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Back To School -- Starting Organized

This is always the most hectic time of the year! Most schools start out with a week of inservice and workdays to get teachers prepared for the new school year. This means a ton of new information gets thrown at you with little time to assimilate and organize it.

Workdays are never long enough to get everything ready for the first day of school and most teachers find themselves already behind before they even start.

However, with a little planning and our organizational tips, you can start the year calm, relaxed, and organized.

 
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Quick Links

 

Before You Get to School
You don't have to be the first teacher back, practically live at school, or spend a lot of money to have a well-organized room and a smooth first day. What you must do is PLAN AHEAD and KEEP THINGS SIMPLE! Most important of all – review all the suggestions in our Back to School section first, then decide what you will implement.
  • This is a great time to start on your calendar, daily file, and teacher binder. Have these ready to go on the first day back and file information as you get it.
  • Take stock of what you have in the classroom and in your personal supplies.
  • Stock up during Back-To-School sales at local stores and office supply stores. This is a great time to buy notebook paper, notebooks, spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, and markers. Prices are never this good during the rest of the year!
  • Realize that some things have to go in certain places and work that into your plans.
  • Decide what kind of room arrangement best suits your teaching style and fit your furniture into that system. Use the links below to explore possible room arrangements.
  • No matter what arrangement you choose, make sure there is plenty of space to move around and no blind spots. Make sure that every student is visible from your desk and teaching areas.
  • Less is more. Keep it simple!
  • Every inch of wall space does not have to be covered. The more displays you have the less useful they become.
Back to School Checklist
United States
(scholastic.com)
Back to School First Day Checklist
United States
(www.kinderkorner.com)
Bright Ideas for Back to School Night
Links to ideas, welcome flyer, name tags, beyond back to school night, and parent resources.
United States
(www.readingrockets.org)
Coping with Parent (Over) Involvement
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Education World’s Back to School Checklist
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Effective Back to School Nights
ESL
United States
(www.everythingesl.net)
Great Starts: Veteran Principals Offer Opening Day Tips
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
How to Prepare Your Classroom
Ascanius: The Youth Classics Institute.
United States
(www.ascaniusyci.org)
It’s Back-to-School Time for Administrators Too
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
New Students, New Semester – How to Remember Names and Faces
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
Opening Bell
United States
(scholastic.com)
Planning, Organizing and Managing Your Learning Environment
United States
(www.teachersnetwork.org)
Prepare for Your First Classroom
United States
(www.atpe.org)
Scavenger Hunt: A Fun Way to Introduce Staff
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
So Much to Do, So Little Time
United States
(scholastic.com)
Setting Up Your Classroom
United States
(scholastic.com)
Tips for Getting Organized
United States
(www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com)
Use Checklists to Ensure a Smooth Course Startup
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
When All Else Fails, Turn to the Survival Kit!
United States
(www.educationworld.com)

 

Classroom Organization
and Set-Up
Most organizing books recommend that the first step is to take stock of what you have and declutter before you run out and buy the latest, super duper organizing product. Boy, are they right. Give materials you rarely use to new teachers or sell them at a garage sale.  Organize a “Trash to Treasure” table where teachers can get rid of unneeded materials that others may find useful. In many cases, you can just repack storage containers to make more fit in them and repurpose many items instead of buying more.
  • Measure everything and make a floor plan or use one of the online room arrangers.
  • Store things you aren't using or donate them to new teachers. If you didn't use it last year, and you haven't changed levels, why are you hanging on to it?
  • If you don't have enough storage, it's time to purge.
  • Every box and container is a potential storage container. Don't be afraid to ask (or beg).
  • "But, this is the way we have always arranged it" is not a valid excuse.
Arranging the Physical Environment of the Classroom to Support Teaching/Learning
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
Back to School Planning Guide
United States
(teacher.scholastic.com)
Class Set-up Tool
United States
(scholastic.com)
Classroom Architect - Arrange Your Room Online
United States
(classroom.4teachers.org)
Classrooom Floor Plan Designs to Optimize Each Type of Collaboration
Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, Williamsburg, Virginia, United States.
(www.wjcc.k12.va.us)
Classroom Ideas: Organizing
United States
(teacherszine.tripod.com)
Classroom Management and Organization: A Game Plan for Success
Prince George County Public Schools, Maryland, United States
(www.pgcps.org)
Classroom Organization for Efficiency and Productivity
United States
(k6educators.about.com)
Eight Secrets of Class Design
United States
(scholastic.com)
How to Arrange Classroom Furniture
United States
(www.ehow.com)
More Great Ideas for the New School Year
United States
(www.education-world.com)
Organization Ideas For the Elementary Classroom
United States
(www.proteacher.com)
Organize It
United States
(www.pre-kpages.com)
Sample Classroom Floor Plans - Basic Floor Plans
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Education, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States.
(www.learnnc.org)
Setting Up Your Middle School Classroom
United States
(www.teachersnetwork.org)
Setting Up Your Room
United States
(www.kinderkorner.com)
Tips for Organizing and Managing Your Classroom Library
United States
(www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com)
Tips on Time Management
United States
(www.teachers.net)

