Monday, July 25, 2016

10 Things To Do Before Back to School: #1

Hi friends!'s that time of the year...the school supplies are in stock, the sale ads are in the paper and on tv and parents' nerves are shot.  That's right - BACK TO SCHOOL!  

Preparing for back to school can be nerve wrecking.  There are often so many things you have to do and think about - where do you even start?!  In an effort to help you be a little more organized and productive as you get ready for the upcoming school year, I've compiled a list of my top ten things you MUST do before back to school to help your school year run successfully.  Over the next ten weekdays, I'll be sharing this list with you as I work through preparing my own classroom for the year!  While this list is not exhaustive by any means, it is a list of what I feel are items that will help you start this school year feeling prepared and *somewhat* ready (let's be honest...are you ever really ready?)

First up....

While this may not be an exciting topic to discuss it's SOOOO important.  We all know the two main types of teachers - the one is super organized with clearly labeled tubs and files, and the one with piles and piles of paperwork shoved into the most hidden spaces that no one even remembers it's there in the first place.  While I am typically the first type (very type A personality), by the end of the school year I have a tendency to put materials, papers and manipulatives wherever I see fit at that particular moment, with the promise that I'll "Get to it later."  Well let me tell how you that's worked out....

Having an organized classroom is not just aesthetically pleasing.  I can help you be more efficient and help students become independent learners in their environment.  Think about it...  Do you have student materials labeled?  Are there particular places student supplies or student work belongs?  Are students expected to return items where they belong in order for others to use them?  To help you classroom run smoothly, teachers can use the same principles.  

One of my big projects this year was sorting through, organizing and cleaning out my teacher resource binders.  With the WONDERFUL blessing of TeachersPayTeachers and the fact that our district is becoming more of a Google district, the need for my old teacher resource binders wasn't really there anymore.  Also, the fact that the binders took up almost an entire cabinet in the classroom was motivation enough to do SOMETHING.  At the end of the school year, I packed up 44 teacher resource binders and lugged them home.  OH.  EM.  GEE.  Talk about overwhelming.  

It took several days going through these binders over short Netflix stints to finally clean them out.  My rule was...if it was something I owned electronically and could reprint what I needed - then the paper version was gone.  If it was something I created a long time ago and now have a much cuter version - gone.  If it was something that I haven't used in three years - GONE.  I ended up with three boxes of recycling and about 30 empty binders.  CRAAAAAAZY!  

The next big project I tackled was organizing my shared reading resources and GO Math centers.  These are resources I use every week so I knew I needed them to be organized and ready to go.  Who has time to do that once the school year starts?!  Not me!  I took my shared reading resources and organized them by quarter.  Each weekly shared reading set was put into it's own gallon size bag, labeled and put into the correct quarter's tub.  When the week comes, I can simply grab the necessary bag and have all the materials at my fingertips.  For my GO Math centers, I split the chapters (there are 12) in half.  Resources for Chapters 1-6 are in one tub - each chapter printed, cut and labeled in it's own gallon size bag - while resources for Chapters 7-12 are in another.  Where did I put the tubs when they were ready?  In the cabinet where my binders were!

The main goal of throwing out unused resources/materials and organizing the ones you do use is this - IT MAKES YOUR LIFE EASIER.  How many times do you create a center or activity only to find you had already made it, just misplaced it?  How many times do you say, "I know I have that somewhere..." only to never remember where that 'somewhere' is?  Wouldn't it be great to know exactly where that fun game or awesome resource was?  Would't it make planning so much easier? Trust me.  Take the time.  Organize now.  Don't put it off until the mess is bigger and half of your things are buried and forgotten!

Here's what you can do:

1. Decide what exactly you want/need to organize (maybe your teacher resources, your desk drawers, one cabinet/closet, etc. - don't feel like you need to tackle your whole classroom right away!)

2. Recruit your most organized friend - bribe them with coffee if need (because friends make life more fun!)

3. Decide what kind of organization fits your personality and needs the best - do you like papers in binders or in file folders in a filing cabinet?  Do you like clear tubs you can see through or would you rather 'hide' what's inside?

4.  Stop procrastinating and get to work.  Make the tough decisions and honestly throw away/give away/recycle what you don't use or need (a friend who isn't emotionally attached to the 3000 bear counters can help with this as well...)

5. Label.  Labeling what you have gives you a good inventory of what most of your resources include.  When I finally separated my thematic centers and labeled them, I realized that I bursting at the seams with a few themes (fall, Christmas, winter) but lacked in others (pirates, dinosaurs, zoo).

Here are some labels that may help you get started (and one is a FOREVER FREEBIE!).  Just click on the pictures above!  Organizing can be the least favorite thing for most people (and some just don't know where to start!).  However, in the long run, an organized classroom - one where both the teacher and students know what resources are available and where to find them - can provide an environment that helps foster independence and make everyone's lives easier!

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