As teachers, we have been spending time this summer recharging and refreshing so we can begin another school year with all pistons firing. As you prepare for the start of school, what are some things we can do that we will be thankful for once the last week of school rolls around? Make the investment in the suggestions below, and see how it pays off come year-end!!
Get out your camera and bring it with you everywhere you go!
Take pictures!!! Whole-group, small group, individual. Kids reading, kids writing, kids playing, kids eating. No matter the age of our students, we all know how much they grow over the course of the year. Chronicle that growth by snapping lots of photos during the first week, so that you’ll have them to reflect on when Day 180 rolls around. While you’re at it, create a system to share and organize your photos during the school year. Companies like Shutterfly and Snapfish allow you to create share sites which can be password protected. Parents can upload pictures, or download ones you’ve shared. You’ll be thankful for this collection when the crazy end-of-year pace picks up and you have lots to accomplish.
Get to know your students and their families
Create a simple digital or paper survey to give out as homework during the first week of school for students and families. Ask questions about strengths, weaknesses, celebrations, struggles, favorites, interests and motivators. Tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey allow you to collect this information and also ask for the best ways to reach families and identify who at home you can speak to about school matters. While reading these answers at the beginning of the year is helpful, those same answers become invaluable as the year unfolds. Be ready to re-survey, or at least return the results at the end of the year, as everyone will enjoy reading the answers again.
New Year Selfies
Whether you kick it old-school and have students create an oil pastel, or create digital versions, having students show and tell who they are in September is valuable when you (and they) are re-doing the same activity and reflecting on their growth in June. With digital tools like Google Drawing or Explain Everything, students can easily draw a self-portrait and then add either text or oral narration to share how they see themselves. Those same products can be used in those final weeks of school when everyone is talking about how far they have come as learners.
Get a baseline of your student “by the numbers”
These academic baselines are not only for your knowledge, but your students’ as well. Knowing fluency rates, math fact fluency, reading levels, writing skills, etc is more valuable when tracked over time…. Whether you use Google Classroom, a spreadsheet, or an online gradebook, think of a way to organize data today so that it is easy to reference and share with students, parents, and colleagues in data meetings later on.
Are you a Pile-er or a File-er?
You know how many great ideas will come across your desk this year. Some will come from co-workers by way of papers left on your chair. Other ideas will come via the internet from your awesome Personal Learning Network (PLN). Set up a system to digitize and organize all of these resources! Whether you use a cloud-based option like Google Drive and Evernote, or your computer’s hard drive, you will have the added benefit of making sure that everything searchable and easier to find. At the end of the school year, you’ll have fewer piles of resources to pack away for the summer, and you’ll be on the beach in no time!!
Preparing for the coming school year often has us thinking in terms of end-of-year goals. The more we organize and prepare for these longer timelines, the more efficient our time will be spent. As professionals, finding balance between our professional and personal lives is essential. Being organized truly helps!!