*See the Classroom Organization section for more information.

 

Decorating
The most important thing to remember in decorating your classroom is LESS IS MORE! If you cover every available vertical surface with posters and decorations, your students will be unable to focus on what is important. Also, such visual clutter is highly distracting for all students. Think about what is important and emphasize it!
Basics
  • Too much stuff on the walls increases distractibility.
  • Younger students and those with disabilities have a lot of trouble changing focus from their work to instructional charts on the wall.
  • High contrast displays are attention grabbers and not in a good way.  Use less vibrant hues so that students pay attention to the meaning.
  • Don't crowd each bulletin board with lots of stuff, it makes it difficult to concentrate on the important things.
Essentials
  • A calendar with letters and numbers big enough to be seen from any part of the room.
  • Schedules: your class schedule, the school's master schedule, and any Special Programs' schedules. You should also keep a copy of these schedules in your organizer.
  • Fire Drill maps and instructions and any other drill information sheets.
  • A map of the school.
  • Anything else your school requires you to post.
  • A place to display student work.
Back to School Bulletin Board Ideas
United States
(www.prekfun.com)
Back to School Bulletin Boards and Displays
United States
(www.teacherhelp.org)
Beginning of the Year Bulletin Board Ideas
Fort Vermilion, Alberta, Canada.
(www.fvsd.ab.ca)
Bulletin Board Ideas
Jefferson County Schools, Dandridge, Tennessee, United States.
(jc-schools.net)
Bulletin Board Ideas and Tips for the K-3 Teacher
United States
(teachingheart.net)
Fall and Back to School Bulletin Board Ideas
United States
(www.theteacherscorner.net)
Fall Bulletin Boards/Classroom Decor
United States
(www.teachnet.com)
Teacher Tools Back to School Bulletin Boards
United States
(www.teachertools.org)
Teaching Heart Back to School Bulletin Boards
United States
(teachingheart.net)
10 Ways to Decorate Your Classroom
United States
(scholastic.com)
Welcome Back Bulletin Boards
Alachua County Public Schools, Gainesville, Florida, United States
(www.sbac.edu)

*See the Bulletin Boards, Decorations, and Displays section for more information.

 

Welcoming Parents and Students
How you welcome your students and their parents to your classroom at the beginning of the year will set the tone for your entire school year.
  • Display your students' names on cut-out seasonal shapes.
  • Have a way for parents to leave you a message.
  • Mail postcards to or phone each student before school starts.
  • Have something for each child - a pencil, a bookmark, a coloring sheet, etc. preferably with their name on it.
Back to School Bliss in 21 Days
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
Back to School: Our Top Ten Tips!
United Kingdom
(www.swansea.gov.uk)
Back to School: Simple Steps You Can Take to Make This The Best School Year Ever
Parent booklet.
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
First Day At School
United Kingdom
(www.teachernet.gov.uk)
Letters to Welcome Students and Parents
United States
(scholastic.com)
A New Spin on Back-to-School Night
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
School Days – Top 10 Tips for Establishing a Good Routine
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
School Jokes for Kids
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
Schools Find Many Ways to Say “Welcome Back”
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Survival Kit
Education Central
United States
(www.ehhs.cmich.edu)
Tammy's Tidbits - Postcards
Education Central
United States
(www.ehhs.cmich.edu)
Teacher Tools and Templates: Templates, Back to School
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
10 Back to School Success Ideas
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
Ways of Dealing With Separation Anxiety
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
Welcome Letter Template
United States
(www.educationworld.com)

*See our Awards and Certificates section for more links.

