Practical Teacher Planning Tips to Prepare for a New School Year
Looking ahead to a new school year can be both overwhelming and exciting! Whether it’s your first year teaching or your tenth, taking some time to plan ahead will ensure you start the year off on the right foot. We’ve compiled some of the best teacher planning tips to help you have a successful school year.
Before you start scouring Pinterest for the latest classroom ideas, you may find it helpful to rest, reflect, and set your intentions for a new year.
Find Time to Recharge
We’re all familiar with the expression: “put your own oxygen mask on first.” This is true for all caregivers—especially teachers. When you prioritize taking care of yourself, you become a better teacher.
Consider how you might incorporate self-care into your summer routine. Read a book, learn a new skill, or spend time with loved ones—do whatever makes you feel recharged so that you’re refreshed to step into a new year!
Reflect on Last Year
If you were in the classroom last year, set aside time to think about how your year went. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How effective was my classroom management plan?
- Were there any lessons or units that went particularly well?
- Are there areas of my classroom that I should reorganize?
- What procedures were effective?
- Are there any new procedures that I could establish?
- How could I improve parental communication?
Evaluating your progress from the previous year will allow you the opportunity to figure out what works, and doesn’t work, for the upcoming year.
Set Your Goals
Just as we want our students to practice setting learning goals for themselves, we grow when we set our own goals as teachers. Perhaps you have an area of professional development that you’d like to focus on this year, or you’d like to develop your classroom management plan.
When we establish our goals for the school year, our teaching becomes more intentional and, in turn, more effective.
Get to Know Your School
If this is your first year of teaching or you’re at a new school, it will be useful to familiarize yourself with your new environment.
Learn the names of your colleagues so that when you meet them on your first day, you’ll be able to put a face to a name. Make sure you build relationships with the school staff, such as the secretaries and custodians—their knowledge of the school, neighborhood, students, and school procedures is invaluable.
Get to know the layout of your building, especially if it’s large. This way, you’ll be prepared to navigate your students to special classes, assemblies, or other events throughout the year—or help lost middle schoolers find their way back to homeroom!
With your goals and intentions in mind, you can start planning for a successful school year.
Parental involvement has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on student academic outcomes. It is essential that teachers intentionally foster partnerships with their students’ caregivers.
Communication is key in your relationship with caregivers. If you have parents whose native language is not English, make sure you are prepared with a list of translators or translation services that you can utilize.
You may consider using the following communication tools throughout the year:
- Classroom newsletters
- Email communications
- Phone calls
- Notes home
- Communication platforms such as Schoology, SeeSaw, etc.
Back-to-school or meet-the-teacher nights are perfect opportunities for you to introduce yourself and your classroom. Consider creating handouts for caregivers to take home so that they have all your information in one convenient place.
You may also want to gather resources to share with parents during conferences or send them home with students throughout the year. Promoting home-school partnerships is vital to students’ success.
Establish a Classroom Management Plan
According to Harry Wong, there are four characteristics of a well-managed classroom:
- Students are deeply involved with their work, especially with academic, teacher-led instruction.
- Students know what is expected of them and are generally successful.
- There is relatively little wasted time, confusion, or disruption.
- The climate of the classroom is work-oriented but relaxed and pleasant.
Your classroom management plan is a major determinant of the climate of your room. The Committee for Children explains, “Classroom climate refers to the prevailing mood, attitudes, standards, and tone that you and your students feel when they are in your classroom…A positive classroom climate feels safe, respectful, welcoming, and supportive of student learning.”
You may find it helpful to create a classroom management plan statement of purpose to help guide your decision-making throughout the year. Below are a few tips for creating a proactive classroom management plan:
- Greet students at the door.
This is an excellent habit to set a positive tone for the day and connect with each student. Get creative with your daily greetings and have a little fun!
- Involve students in creating classroom rules.
When your students participate in a discussion of setting rules, such as classroom safety rules, they will learn how to collaborate and will have a clear understanding of expectations.
- Set clear expectations about procedures and routines.
Sometimes, classroom behavioral challenges are the result of unclear expectations. Explicitly demonstrate what students should do and be consistent with verbal, visual, and auditory reminders.
- Display classroom rules posters.
Consider printing classroom rules anchor charts to be displayed in your classroom for visual reminders of expectations.
- Use positive reinforcement.
Studies have shown that when teachers use positive reinforcement in the classroom, academic and behavioral outcomes improve. Keep a list of classroom rewards handy in addition to offering positive feedback to your students.
An effective classroom management plan promotes positive relationships and helps your classroom run efficiently. A positive classroom management system will set the tone for a great year!
Organizational Teacher Planning Tips
No matter how long you’ve been teaching, it’s helpful to consider your personal organizational style. Instead of replicating exactly what another teacher does, develop your own systems that reflect your personality and teaching methods.
As the year goes on, it’s easy to become swamped as papers pile up quickly, learning goals for students evolve, and classroom materials become cluttered. Effective organizational systems can alleviate stress and help you focus more on what’s important—student learning.
Use the teacher planning tips below to help your classroom run effectively. Remember, choose what works for you!
- Make a teacher binder.
Some teachers like creating a binder to store information, such as lesson plans, curriculum goals, standards, etc. When all your important papers are kept in one place, it is easy for you to quickly find what you need.
- Develop a system for tracking student information.
Whether you decide to use binders, index cards, or a spreadsheet on your computer, keep your students’ information in a centralized location to make locating and updating this information a breeze.
- Build your resources.
Before the first day, familiarize yourself with your students’ records so that you can tailor your materials to their academic needs. You may have English language learners, students with IEPs, or other special needs in your classroom—make sure you have resources to support your diverse group of learners.
- Create personal folders for students.
Create individual folders to record learning goals for students. This helps them to take ownership of their learning and track their personal growth. Plus, when it comes to parent-teacher conferences or administrator evaluations, you’ll want to have examples of student work readily available to show progress.
- Examine your classroom setup.
If you need to pack up your classroom at the end of the year, use it as an opportunity to improve your learning space for the next year. Before you start unpacking, talk to your colleagues about what works for them or spend some time researching organizational ideas for your grade level.
- Take inventory of what you need.
Perhaps your classroom library needs a refresh after a busy year, or somehow your class managed to use up every single glue stick. Take stock of the supplies that you need now so that you have time to search for the best deals on materials.
- Evaluate your lesson plans.
If you have the previous lesson plans to reference, consider these examples of learning goals and objectives when you’re evaluating the effectiveness of your plans. Clear objectives and learning goals for students will drive instruction and strengthen learning.
- Prepare for the unexpected.
At some point during the year, you will inevitably have a substitute teacher in your classroom. Consider creating a bin with all the information that a substitute teacher needs to take over your room—and make taking time off a little less stressful.
- Anticipate student changes.
Many times, students will move during the course of a school year, which means you may get a new student with very little notice. When you’re preparing for your students at the start of a new year, create a few extra “new student bags” that contain everything that they’ll need when they arrive.
By taking time to plan ahead, you’ll be sure to have a strong start to the new school year. These simple tips will help you to optimize your time and maximize your students’ learning.
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