Friday, August 14, 2015

Welcome to Back to School season! I don’t think any other time in the year quite compares to the weeks leading up to a brand new school year. The anticipation of meeting those new students, the smell of new pencils and freshly waxed floors, the hours spent on perfecting those brand new ideas.....only a teacher really knows how that feels! And though you hope everything goes smoothly, every once in awhile you run across an idea, thought, or activity that you quickly put into your “NEVER do this again” file. DON'T DO THIS! The one that comes to mind for me dates back to my first year as a kindergarten teacher. I had just moved districts and was looking forward to this new challenge of teaching small people after having spent several years in the upper grades. I spent WEEKS in my new classroom and I loved setting up those tiny little chairs and colorful decorations. I had visions of my classroom being this wonderful place of free exploration and learning so I carefully set up inviting centers to usher students to on that first day of school. I was really excited about my visual stimulation center because I had just unwrapped dozens of brand new 20 piece puzzles and was excited to see students working constructively on them. Well, I’m sure at some point the thought ran across my mind that maybe having 30 new puzzles all out and displayed was not the smartest idea but it apparently didn’t stick with me long enough to make me change my plans. I was correct in thinking that it would be an inviting place to come....but, being a teacher new to this grade it never occurred to me to stress the rule about doing one puzzle at a time. By the end of that center rotation on the first day, I had literally a thousand puzzle pieces scattered around the room! It took HOURS putting them back together. I finally recruited some older students who were with their teacher moms to help with the promise of milkshakes as a reward! We finally got them back in order and the rest of the year went a lot more smoothly as I learned several valuable tips that day! So, if you are new to a grade level, I encourage you to seriously think about EVERY possible outcome of what might seem like a perfect idea at the time!
DO THIS! If your school is anything like mine, it is a frantic race to perfect your class list before that first day of school. It seems like that class list changes every minute! And as the clock ticks closer to that opening day, you feel more and more stressed about making sure you have everything labeled for all of those names! One great tip I learned from a colleague of mine was to make several baggies of classroom materials for any “extra” students you might acquire in that hectic first week of school. Now I don’t feel pressured to wait until my list is “perfect” and “set” (as we know that never really happens!) to get everything labeled and set out. I simply make 4-5 extra copies of EVERYTHING I make, label, cut out, set aside, sort, etc. for my classroom. Then, when that new child arrives at my door on the first day, it is easy to pull out the bag and make her feel just as welcome as the other veterans on my list!
FREEBIE! I LOVE to play games with my kids.....and I think it’s especially important during those first few days to get them up and moving in between all of the new things that need to covered. As a “moving” activity and a way to quickly assess students’ knowledge of grammar skills, I like to play Grammar 4 Corners. There are 8 different parts of speech so the game can be played in multiple rounds to ensure lots of participation and review! Feel free to check it out this freebie! Have a great back to school season!

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