Monday, June 22, 2015

Top 3 Back to School Prep Tips

Ok, let's be honest, our back to school prep lists are probably over 100+ items long! I know! I know! And, we keep adding to them constantly. If you're anything like me, the list keeps growing every time I finish an item on the list, and then I never finish it. I've found B2S To-Do lists at the end of the year that were only half-checked off. Oh well, such is life. We can't do everything.

However, I wanted to share with you 3 things that I do each year to help me keep my sanity while preparing for my kiddos to return. You probably do some of these things too.

1. Teacher/Curriculum organization
That's probably a no-brainer, but surprisingly, many of my fellow teachers start the year back in their rooms with little to no change in their organizational strategies. Some things you do, you keep from year to year. BUT, for me, each year, I teach something different, and I teach different kids. Now, I know what you're thinking, "I teach different kids every year too." No, what I mean is that I haven't taught the same spelling, vocabulary, reading, writing, etc. curriculum over the last 9 years. I've mentioned it before, but I teach at a private school for students with learning disabilities. Our math and literacy classes are grouped according to student ability, so depending on the students enrolled and how many each class can handle, that is how our groups are created. There are also no more than 12 students in a math or literacy class. We use a lot of the SRA (special ed) materials, MUCH older versions of Houghton-Mifflin and Steck-Vaughn materials. Plus, we have to wait until late July-early August before we get our class groups and curriculum. They change all summer depending on enrollees, and we get new students all through the summer. ANYWAY, I'm going on and on.

Once I find out what my curriculum is for each area (spelling, vocabulary, reading, and writing), I decide on how I'm going to store all of my materials for the year.

Various organizational strategies I've used for curriculum supplies and daily supplies:

2. Student Organization
One thing I've done over the last 5 years or so for student organization is use the large paper magazine holders. I let students decorate them and they put all of their notebooks and textbooks in those boxes. I have a shelf next to our meeting area, and they come in each day and pick up their "literacy box" with all of their supplies in it and take it to their desks. That way, they have all the supplies they need for class.

Here's the ones I use:

They are the larger ones so they can hold more than the regular magazine file holder. You can get either the 4" or 6" depending on how many books and supplies your students have. I found this website where you can get them for cheap. The 4" 3-pack is $5.97. I use these boxes for 2 years, just covering the name tags on the fronts. You can check the pictured set above here
**Note, I put packing tape on the bottoms and front of the boxes. This helps them last longer and gives them strength on the bottom. I also teach students how to pick up the boxes and hold them on the bottom! If you teach your kids to take care of these things, they will last longer!

3. Choose, Design/Decorate, & Create my "Teacher BIG Binder"
One of the most exciting prep activities is choosing a fun color BIG binder to put all of my important teacher "stuff" in for the year. There are about a hundred options to choose from on TPT for Teacher Planner/Binders, but mine is so individual, it would be hard to create a generic example for others. I teach a literacy class, 10 technology classes, and I have lunch duty, carpool duty, and recess duty. My schedule and the information I have to keep up with is MASSIVE. I literally look at my calendar/schedule every single day to keep up with which classes I have that day and which kids are in each class. I have to plan about 8 different technology lessons each week because the range of my kiddos' knowledge and abilities are so vast. 

I will share some of my sections in my binder:
*To Do List (one page with post-it note squares)
*Lesson Plans
*Monthly Plans
*Yearly Plans
*Student Grouping Lists (homerooms, math classes, literacy classes)
*Current Info/Planning
*Important Info (tech log-ins, important school memos/notes, etc.)
*Special Ed resources (depending on the student population, I keep quick lists of how to help these students with their specific academic, behavioral, and emotional needs
*Professional Development (I keep copies of certificates and PD hours for the year)

As I said earlier, my list is so long. This is only my top 3 important prep tips. What are some of your Back to School prep tips? I'd love to hear what you do!
Link up below and share with your teacher/blogger friends! Feel free to use the picture at the top of this post in your blog post! 

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