With teachers all across the country preparing to return to the classroom for the beginning of a brand new school year, there are some basic teaching tips that are needed in order to make the transition from summer a successful experience. As most teachers know, the first week of school is among the most important weeks of the school year. During these early days, teachers and students establish the foundational routines and expectations that will guide them throughout the rest of the school year. As a solid first week can often set the tone for the entire year, entering the school year well prepared is essential.
This is a checklist of the ten most important needs that should be addressed prior to beginning the new school year. This list is based on the experience of veteran teachers and will provide everyone from the rookie teacher to the most seasoned professional with a solid point of reference to access as we prepare to re-enter the classroom.
1. Formalize Your Classroom Paperwork Systems
Will you keep student files and portfolios? Do you have a filing cabinet and what will you store in it? Where will you keep worksheets and forms? Where will you keep parent communications? Staff communications? Have you organized your CPU desktop folders to keep on-line forms and files?
2. Establish A Classroom Mission Statement
Many schools require that students participate in this procedure, but I like to establish a set of goals and core values prior to that exercise that can be used to guide the process. However you choose to accomplish this, it is important for your mission statement to be a big-picture goal or philosophy that governs the classroom. Make sure to post the mission statement in the classroom for students to refer to throughout the year.
3.Create a Grade book and Formalize Your Grading Policy
It is important to access your class list as soon as possible in order to create a template for your class grades. You will also need to make sure that you establish your grading policy, homework policy, and your grading scale/weights. This simple step will help you to avoid hours of stress and sets a firm academic standard in the early stages of your school year.
4. Determine How You Will Establish a Classroom Code of Conduct
While I like to include my students in formalizing the code of conduct, the reality is that most schools already have expectations and most teachers should begin the year with a set of core values prior to any student input. When I help our class develop ownership of our behavior expectations, I use my schools code of conduct as a guiding document in forming our classroom code around. The class code never violates or contradicts the school-wide code of conduct.
5. Prepare a Class Syllabus
Include an overview of your school year, classroom procedures, grading policy, contact information, code of conduct, homework policy and any other information that pertains to how you will run your classroom. I hand out and review my class syllabus within the first three days of school in each of my classes.
6. Plan the Use of Your Classroom Space
Will you require group space? How will you implement cooperative learning? Are there areas that are off-limits to your students? Will you implement the use of learning stations, and if so, then have you dedicated various parts of the room? Is there enough room for you and your students to circulate? Have you assigned students to sit in areas that promote an orderly and safe class environment? Will you use a seating chart?
7. Establish Classroom Procedures
What are appropriate voice levels? How are students to get your attention? How will students turn in work, sharpen pencils, be excused to the restroom, store materials, and move around the room? What is your attention signal? What are the procedures for cooperative learning? How do students hand in assignments? When and how will you return graded work to students?
8. Plan Lessons for the First 2-3 Weeks in Advance
I have found that preparing plans for the early weeks takes a load of pressure off of me as those weeks tend to be the most chaotic as new students arrive, schedules are tweaked, and school meetings are scheduled to work out various issues. Once the school routine normalizes, I am usually able to fall into a consistent schedule for preparing lesson plans a week in advance.
9. Prepare Your Substitute/Emergency Plans
Make sure to provide emergency staff contact information, a class and lunch schedule, information about the location of materials, a class list, seating chart, and any other relevant information for substitutes who may cover your class in the event of an absence or emergency.
10. Decorate Your Classroom
Posters, bulletin boards, learning walls, and other decorative materials can be an effective tool in creating a fun, interactive learning environment for your students. As a social studies teacher, I have biographical posters, time-lines, college banners, and other materials posted throughout the classroom as an aide to learning and a vehicle to create a classroom culture. I also post our daily objective, mission statement, homework assignments, and behavior expectations.
Mrs. Clines Classroom
Tom & Daisy Bradwell