 

The First Day of School
Start your organizational plan on the first day of school and the rest of the year will run smoothly and efficiently!
  • Store student supplies in a pre-arranged place.
  • Teach and practice procedures.  Have posters and/or handouts explaining these procedures for students and parents.
  • Give the students activities that will measure what they know: math facts, writing samples, reading comprehension activities, etc.
  • Stick to your schedule as much as is possible on the first day of school and every day to establish a routine.
  • Observe your class and make notes of personality conflicts, abilities of the students, activity levels, etc.
  • Objectively judge how your classroom arrangement is working. Always be prepared to make changes.
  • Teach and practice your behavior management system.
Activities for the First Days of School
United States
(www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com)
Back to School
United States
(www.kinderthemes.com)
Back to School Checklist
United States
(scholastic.com)
Back to School Poems and Songs
United States
(www.dltk-kids.com)
Back to School Show and Tell
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
Back to School Survival Kit
Elementary
United States
(www.ehhs.cmich.edu)
Beginning of the Year Songs and Poems
United States
(www.kinderthemes.com)
CanTeach Songs and Poems
Canada
(www.canteach.ca)
Creative Back to School Activity Ideas for Kids
United States
(www.kinderthemes.com)
Establishing and Teaching Classroom Expectations
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
First Day Checklist
United States
(www.kinderthemes.com)
First Day Ideas!
United States
(www.ilovethatteachingidea.com)
The First Day of Class
From the book Tools for Teaching byBarbara Gross Davis.
University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California, United States.
(teaching.berkeley.edu)
First Day of Class
Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States.
(www.vanderbilt.edu)
The First Day of Class: Advice and Ideas
Community College of Rhode Island, Warwick, Rhode Island, United States.
(www.ccri.edu)
First Day of Class – Do’s and Don’ts
University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina, United States.
(www.uncw.edu)
The First Day of Class: What Can / Should We Do?
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
First Day of School Checklist
United States
(ronpartin.com)
The First Days of Middle School
United States
(www.middleweb.com)
First Days of School Activities
Elementary
United States
(www.atozteacherstuff.com)
Fresh Ideas for Opening Day (Toss Out Those Stale Ideas!)
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Fun Activities Get the School Year Off to a Good Start
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Getting Ready for the First Day of School
United States
(www.resources4teachers.org)
Getting to Know You!
Jefferson County Schools, Dandridge, Tennessee, United States.
(jc-schools.net)
Group-Games.com
A collection of the best group games and icebreakers.
United States
(www.group-games.com)
Ice Breaker (Getting-to-know-you Activities)
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Icebreakers, Fun Games, Group Activities
Samoa
(www.icebreakers.ws)
Ideas for the First Day of School
United States
(www.suelebeau.com)
Magically “Learn” Students’ Names in Minutes
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
The Most Important Day: Starting Well
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
The Name Game
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
101 Things You Can Do the First Three Weeks of Class
Post-secondary ideas
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
Opening Bell
United States
(scholastic.com)
Planning for Your First Day at School
This is for new teachers, but it has a lot of links that might be useful.
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Preparing for the First Day
United States
(www.education-world.com)
Reaching Every Child
United States
(scholastic.com)
The Role of Classroom Schedules
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
Routines and Procedures Self-Assessment
United States
(scholastic.com)
Teacher Tools and Templates
Icebreakers and setting goals.
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Ten Things to Make the FirstDay (and the Rest) of the Semester Successful
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
Top 5 Ways to Welcome Students Back to School
United States
(scholastic.com)
Use of Classroom Routines to Support the Learning Process
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)

 

