As I embark on my 8th year of teaching I never find the beginning of the year easy. You are usually trying to juggle a million balls at once and making the students (and parents) transition from one grade level to another as easy as possible.
I know the last thing a teacher wants to be doing at the end of the year just before Christmas is organise themselves for the following year, however I find it the easiest way to do things in order to give myself a few weeks of peace during the Christmas break where I am not thinking about work.
As the year winds down and the meetings begin to cease (hopefully), I use the time after school and at home to get as much ready for the following year as possible. As soon as I meet my students for the following year I get started with organising and making assessment folders, name labels, checklists, locker tubs, bag boxes, book covers and of course loads of laminating.
Don’t get me wrong, there is still loads to do once the students arrive day 1, but the more I can organise beforehand the shorter your to do list is (if it is ever short).
Some may say I suffer from OCD (my husband and colleagues in particular); I like things neat and organised. I ensure everything is labelled and resources are easily accessible to students.
Your aim should be to make the students as independent as possible and allow them to get what they need without disrupting others, clear labels assist students with this and also make them great helpers at pack up time.
Our time is limited and the more the students can help with setting up and packing away the more time we will have for all that fun stuff like planning, correcting, assessing and completing an endless list of admin tasks.
I believe organising resources is an important way to save time and ensure your time is used efficiently. I store my weekly resources in a desktop organiser according to curriculum content e.g. Addition. I also use magazines holders with clear labels to organise teacher-made numeracy/literacy games. All my folders in my office are clearly labelled with the resources inside e.g. Numeracy- Number: Place Value, Number Sequence, Addition, Subtraction. Clear labels make the content easy to identify and save you time searching for resources; being organised is the best way to save time.
Day 1 is always crazy; students are coming in with new stationery (and loads of it) and wanting to know where everything goes. I find it easiest to get everyone to put their things on their tables (which have their names on them) and then settle them on the floor. It is impossible to give out instructions as they are walking in the door or wandering around the classroom also the number of parents/grandparents in the room day 1 makes it chaotic.
After a few getting to know you games and having the students share their stories about their Christmas and holidays I get the students stationery and books organised. The extra stationery students have I put in clear zip lock document folders with student’s names on them. This ensures their tubs are not over flowing and that when they lose their pencil for the 50th time in a week they are not wasting your teaching time, they can simply go to their folders and get a new one.
I also find it incredibly useful to have the first couple of weeks of getting to know you activities planned and copied at the end of the year.
A getting to know you activities that the kids love each year is making a ‘Who am I book’. Students write 4 clues about themselves and the draw a self-portrait, they cover their picture with a piece of coloured paper, which creates a lift the flap kind of book. It is the most read book in my class and the students love learning about their classmates and guessing who the clues are about.
I also make a time capsule with the students in the beginning of the year, they truly love opening this at the end of the year and seeing how much they have grown and changed. In the time capsule I put:
- Students heights measured with a streamer (and labelled with theirs names)
- A template with their favourite food, tv show, movies, colour and goals for the year ahead
- A self portrait
- A cut out of their hand and foot print
To see the student’s faces in December when we open the time capsule is incredible, they are excited to see how much taller they are now and how their hands and feet are bigger. Their likes and dislikes have changed and they can’t believe they ever liked “Shawn the Sheep” as their favourite TV show.
Good Luck and enjoy getting to know your students as the year goes too quickly.Step