Saturday, August 15, 2015

Back to School Thoughts

The first day of school only happens once a year, so it takes lots of years of teaching to make it work the way you want. (At least I assume you actually get it the way you want eventually!) I'm seeing lots of how to guides for teachers. This isn't really a how to guide. Writing helps me clarify my thoughts. Sometimes hearing others reflect helps me, so I'm sharing them with you. :)
Thoughts on starting the school year

My first year teaching I just had everyone drop off their supplies on various tables, then I organized and sorted later. It was awful. It took me so long! Things have improved a lot. Last year I felt like I had too much for them to do with labeling supplies and putting them places. I had things all written down clearly. I had signs posted around the room. Only a small handful of people actually followed the directions I wrote out. I basically had to tell each person what the paper said, then they did most of it. I had lots of papers with information. Everyone seemed to lose the information. Some things need to change.

I'm trying to figure out exactly what is the most important.

1. I want them to put the "big stuff" in the right locations: tissues, baggies, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and dry erase markers (these aren't big, but it will be helpful for me to have them all). I'm going to have big signs for these items posted around the room.

2. I want the wrappers taken off the glue, scissors, erasers, dry erase markers, and headphones. (holy moly is headphone wrapping a pain!)

3. I want names on scissors, pencil boxes, headphones, and any "special" notebooks/folders. We ask for plain stuff, but I always get lots of Spiderman and kitty stuff. The kids get all upset if they don't get theirs. It's not worth it. They brought it, they can label it. Maybe I'll have stickers made up for them to put on their take-home folders. That would probably help.

4. I want them to sign up for Remind. If you haven't heard, Remind added a chat feature last spring. You can text individual parents, small groups, or the whole class. I'm going to try to have them sign up right there on the spot.

5. I want to know what the dismissal plan is. I think maybe a brightly colored half sheet that they need to fill out rather than just telling me.

6. I want permission to share student work and photographs of students online.

7. I'll give them an introduction letter, a survey, a schedule, and contact information.

I'm going to have parents just put supplies in the students' desks. I'll collect most of the supplies, but I'll just do this during class. It will be good practice for the kids learning what things are called. Otherwise it gets really confusing because kids are bringing in supplies gradually throughout the first few days. During the first few days, we'll go through the supplies and use interactive modeling and guided discovery.

On the first day, the routines that need to be taught are lunch sign in, morning meeting, transitioning from desks to carpet, restroom procedures, quiet signal, lining up, and going home. I'll do interactive modeling with these. Then I'll repeat shorter versions of the interactive modeling lessons for the next few days. I need to remember to use lots of reinforcing language.

I'm looking forward to math this year. Last year we were very tied to our curriculum. It was awful. This year we get to teach the standards. There will probably be required testing. If there's not, I'm still going to want to do some one-on-one assessments, so I need to get the kids going on stuff they can do independently. We'll start with some guided discovery of math materials: cubes, blocks, pattern blocks, other random manipulatives (I have a large collection!).

I want to go back to a procedure for introducing math manipulatives I used to use with a twist. I still want to do a little bit of guided discovery with the main materials. When we begin centers, I give them a basket. They sit down and look at it. They think about what they could do with it to work on math. We brainstorm all the ways they could work on math with their materials. I give them a piece of paper to record their math work. It's pretty amazing. With just that direction, I'm able to differentiate. Some kids barely write anything. Other kids create graphs! I let them work for a few minutes, then we clean up and reflect/share.

I'm so happy to not be strictly tied to a reading curriculum this year! I consider my primary goal to be getting them to like reading. We know that kids who read get better at reading. In first grade, it is critical for them to learn to enjoy reading. I do this with awesome read alouds. Some of my favorites for the beginning of the year are Helen Lester, Robert Munsch, and Mo Willems. If you are new to my blog--I love books! I've written lots of posts about books (and how I use and organize them).

This year I decided to focus on making my room more comfortable and welcoming for my students. I got some colleagues to help me find room for a reading nook, and I got some pillows. I recently found this pin showing kids lounging on upside down chairs with pillows. I want to allow this kind of freedom, but I'm going to have to do lots of modeling to make sure it works.

So, was any of this helpful? What are your thoughts on going back to school? Let me know in the comments!

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photo credit: Classroom Materials via photopin (license)


  1. Seems like you have it down! I like the idea of having them sign up for Remind right then. Maybe any forms you need them to fill out can be done online also? For me, it's easier to deal with once they are online. A couple of years ago, I printed the information from our computer system (phone number, address, transportation, emergency contacts, etc.). They updated it with me and then the admin confirmed any changes. It was great to have all systems consistent with my information!

    So nice you have more curriculum freedom this year!

    My Bright Blue House

  2. Great ideas! Last year I started putting out supplies baskets for families to sort their supplies when they came in on day was a HUGE help and made putting up supplies so much easier!

    Kindergarten Teacher at the Wheel

  3. Hi Deb. Great post. I pinned a lot to remember. And I look forward to using Remind. I signed up this summer but haven't actually used it. I need to explore. See you later. Kathleen Kidpeople Classroom


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