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Laying the Groundwork for the #1st5days

August is a turning point in the summer.

Generally, July is a "relax and not-think-about-school month" (excluding conferences and writing, but usually not working specifically on school), where I decompress and give myself time to reflect and recharge.

Once August rolls around (in NY, school starts after Labor day), I know it is time to start the process of gearing up for an exciting new school year.

The first five days of school are critical to establishing rapport and developing crucial relationships that will mark the tone and success of the year.

As educators, we can plan and prepare to ensure these days come off well.

Here are some tips for walking into school ready:

  • Do some reflecting on last year and the work you did. What worked? What could be improved? What do you wish you did differently? What steps can be taken to make it happen? If you blog, think about sharing ideas publicly. If you prefer to write in a journal or just jot down your thoughts less formally, do what works for you.

  • In the time leading up to your first day, try to get to an #edcamp where you can network with enthusiastic educators and gather ideas that can really make an impression. Once you get these ideas, be ready to take risks to make this year successful. It's also good to get onto Twitter and join a few chats; some of my favorites are #Colchat, #Edchat, #NTchat, #Whatisschool, #Satchat, #Sunchat, #formativechat (and there are many more for any or all needs). Following innovative educators on Twitter will also be a valuable source of information throughout the year. Some of those great educators on Twitter also write blogs worth reading, so check them out.

  • Review your program and go through the curriculum maps making revisions after doing some reflection. Consider surveying former students for some honest feedback about what they learned the most from and why. How can this be replicated even if you're teaching something different?

  • Do you have access to your class lists yet? If yes, take the time to get to know students ahead of time. Consider setting up email lists early too. If not, plan a cool ice breaker activity to get to know your new students.

  • Write a letter welcoming students to class, getting kids ready and excited for a year of learning.

  • Remember the first five days are about relationships and learning, so try to avoid planning activities that specifically talk about rules and regulations. These kinds of discussions should be done with students, but they shouldn't lead the first few days. For secondary students, sometimes they can sit through up to seven periods of the same thing with seating charts and contact information. These are essential bits of information, but they shouldn't waste valuable class time.

  • Make it an adventure. Depending on the age level and content you teach, plan to engage kids with topics they'll explore throughout the year.

  • Do some essential school supply shopping that will make the room ready for inspiration and learning. I like to buy lots of pens, pencils, and highlighters that I keep in baskets in the room for student use.

  • Try to get to school early and invitingly arrange your room. Although your room may not stay the way you set it up because you may want to include students in the design of the space, it can be an exciting way to get kids to recognize this space is different. One great ice breaker can be a "Find Someone Who" or a gallery walk around the space to get them acquainted with each other and the space.

  • Gather a list of inspiring quotes you can share with students or post around your room to spark interest and curiosity.

  • Try new applications that can help engage students in your classes. Tinker with them and see the possibilities. There are some great programs that teachers can use to get parents involved too.

  • Start getting back into your school routine by getting to bed earlier and waking up earlier so that the adjustment isn't as challenging as the first day.

  • Rest up and get ready because being in school is a great adventure, but it does take a lot of work. Being ready and relaxed  makes it easier to be successful.

What is your ritual for getting ready to go back to school to lay the groundwork for a great new year? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in August 2016


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