As teachers, we all know the best strategies and tips for a great school year. We’ve read the books, taken the courses, and had years of experience. Things move so quickly during the school year that it’s easy to slip into bad habits and forget some of the best tips you’ve ever learned. So, consider this post a reminder of some of my favorite teaching back-to-school tips.
Take time to review and update lessons, curriculum, and classroom management
Classroom management, lessons, and curriculum are the heart of what we do each day. That being said, we don’t often take the time to review and update our strategies before the school year begins. The beginning of the year, however, is the best time to do this because our heads are clear. We also have fresh memories of what worked well last year, and what didn’t. It’s also a good time to look for new ways to link our best ideas to new technologies that we may not have had access when we first taught a lesson. It’s always fun to freshen up a favorite lesson.
Get to know your students’ names, learning styles and reading levels as soon as possible so that you can adapt your teaching style and lessons to meet their needs. This is another tip that we know, but coming up with a plan to help us assess each student quickly is always the challenge. Take a few minutes and plan your back-to-school lessons with time built in to get to know each student’s needs.
Establish Clear Expectations
Establishing clear expectations for behavior, academics, and communication with parents is crucial. This helps set the tone for the entire school year and ensure everyone is on the same page. Don’t be afraid to set up boundaries as well. If you know that you don’t check work email over the weekend, let parents know so they don’t expect responses until Monday if they send you a message on a Saturday.
Use Positive Reinforcement and Verbal Praise
Positive reinforcement and verbal praise are great ways to motivate students and build their confidence. Recognize and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, and encourage them to keep working hard. This will help create a positive and supportive classroom environment.
Create a Warm and Welcoming Environment
Creating a warm and welcoming environment in your classroom is important. I love using colorful bins, posters, student work, and other engaging materials. I try not to overdo it though. I use the mantra that less is more in a classroom. This way, my classroom keeps a clean and organized look. I also like refreshing some of my students; manipulatives and supplies from time to time. One tip, that works well is bringing bins home and running them through the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle.
Encourage Collaboration and Teamwork
Learning how to work well with others is a life skill. The best way to teach this is through encouraging collaboration and teamwork among your students. Group projects and activities that require students to work together are fun for students and important. It helps build social skills and fosters a sense of community in your classroom.
Develop a Good Schedule
Developing a good schedule for your class is important. It helps your students know what to expect and establish a sense of predictability in the classroom. Make sure your schedule includes a balance of instructional time and independent work time. If the schedule doesn’t work well, don’t be afraid to tweak it until it meets the needs of you and your students.
Use a Planner or Calendar
There is so much to stay on top of as a teacher. Deadlines will catch you by surprise, if you don’t have important dates clearly marked. A good planner, or digital calendar is a must to help keep track of scheduling lessons, grading, and other important tasks.
Communicate Individually with Parents and Guardians
As teachers we often do a great job of communicating en masse with parents through newsletters, and emails. Individual communications are just as important though. Parents love to hear a fun story about something special their child accomplished. Parents also need to know if their child behavior or grades are not where they should be. It’s important that parents have a good relationship with you before conferences and grades. One tip I like to use is picking my class up a few minutes early, or staying outside a bit at dismissal. It’s a great way to catch a parent or two and simply talk to them.
Take Care of Yourself
We all want to do what we can to make everything run smoothly in the classroom. Students take their emotional cues from us. If we are grumpy because we stayed up too late laminating something for our room, our students will feed off of that grumpy energy. Take time for yourself each evening, and weekend. Your year will be better as a result.
For more great back to school ideas, check out the Teacher Talk posts below.