Back to School: How to Get Organized

back to schoolToday I went for a run outside (this means it is summer vacation) when suddenly I felt a cool breeze and saw a brown leaf flutter down from an otherwise green tree (this means it must be back to school time)!  As soon as I registered what that leaf meant, my brain immediately sped through about 15 emotions and back again!  At first I was sad that summer was ending but then I remembered how much I love my job!  Back to school can be a hectic and disorienting time for teachers; however, I’ve found that an organized, positive and prepared back to school process can set the stage for a productive school year.  There is a ton of expert advice on preparing for back to school. Lets read through some of the more interesting and effective ideas.

When spending extended periods of time with students, it is essential that classrooms form a community.  This allows students to feel open to work creatively, make mistakes, be correct, question, challenge, grow, learn and be themselves.  The staff editors of the National Education Association have compiled a list of great ideas for getting to know your students and building community in your classroom.   Best of Works4Me: Back to School starts with tips on helping students get to know each other.  I plan to try Ten Questions to Start the Year complied by Ms. Skid, a retired high school teacher.  Next I will try a community building activity such as The Maze Team Builder, which has students working in teams to navigate through a maze taped to the floor. The list continues with excellent tips for building routines, organizing handouts and ways to welcome new teachers.

Before the students enter the room, it is the responsibility of the teachers to get the classroom ready!  Luckily, Scholastic has that covered.  Scholastic offers a comprehensive Back to School Planning Guide that includes planning for the year, first-week activities, classroom management, parent-teacher communication and getting your classroom ready.  I love checklists and the first thing they offer is a Back to School Checklist: Organizing for Success.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to read this article; checklist and organizing and I didn’t even get past the title.  The article consists of ways to create a warm and welcoming classroom that facilitates a positive and productive learning environment.  My favorite feature was an interactive classroom set up tool.  This online tool allows you to use various shapes and pieces of furniture to arrange your classroom online.

With the current focus on teaching for the 21st century I would be remiss if I did not include Mashable’s Back to School: 10 Terrific Web Apps for Teachers.  The list includes tools for teachers, administrators, interacting with parents, “tweeting” in the classroom, and my two new favorite apps Shmoop which offers study guides written by impressively educated and experienced teachers and Footnote which offers over 58 million original historical documents for authentic learning!

While all these fun tips might get you excited for going back to school lets not forget that we still have a week or two left of summer vacation.  Check out edutopia’s Summer Rejuvenation Guide: Ten Teacher Tips for Getting The Most Out of Your Summer.  I am off to organize my classroom with the interactive classroom set up tool and then hit the road for one last trip to the beach!

Heather Bickley

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