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August 26, 2014 Getting Ready for the First Day of School By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    While many teachers are back in the classroom, many more of us will begin our first day right after Labor Day. In the past, I was very fortunate to have my sons, Kendall, Chad, and Ryan assist me with my classroom setup, but these days my two older boys are in college and the youngest is not as eager to help out since his brothers are unavailable.

    Given my lack of extra hands, I've been rethinking the notion of classroom setup (working smarter, not harder). Now I approach the start of the new school year by taking care of the things that I can before I set foot in the classroom. Once I have completed these tasks, I am able to focus on getting the room ready for my students.


    Make Your List

    One of the first things that I do is to create a “Things To Do List.” To be honest, this list consists of mostly administrative tasks to assist with the smooth running of the classroom. Take a peek of my Things to Do List. (I am working on these action items a little each day):

    Things to do before I'm in the classroom:

    • Update teacher web page

    • Update class handbook

    • Make adjustments to classroom floor plan

    • Create lesson plan binder and resources

    • Organize first week getting-to-know-you activities

    If you are unsure of what to tackle first or what your Things To Do List should look like, this Welcome Back to School Activity Book has several examples. It offers some great suggestions and tips on how to get ready for your classroom such as this nifty classroom checklist. Below are a few other checklists to make your setup smoother:









    Update Teacher Web Page

    Having a teacher web page is a great way to communicate with students and parents. My teacher web page is housed on my school district’s website. I would like to think that most districts have a system in place for teachers to set up their personal teacher web page, but if not, Class Jump offers free websites for teachers that you can use to create your own.


    Teacher Page From 2013-2014

    This year I wanted to make sure that my teacher page served as information central. I began to look at some other teacher pages and saw where I could make some improvements. I added some specific sections to my page to make it easier for parents to navigate.

    For example, my previous parent page had a ton of information. (Now that I think about it, it was probably overload for some.) The information varied from important dates, Scholastic book order info, useful websites, and details on my grading system, just to name a few. The new and improved Parent Section focuses on important dates for the month, teacher contact information, my grade book, and a parent tip sheet to support literacy at home. As you can see the sections are specific to guide the parent through my teacher page. If they want information regarding Scholastic Reading Club, they can go straight to that section.


          Current Overview Page (still in construction)                            Parent Information Page


    Scholastic Reading Club Information Page



    Update Class/Student Handbook

    I took a look at my previous handbook and figured out I needed to make some edits. I also realized that the order of the handbook was awkward, so I moved the pages around for a cohesive flow. Here is my most current handbook using suggestions from my colleagues. It is still a work in progress. I would like the students to have some input regarding this document, so I will ask their for suggestions for next year's revisions.


    Update Classroom Floor Plan

    I often defer to the classroom makeover guru in my building, Cara Holzer. She has this ability to look at a room, listen to your needs and concerns, and turn them into a fabulous learning environment. Last year, I also played with the Class Set-Up Tool from Scholastic, which was very easy to use. I did need to make some minor adjustments, but largely it was sufficient.

    Throughout the year, I was constantly making adjustments to the room to better fit my student and my needs. Finally around April, we hit an arrangement that worked. Or so I thought. As I now glance over pictures of that most recent floor plan, I realize that there are still some changes I can make that will improve the efficiency of handling materials in the room. For example, I use milk crates to help store the books for my classroom library. My idea is to take a bookshelf and use it to keep the students' work organized by section. The added bonus is that I will gain some floor space.



                               Previous floor plan 2013                                                          Current floor plan 2014   

         Pearls of Wisdom — When setting up your classroom, remember to get a full view from all angles. Sit at a student’s desk to make sure that it is conducive to learning. This way you will decrease the amount of disruptions due to “I can’t see the board!”


    Getting To Know You Activities

    The title speaks for itself. Check out my blog from last week for some "cool" icebreakers.

    As always, I want you to share your ideas too! Any successful tips that work to ease first day tensions? Please share!


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My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney