I started at four different schools in the span of eight years. For me it was new school, new grade, and new curriculum each time. In that time, I learned a great deal about getting organized when everything is new.
Thinking about the first day of school can leave new teachers feeling like they don’t know where to start. There are materials to organize, curriculum to prepare, bulletin boards to decorate, and a thousand other details. But by systematically approaching the tasks related to preparing your classroom for the first day of school, it is possible to be ready for the first day and not end up exhausted!
Here is my number one tip and four lists I’ve compiled that will get you started with organizing your classroom. Use these lists as a launching point and then fill in more information that is relevant to your particular situation. I’ll also share some of my favorite back to school products.
Number One Tip: Write Everything Down Immediately
One of the most important steps is to write everything down immediately. Any time a task or question comes to mind, write it down. Keep a notebook or planner on your desk and write everything in the same place. Don’t trust it to memory because there are too many things to keep track of during the hectic days before school starts.
Take five seconds as soon as it comes to mind and write it down. By writing it down, it frees up mental space for other more important tasks than remembering five things to buy at the dollar store and three questions to ask the administrator.
If you need a beautiful planner that is both editable and printable, check out the ones I have created: Editable Planners.
Organize Your Paperwork
The first step is organizing your paperwork. Collect all the needed materials and supplies at once and get it done. This will include:
- Enter names in gradebook and attendance book/software
- Organize student portfolios
- Write a welcome letter
- Prepare a substitute teacher folder
When you are preparing for your substitute teacher, here are three very helpful products to have prepared and ready to go. Click any cover to see more details.
Organize Curriculum Materials and Lesson Plans
Other curriculum tasks include:
- Write lesson plans for the first week, including overplanning lessons
- Prepare all copies, handouts, and materials for math centers and literacy centers needed the first week including any laminating that needs to be done (I own this laminator and love it!)
- Prepare a plan for distributing materials
- Label all materials that will be distributed
- Prepare simple activities for the first day of school
Prepare an Attractive and Welcoming Classroom Environment
Students enjoy a nicely organized and decorated classroom. When a teacher puts effort into the appearance of the classroom, it tells the students that she believes they are important enough to give them a pleasant place to be each day.
At the same time, don’t overdo it. Some kids in your class will be overwhelmed and distracted with too much clutter on the walls.
When preparing the classroom, remember to:
- Determine the best way to arrange students desks and location of teacher desk.
- Decide on student desk nametags and either put on desks or prepare for students to make.
- Put up informative and engaging bulletin boards.
- Set up specific areas such as reading corner, workshop centers, and displays.
- Set up calendar and circle time area, if necessary.
- Post classroom rules and consequences.
- Post daily schedule and specials schedule.
- Determine classroom jobs and post information.
- Prepare any materials related to buses, walking, etc.
Purchase and Organize Classroom Supplies
Supplies can vary greatly from school to school and grade to grade. However, most teachers will want at least the basics on hand the first day. These will include:
- Paper – handwriting paper, construction paper, drawing paper and computer paper
- Pencils (my favorites by far are Ticonderoga pencils!) erasers and pencil sharpener
- Pens – blue, black, red
- Stapler, staples, staple remover
- Tape – Scotch tape, masking tape
- Folders – manila folders, pocket folders, three prong folders
- Binders – three ring binders
- Rubber bands, brads
- Glue – glue sticks, Elmer’s glue
- Facial tissue, paper towels, hand sanitizer
Here are a few products I’ve created that I wish I would have had when I started teaching. Click on any cover to see more details.
Preparing a classroom for the first time is both exciting and overwhelming for a new teacher. I know because I have done it more than once. See the rest of the series I’ve written to help and encourage new teachers.