Behavior -- Starting Right
A good behavior plan should be developed BEFORE school starts. From day one, students need a simple, consistent plan to follow. The effort you put into good behavior in the first weeks of school will be invaluable throughout the year.
  • Develop, teach, review and revise (as needed) your behavior management system.
  • Post your classroom rules in a prominent spot in the room. When referring to the rules, call attention to the classroom rules poster. If you are consistent, eventually all you will have to do is walk to the poster and point to the rule that is being broken.
  • Start your behavior management system as early as possible the first day of class.
  • Make the system fair, but flexible enough to deal with individual differences.
  • Follow the procedures you have established at all times, if there has to be a deviation explain why.
  • Follow a set schedule at all times. Periodically tell students how much more time they have and what will be next.
  • Provide lots of activities dealing with behavior: reading stories, writing about the rules, rote practice of rules, role playing and anything else that will help students learn the system inside out.
  • Have positive and negative consequences.
  • There should be negative consequences in the classroom. Calling parents or sending the child to the office should be the last resort not the first or only.
Establishing and Maintaining Standards for Student Behavior
Contra Costa County, Pleasant Hill, California, United States.
(www.cccoe.k12.ca.us)
Establishing and Teaching Classroom Expectations
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
Establishing Classroom Rules
Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky, United States
(www.education.ky.gov)
Establishing Rules
United States
(www.techlearning.com)
Forty Successes
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
Good Behavior Charts
Education Central
United States
(www.ehhs.cmich.edu)
Ms. Powell's Management Ideas for Teachers
United States
(www.mspowell.com)
Successfully Managing Student Transitions
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
Teaching Anger Management
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
Teaching Social Problem Solving to Students
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
Teaching Social Skills
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
Teaching Students to Self-Monitor Their Academic and Behavioral Performance
Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, United States.
(education.odu.edu)
*See the Classroom Management and Discipline section for more information.

 

Back to School Mega Sites
These sites have lots of information and links.
Back to School
Excellent resources
Fort Vermilion, Alberta, Canada.
(www.fvsd.ab.ca)
Back to School
Information and links.
United States
(www.kinderkorner.com)
Back to School
Links
United States
(www.proteacher.com.)
Back to School
Elementary
United States
(www.vickiblackwell.com)
Back to School!!
Resources and links
United States
(www.thevirtualvine.com.)
Back to School and End of School Resources
United States
(school.discoveryeducation.com)
Back to School Resources
Links from Jerrie’s Curriculum Hotlists
Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States.
(webtech.kennesaw.edu)
Back to School Resources for Busy Teachers
The Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers, Canada.
(www.caslt.org)
Back2School
Resources and links from Jefferson County Schools, Dandridge, Tennessee, United States.
(jc-schools.net)
Before School Starts
Jefferson County Schools, Dandridge, Tennessee, United States.
(jc-schools.net)
Ideas For the First Day of School
United States
(www.suelebeau.com)
New Middle School Teacher Guide
United States
(www.middleweb.com)

 

