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20 Questions to Ask Yourself When Preparing for the First Week of School

I'll just say it.

It's not how cute your classroom looks. What truly matters on that first week of school is how carefully you have thought through logistics, and how present you are with your students.

Here are some things to think about during the Summer and pre-planning days. Figuring out answers to these questions will make a huge difference in how smoothly things will work in your classroom. 

1. How will I collect school supplies when my students bring them on the 1st day of school?

I struggled with this for too many years, and I don't want you to do the same! If you don't have a plan that you are happy with, take a look at this one.
Read about a 3-Step system right here!

2. Where will my students sit and what will they do when they come in on the 1st Day?

There are pros and cons to having assigned seats right away and to letting students sit where they feel comfortable. Think about both options and how you feel about each one. Also, consider a compromise where you let kids sit spontaneously at first, and once you become familiar with them, assign their seats. 

Make sure you have something engaging, educational, and that students can work on independently when they walk in the door. I had book bins and worksheets that reviewed Kindergarten skills.

My big tip here, is to model good independent work behavior as soon as possible. Students should know to spend quality time with each book even if they can't read all the words and to put effort into the morning work you give them.
Model the behavior you want to see.

3. How will I call students to the carpet? Where will they sit?

Think about what you want your students to do.  A few things to consider are: push chairs in, walk nicely, sit with enough space between each other, sit in rows or other assigned seats, put your work away and clear your desk, and other things like that.

Implement routines from the beginning.

4. How will I call students to line up at the playground?

How do you get them back?!
I've seen teachers clap, call, use a whistle or a chime. Let your students know what they'll need to pay attention to BEFORE going to the playground. 

5. How will I get students' attention throughout the day? How will I quiet them down?

YouTube is a huge source for this! I love the Attention Grabbers by Dr. Jean!
Practice these throughout the day and stay consistent.

6. What is my system for sharpening pencils?

Oh, boy. Another tough one! Pencil sharpening and pencil keeping are a struggle in everyone's classroom! I don't like to brag, but after a few years of trying different things, I nailed a system that worked really, really well! Read that blog post here!

7. What will my classroom rules be?

I'd suggest that you keep your rules short, simple, and easy to remember. Go over them for at least 2 weeks until your students really understand them.

8. How will I pass and collect papers?

Here's something to think about... 
If you wait until you want to do an activity to hand students one paper at a time, you will lose precious time and engagement. 

Some ways to pass and collect paper are:
  • Have a "paper passer" or a "table captain" at each table who is responsible for dispersing and collecting papers from their peers. In this case, you hand those kids enough papers, tell them where you want the papers placed at the end end, and they do the rest. 
  • Place a stack on each table and let the kids get their own papers. At the end of the activity the kids make a neat pile and you collect the papers all at once.
  • Lay out papers when kids are engaged with something else or before they come in.

9. Where will I keep the worksheets and materials I'll use each day?

Think of a system that you can follow consistently. It really helps to know where your materials are.

I always used folders. As soon as my copies were ready, I'd file them under the right day, and voila! 
Also a great system to have when preparing for a planned absence! Here, Substitute Teacher! All you need on Wednesday is inside the Wednesday folder! Easy, breezy!

10. Where will I keep the papers that I collect from the students?

Something that you might want to consider is separating work that needs to be graded from work that doesn't. You want to have quick access to graded work so you're not wasting time sorting through everything.

Also, how much are you planning on grading? How much are you planning on sending back home? I learned throughout the years that a small part of student work can be discarded. The work they do is necessary for them to learn, to practice skills, and for assessment. Be careful not to spend more time than necessary shuffling through papers.

11. Where will I keep samples of student work and other personal information?

Think about where you will keep your students individual folders. These are great for keeping samples of work for parent conferences, notes that parents write, and any other personal information that you might need later on.

A bin with folders worked well for me.

12. How will kids access their water bottles and snacks?

This is something I'd ask my fellow teachers about. Sometimes schools have policies, or grade levels have something they do consistently across the grade.

My students kept their water bottles on their desks and their snacks inside their desks. They would bring all of that out of their backpacks during arrival in the morning, and be all set when snack time came.

13. Will I have a newsletter to communicate with parents?

Again, some schools have a policy about this, so make sure to inform yourself!

If newsletters aren't mandatory for you, I'll argue that it's still a nice thing to do. Keep it simple if you are overwhelmed. Choose a template that has boxes and titles formatted for you, and add just a few important things. Once you get the hang of it, you can write something more detailed. 

Keep in mind that many parents are overwhelmed too and prefer newsletters that go strait to the point.

Check out these tips on how to make Newsletter Writing Easy Breezy!

14. What happens if a student needs to go see the nurse?

Do you need to send them with a form? Do they need a buddy to walk them? Ask your peers so you're informed from the beginning. 

15. How will I send papers home each week?

Typically, you'll have to send papers home at least once a week on Friday. Think about where you'll keep those papers and how your students will access them.

Mailboxes are a great way to send papers home. There are lots of options available!

16. What homework will I send?

If your school requires that you send the same homework as your team, then this question is taken care of. 
If you are in charge of finding your own homework, there are many excellent options out there, and I'm sure you'll find something that fits your needs. 
If you want a place to start, I'd love for you to check out the homework packets I made.
This link takes you to my TpT store where you can browse my categories (column on the left) and look for the type of homework and grade level that you need.

17. How will I prepare for days that I might be absent?

Getting student information and emergency plans ready for your sub should be a priority on your Back to School to do list.
It is the professional thing to do, and it might be what keeps you from going to school when you are sick!  
Here are some important pages to have in your binder. You can read more about how to create your own binder here!
Read about it here.

18. How will I dismiss my students?

Don't overlook this last part of your day. By dismissal time you'll be tired, and your students will be "done". This is the perfect combination for things getting out of control.

Allow yourself plenty of time to check that everyone has the correct bus tags, that they know where to go, that they have everything they need, and that they are paying attention to the dismissal process.

19. What happens if I need to leave the classroom (bathroom or other emergency)?

Ask other teachers what they usually do when they need to leave the classroom. It's nice to know in advance what the procedure is for leaving your students.

20. How do I call for help if there's an emergency with a student (classroom and playground)?

Another great question to ask so you are prepared. Some classrooms have a button on the wall and others have phones. Find out what your "emergency" plan is before that 1st day of school!

That's it!

I hope thinking about and finding your own answer to these questions helps you prepare for a smooth school year!

For more classroom management tips check out these posts:

For Back to School Resources click on these thumbnails:

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