very important person. I would send a paper home for students to fill out when it was their turn to be the VIP and they would answer some questions about themselves and send in some pictures that I could use to decorate the board. This lasted for about half the year until all the students had been the VIP for a week. Note: the teacher can be the VIP the first week of school. The second half of the year I changed the board to Homeworkopoly which is a fun game to motivate students to do their homework. If you teach younger grades you can put up a letter and/or number of the week board. Older grades can put up a current events board where you post different news articles (have students bring them in when they are the VIP or at other times). Grades 2-5 could also have a "helpful rules" board like math rules or spelling rules. Be sure to check out my line of back to school bulletin boards for grades K-5 for print and go bulletin boards! You can also find lots of ideas for more bulletin boards on my Bulletin Boards Pinterest Board.
Tip: Keep an alphabetized box of laminated die-cut letters you can pull out and use for any bulletin board throughout the year!
Bonus: Pray for Your Students and Your School Year
If you are a believer one of the best things you can do is to pray for your students and your upcoming school year. Pray that each child would feel welcomed and loved and would grow and learn in your classroom. Pray that your school year would run smoothly and that you would have wisdom to respond to whatever needs arise throughout the year. I taught at a christian school so I also planned out devotions I could do with my students each day. I love the book "Leading Little Ones to God" and "The Answers Book for Kids". I'm hoping to write a blog post soon about some of my favorite books for teaching apologetics (besides the Bible of course!). Update: here's the blog post!
I hope you all have a blessed school year!
Want More Tips? Read my 15 Time-Saving Tips for Teachers Blog Post.
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