Back to School Lesson Plans and Activities
  • In addition to going over classroom rules and expectations, keep students busy with a variety of activities. It is generally better to give students a worksheet-type activity at the beginning of school. Having to stare at a blank sheet of paper that they have to competely fill is a very scary thought for many kids.
  • Make sure activities have educational content. This is a great time to see what students know.
  • If Back to School night is after the beginning of school, have the students work on projects and displays.
  • Plan many, easy and quick to complete activities.
  • Don’t put your students on the spot. You will have some shy ones. Having them introduce themselves to the class can be pure torture. Plan a drawing/writing activity that can be displayed instead.
  • It is generally better to give students a worksheet type activity at the beginning of school. Having to stare at a blank sheet of paper that they have to completely fill is a scary thought for many kids.
Assembly Themes
Elementary
United States
(www.theteacherscorner.net)
Back to Preschool Activity Theme
Grade PreK
United States
(www.preschoolrainbow.org)
Back to School
Elementary
A variety of worksheets, games, coloring pages, forms, and posters.
United States
(www.abcteach.com)
Back to School
Elementary
Resources for Christian education.
(www.teacherhelp.org)
Back to School Activities
Grades K-8
United States
(www.superteacherworksheets.com)
Back to School Activities
Grades 1-6
United States
(www.emints.org)
Back-to-School Activities and Crafts
Elementary
United States
(www.enchantedlearning.com)
Back to School Activity Page Printables
Elementary
Alphabet, Math, mazes, and dot to dot sheets.
United States
(www.printactivities.com)
Back to School Bingo – Icebreaker
Grades K–12
United States
(specialed.about.com)
Back to School Coloring Pages
Elementary
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
Back to School Crafts
Elementary
United States
(crafts.kaboose.com)
Back to School Ideas
Elementary
United States
(www.marcias-lesson-links.com)
Back to School Lessons and Teacher Resources
Elementary
United States
(www.lessonplanspage.com)
Back to School Printable Worksheets
Elementary
Journal pages and coloring pages.
United States
(www.theteacherscorner.net)
Back to School Printables
Elementary
United Kingdom
(www.activityvillage.co.uk)
Back to School Printables
Elementary
United States
(homeschooling.about.com)
Back to School Printables Galore!
Elementary
United States
(www.teachingheart.net)
Back to School Resource Guide
United States
(www.lessonplanspage.com)
Back to School Stationery 1
Elementary
United States
(www.primarygames.com)
Back to School Stationery 2
Elementary
United States
(www.primarygames.com)
Back-to-School Technology Activities
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Back to School Worksheets
Elementary
United States
(www.superteacherworksheets.com)
Back to School Worksheets
Elementary
United States
(www.teachnology.com)
Beginning of the Year Activity using The Rainbow Fish
Grades 1-2
United States
(www.atozteacherstuff.com)
Break the Ice
Grades K-12
Post-secondary ideas.
Honolulu Community College, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.
(honolulu.hawaii.edu)
DLTK Back to School Activities for Children
Elementary
United States
(www.dltk-kids.com)
DLTK Back to School Crafts
Elementary
United States
(www.dltk-kids.com)
DLTK Back to School Printable Activities
Elementary
United States
(www.dltk-kids.com)
Faces Bingo
Grades K-2
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
First Day of School Activities
Elementary
Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, Nova Scotia, Canada.
(www.cbv.ns.ca)
First-Day-of-School Activity: The Kissing Hand
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
The First Day of School: I’ll Get to Know You
Grades 1-5
United States
(www.atozteacherstuff.com)
Fourteen Great Activities for the First Days of School!
Grades PreK-12
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Fourteen More Great Activities for the First Days of School!
Grades K-8
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
Franklin Goes to School
Elementary
United States
(www.dltk-teach.com)
Getting to Know Me Worksheet
Grades K-8
United States
(specialed.about.com)
Getting to Know You
Grades K-6
Columbia Education Center, Portland, Oregon, United States
(www.col-ed.org)
The Gingerbread Hunt
Elementary
United States
(www.angelfire.com)
Guess Who I Am Worksheet
Elementary
United States
(specialed.about.com)
How Do You Do?
Elementary
United States
(teachers.net)
Ice Breakers
Grades PreK-12
United States
(www.education-world.com)
Interview Somebody New!
Grades K-8
United States
(specialed.about.com)
Kaboose Back to School Coloring Pages
Elementary
United States
(parenting.kaboose.com)
Kaboose Back to School Printables
Elementary
United States
(printables.kaboose.com)
The Kissing Hand
Elementary
Activities to go with the book.
United States
(www.kinderthemes.com)
My Back to School Goals Worksheet
Grades K-8
United States
(specialed.about.com)
My Favorite Papers
Grades 1-2
Idea for journaling throughout the year can be adapted for other grades.
United States
(www.atozteacherstuff.com)
Name Tags (Boys)
Elementary
United States
(www.ehhs.cmich.edu)
Name Tags (Girls)
Elementary
United States
(www.ehhs.cmich.edu)
Open House / Back to School Night Activities
Elementary
United States
(www.proteacher.net)
The Perfect Teacher
Grades 6-8
United States
(www.educationworld.com)
School Days Crafts
Elementary
United States
(makingfriends.com)
Starting School
Elementary
Create an online book about the first day of school.
United Kingdom
(www.bbc.co.uk)
Welcome Back to School!
Elementary
Education Central
United States
(www.ehhs.cmich.edu)
What Back to School Means to Me
Grades K-8
United States
(specialed.about.com)
The Wheels on the Bus
Elementary
Activities and printables.
United States
(www.dltk-teach.com)
Which Way to School?
Elementary
Back to school maze.
United States
(www.bry-backmanor.org)
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