Hi, friends! I hope this post finds you well rested and rejuvenated for a new school year! Whether you have already been busy prepping your classroom or are just getting ready to head back in, I thought I’d share a few back-to-school resources and tips that have taken the stress out of back-to-school planning for me.
1. Plan, plan, plan.
My biggest tip is to plan, plan, plan! It’s never too early to start planning out your lessons. I like to look at the year as a whole and tentatively plan out my math, writing, and literacy blocks. One of the things that I did last year was to plan out all of the poems I would use for the entire year. This saved me so much time when doing my lesson plans!
Each week, we learn a new poem and will use this poem each day to complete a new activity. Daily activities focus on fluency, phonemic awareness, comprehension, and concepts of print. On Fridays, we always complete an extension activity. This could be an art project, writing activity, game, retelling, etc. My kiddos keep these poems in their “I Can Read Poetry Binder” and take them home each night to complete that same activity at home for homework. I can honestly say that this variation of an at-home reading program has tremendously improved my students’ reading fluency, and the students are so eager to share each week’s poem with their parents! You can read more about how I set up my “I Can Read Poetry Binders” here.
My “I Can Read Poetry Binder” includes all the pieces you need to successfully incorporate poetry into your daily lessons! Each poem comes complete with a weekly lesson, retelling cards, and extension activities.
You can grab my “I Can Read Poetry Binder” 28% off during the Love Back to School TpT Sale! Don’t forget to enter the promo code BTS15.
2. Focus on classroom management and procedures.
Another back-to-school tip I have is to focus on classroom management and procedures during the first few weeks of school. It’s important to establish these routines early, and practice, practice, practice them throughout the day. Call on students to model desired behavior, and then practice as a class.
I like to encourage whole group positive behavior with “Flipping for Good Behavior.” You might be thinking… say what? This behavior management strategy is exactly as it sounds! I begin with the word flipped upside down, and turn over a letter each time I catch my class exhibiting a positive behavior. If I witness any unwanted behavior, I might turn a letter back over. Once all of the letters have been turned right side up, the class claims their reward!
We also practice teamwork and collaboration skills with “Group Behavior Game Boards.” I begin with the game boards attached to my whiteboard. Each team works together to earn pieces for their game board. The first team to earn all of their pieces wins!
You can read more about my classroom management strategies and grab some freebies here!
3. Organize your small groups.
This year, we are going to complete some of our phonemic awareness assessments before school begins. It is our hope that this will provide us with enough information to begin creating some flexible grouping early in the school year.
One way I like to organize my small group materials is with these Sterilite drawers. I have a drawer for each group, as well as a few extra drawers where I can keep the resources that I use quite frequently. In the beginning of the year, these drawers hold phonemic awareness resources; but, as the year progresses, they hold all of our guided reading materials.
I also take time at the beginning of the year to prep all of my small group resources. One of the resources we used a ton this year were our color coded CVC Sliders, Boxers and Puzzles. My kiddos loved these! They provided just the right amount of visual and kinesthetic learning. Plus, the kiddos were able to easily identify the beginning, middle, and ending sounds. You can read more about how I make phoneme segmentation easy here!
Another thing I like to do before school starts is organize my guided reading / small group binder.
In this binder, there is a tab for each group. Behind each tab is my weekly plan. I keep my weekly small group schedule at the front of the binder.
Read more about how I organize my guided reading block and grab this freebie here!
4. Set up your Writing Workshop materials.
I like to prep all of my Writing Workshop materials before school begins. One of the things I do is set out various styles of writing paper for the students to use during Writing Workshop. I keep these on my back counter in stackable trays.
We keep all of our stories inside a poly folder, which is placed inside their table box. I assign a table captain to gather their box. The table captain finds his/her folder and passes the box to the next person at the table. That person finds his/her folder and passes the box to the next person… and so on.
I also attach Writing Workshop labels and students’ names to the outside of the folders before school begins. On the inside of the folders, I place a red and green dot sticker. The red side is where we keep our finished stories. The green side is for any unfinished stories we are still working on. Do your labeling before school begins, so that you are ready to start the Writing Workshop on the first or second day!
At the beginning of the year, we always begin with drawing a picture and labeling it with beginning sounds.
I encourage my students to use the writing checklist at the top of their paper before moving onto a new piece. As the year progresses, we add more items to our writing checklist. This growing checklist encourages them to be independent writers. It also gives me time to conference with students, while they are checking their writing. Win, win!
You can read more about how I organize my writing workshop and grab this freebie here.
5. Organize your math and literacy centers.
Organize your math and literacy centers now, so that all you need to do is grab the plastic bin and throw the baggie with each center into your center tubs! My math and literacy centers are organized by month. Each center activity is placed inside of a large Ziploc bag. I like to write the name of the center on the outside of the bag. Plus, I make sure to keep any direction cards inside the bag. These bags are kept inside of a plastic tub. I keep the response sheets inside of a folder, which is stored at the bottom of the tub. This makes it so simple when it’s time for me to switch out centers!
Here are a few of my fall centers. Each one is stored in a separate Ziploc inside of my November tub.
And here’s a simple back-to-school math center that I just remembered I made! Grab it for free below!
You might also like some of these other back-to-school resources…
Plus, you can find more teacher tips on my “Classroom Hacks and Teacher Tips” board on Pinterest!
Now, head on over to Proud to be Primary to read about her top 10 time-saving tips and grab a back-to-school organizational FREEBIE!
Here’s to an easy start to the beginning of your school year!
Elyse Rycroft says
Great post, Ashley! Your stuff is so great and creative!! Pinning your photos!
Thank you so much, Elyse!