Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Getting Back to School Ready...Stress Free


New Year, Where to Start?

Setting up a classroom for the new academic school year can be an overwhelming experience, even for experienced teachers.  There is so much that goes into this preparation, and it can all range from organizing the classroom library,  setting up a filing cabinet according to whatever standards you are using at your school, changing the color scheme of the entire room, gathering resources for the new math curriculum, organizing ELA centers, and the list can go on and on!

A teacher's job is never job. It can never be 100% complete, especially if you left your room in shambles at the end of the year (this teacher). Some teachers might enjoy a few weeks of uninterrupted  mostly relaxing times at the beach with the family or visiting the nearest zoo, but soon after, a teacher's mind gets to work on what to fix, how to improve, and where to get started.

How I left my room at the end of the year 
Out with the Old, in with the New

This will be my fourth year teaching, fourth summer going into a new academic school year, and I still felt like making a 9 page long list of all the things I need to do before my kids come into the classroom. Fortunately, this year will be a little different from all of the others.  I'm not going to have all the time to spend on creating new resources or changing the color scheme of my room because I'm pregnant!!! In the Fall, I'm going to be in my 3rd trimester, so the time is literally ticking down to my sweet baby's arrival.


Prioritizing my Top 5

This year I decided to do something I should have started from year 2.  Make a priority list of no more than 5 things I wanted to achieve. This was my way of throwing away the very long list of to-dos in my head, and really focusing on the most important 5. I'm not a superhero, no matter if my key chain says "Teaching is my Super Strength." With baby preparations and a much more physically tired body, I knew that I needed to slow down.

Time to Make a SHORT List
How to Get Started

The first thing I did was make a list (I love my lists!) of what didn't work the previous year that I would like to change for the new year. My over- achieving teaching instincts wanted to keep adding items to the list, but I had to cut myself off at 5.  I knew those 5 items would have been a challenge on their own!  I couldn't even imagine doing more than those without breaking my back to get it done.  I also didn't want to be burned out before my students showed up. I need to have my energy so they can get excited from my passion about learning!


My List Explained

1. Since I'm going to be very pregnant in the Fall, I thought to move all of my reading books, textbooks, centers, manipulatives, and every thing I need on hand on a daily basis right in front of me.  They used to be tucked stuffed away in my very tiny closet, and I would fight battles to reach some items back there. Some of  my science/math manipulatives were on top of the closet so I needed a step stool to reach them. No step stools for me anymore, so I need to move everything to my empty shelves in the classroom.  Here is probably the most embarrassing, yet real photo I have ever put on the internet.

You've seen it all now. I've got nothing to hide anymore. 


2.  During calendar time, my poor students were stuffed in a corner while we went through our daily calendar time. They were super sweet, so they didn't complain, but I could see the pain in their eyes. This year I plan on switching my calendar wall and writing wall to create more space for my kiddos. I haven't changed the walls yet, but I have already placed the carpet where I would love calendar time to be.

After I move the writing walls, this writing center table will make a lot more sense.  The students will be surrounded by their writing and writing anchor charts while they create their new writing masterpieces. Well, that's the goal anyways. 


Here is where the students will sit for calendar time. This area will be used three times during the day; calendar time, ipad center, and shared writing. The tables will be for our Ipad center during literacy centers time, but for the 15 minutes we do calendar time, it will be a much more convenient space.  I also decided to hold my shared writing time on this carpet as well.  It's so good to get my students up and moving throughout the day, so having this extra space to teach will be very good for all of us.

Shared Writing Space
3. I had interactive notebooks in my first two years of teaching, and I absolutely loved them. I switched to this new school towards the very end of the summer, so I didn't have a lot of time to prepare everything I wanted, so interactive notebooks took a back seat. I definitely regret not having them in my classroom, because I strongly dislike loose leaf papers, and having everything in one notebook for science, social studies, and math made seeing improvement so much easier.

Plus, it was a great portfolio for the parents and students to see after they are done with my class.  I've already purchased the science, social studies, and math interactive units according to the standards I will be teaching (thank you Teachers Pay Teachers Sale!!!!).

4. I'm almost too embarrassed to show you my classroom library. For almost the entire year, a quarter of my library was organized in DRA levels for the student use, but three quarters of my library was left unused, sad, and mistreated. I'm sorry books.  :(

Like I previously mentioned, I came on to this new school very late in the summer and had no time to prep. When I walked in, I had to first take down the blankets of teacher stuff the previous teacher had used, but I also was left with a decent sized, unmarked library. I couldn't get it done last year, but this will be my biggest challenge for the prep week/2 weeks leading up school.






























5. Last year I was moving from high school to first grade. It was a very drastic change, and all of my files were getting scrambled together. The more resources I collected this past year, the worse it got.  It did't help that I got hyperemesis during my pregnancy in the Spring.  I was out for disability, and my room just got messier and messier.

This year, I plan on looking at our pacing guide for first grade, and create files that go in that order.  I would love to have my resources flow together and make sense. Last year, I was building my files, and my files were organized based on how I thought the files would make sense together.  This year, I want to organize them in a way that I can move back as I work through the each week.

My sad stack of papers to be filed. These are all leftover from last year. 
This was ineffective for what I desired.

Since I had the files all ready, I simply re-arranged them so I can work from the front to the back. Each drawer has a different subject, with the same filing strategy. 
Can't organize without these! I got both of them from Costco for about $14.

For more back to school fun, you can check out my back to school Lakeshore Haul on youtube! 




I can't wait to show you my classroom when it is nice and pretty. I hope this was helpful for you to focus on what is most important in your classroom. If my embarrassing room pictures scared you, I'm sorry.  I would also love to hear from you, so let me know what your priorities would be in the comments section.