School starts in a couple of weeks and I’ll be in my classroom very soon. I’ll arrange the furniture, prepare activities for the first few days, and copy paperwork for my parents. I thought it might be useful for new teachers out there if I shared a few of my ideas and checklists with you.
I always strive to improve the arrangement of my classroom furniture so there is a good flow of traffic from one area to the next. I want my room to be functional and organized. I try to avoid clutter as much as possible- even though I teach kindergarten, and even though I always have about five more students than I would like to have. I’ll move a few pieces of furniture from time to time, but I only do a major overhaul at the beginning of the year and at winter break- if we need it. I use photographs to record centers and desk groupings so that I can duplicate arrangements I like. You’d be surprised how much you forget once the custodians pull everything out of the room to wax the floors in the summer! By referring to photos from last year, I save myself a lot of time and headaches!
Centers can be particularly tricky to arrange. I try to keep quiet and noisy centers balanced throughout the room. I try to keep certain ones near my desk for close observation. I make sure I don’t create corners or blind spots where children can hide even temporarily. I gauge the dimensions carefully so that overcrowding doesn’t create behavior problems.
Notes to Myself
I write down anything and everything I need to remember. I keep a clipboard on my desk; I keep sticky notes in my pocket. By the second month of school my students are so used to my “notes” that they will literally say, “Write it down Mrs. Maurer” if they want me to buy something or remember something. I start out the year with a list of things I need to remember until routine takes over again. I usually refer to the list each day for the first week:
Introduce each student.
Explain morning routine.
Take lunch count and turn it in.
Complete transportation form.
Explain breakfast and lunch procedures to students.
Explain bathroom procedures to students.
Explain classroom rules.
Explain discipline procedures and reward system.
Introduce and explain centers.
By the third day I review by asking the students to explain the bathroom procedures or tell me the five class rules, etc.
To My Parents
We use a daily communication folder that contains paper, and a zippered pencil bag. Parents can write notes to me, or vice-versa, and we can send money, photos, etc. in the bag. I also include, in a plastic sleeve, my homework policy and some basic classroom information. These are the things parents most often want to know:
Discipline and reward system
Basic information about the teacher.
First Week Activities
I have four goals for the first week of school:
Help my students get acquainted with each other. We will play some games and sing songs that encourage children to talk to each other and to me. This gives me a quick assessment tool for determining who likes to talk and who doesn’t. I make notes about particularly shy students or students who are “less than cooperative”. I also get a glimpse of good and bad pairings- once in a while I find that I have to change the seating arrangement the very first day!
Establish routines that will help us function as a group, and help students feel secure and confident. I like routines. I like organization. I like having procedures for classroom activities so that we don’t waste time and effort on details. Students like it too! They feel powerful when they know how to do things without consulting me. I know I’m doing my job well when my students start telling each other our classroom rules and procedures.
Create an atmosphere that promotes good behavior and independent work. I’ve already mentioned that over-crowding creates behavior problems. So does a lack of supplies. I have written before about the power of abundance. I don’t want my students to be wasteful, but I do want them to know that we have more paint and more crayons and more paper. They don’t have to squabble over supplies. I also want them to know that I’m watching them, and monitoring their progress. I want them to strive to work harder and better each day.
Plan activities that will give me useful data about student strengths and weaknesses. During the first week we will write our names, the alphabet, numbers 0-5, and four words- yes, no, Mom, Dad. We will draw an animal, a house, a car, and a tree. We will count with blocks and color with our crayons. We will sing about the color red, the days of the week, and the rules of the classroom. We will look at shapes and talk about our favorite foods. We will recite our birthdays and see who the tallest and shortest students are. We will read at least three books each day and discuss what we have read. We will look at our mouths in little mirrors while we make funny sounds. We will go through the routines of the day. As we do all of these I will make copies and notes and observations about each student. I will start determining their individual needs and planning for the first month. I never copy my lesson plans from the previous year because the needs of each class are unique.
So… that’s how I get ready for a new class. I also have to prepare name tags, cubby labels, desk tags, book markers, etc. Lots of writing! Lots of fun!