Sunday, July 27, 2014

Two Stars and A Wish- Back to School Style

Can you believe back to school time is already here? The sales have already started (and I know we are all excited about the school supply sales...) and I am just shocked. Especially up north. The kids just go out of school at the end of June and they have another month of summer, yet they are all shopping for supplies already! To get everyone geared up with some ideas for the new school year, I am joining in with Mandy from Mandy's Tips for Teachers for Two Stars and a Wish! Two things that REALLY helped me this year and one thing I wanted to improve on. The two stars might not seem that huge in the grand scheme of things, but they really helped me.
First, OVERthink things. Really. Sit down and visualize that first day in your head. Students and parents will be constantly coming into your class all morning. You want to have any and every single thing prepared and be proactive so that your new students are calm and busy while you are welcoming each parent and child into your room. If you look on my student desks you can see that each group has a basket of supplies- pencils, colored pencils, glue, scissors, erasers, pencil sharpeners, anything I know they will need that first day is there. On their desks is a packet of back to school activities. I change it up each year. Some years it is a generic school word search, sometimes I do a word search with the students' names. I also include a coloring page (usually with addition on it), some kind of all about me activity, etc. Just things that they can do independently because you don't want to have chaos on top of the welcome into my classroom chaos. Students can work quietly while you greet new families into your room and get everyone situated. In our school we had to make sure we had certain information from the parents/students so I didn't want to be distracted by a student that needs some glue and then forget to get the information I needed.
My second idea goes along with the first, and you can see it is even the same picture... but if you enlarge the picture and look at where the arrow is pointing, you will see this tip, which involves 3 steps... Step 1: before the first day, when we get our student rosters, I hang up every child's name around the room somewhere. When students come in, I have them find their name and put their backpack and ALL of their supplies by their name. This way people aren't trying to figure out which hook to use, shoving boxes of tissues in the cubbies, and losing supplies before the first week has fully started. Since I have everything the students could need at their desks, they can just drop their stuff by their name until we get it organized. Step 2: I also photocopy a supply list for each student on my list. I write their name at the top so that I can track their supplies. Step 3: Know where all those supplies are going to go before students show up. For example, ALL lined paper goes in the pink tote under my writing table. Pencils go in the plastic drawers. Glue sticks go in a plastic shoe box container. I know this in advance and labeled the spots for everything. Also know what students will need to keep at their desks (notebooks, folders, etc). 

Throughout that first day (while students are working, at lunch, during a designated "collect supplies time"- yes I set time to do that and students color and read) I go through each student's supplies. I cross off everything they brought. (If we required 48 pencils and they brought 36, I cross off the 48 and write 12.)  As supplies come in the next few days, I can pull out the child's list and cross of what they brought me. Anything that is getting put into the class supply (pencils, glue, paper, dry erase markers, index cards, etc.) just gets put away. I take the glue and markers out of the packaging to save space. Anything that is going to the students' desks they take when I am going through their things. Any extras (extra crayons, markers, folders, notebooks, etc) that are NOT class supply get labeled with the student's name and stored for later in the year. If you don't finish this during the day, STAY AFTER. Get it done that first day. Once the supplies are taken care of, it is a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders. I can't handle having stuff everywhere. So I make it a point to get it done.
And the one thing I had high hopes for... my math journals. I loved these. Really. I just didn't time it all out right. My GOAL was for my students to do one word problem each day in their little journals (I bought composition notebooks when they were on sale and then took them to Office Depot to get cut in half.) They would work on the problem independently for a designated amount of time. Then I would allow them to discuss with their groups. Then we would go over the solution(s) together. My problem was the timing. I just could never figure out the best time to do this. I finally figured it out (fine time to figure it out huh)... after lunch/recess is always a little more chaotic than I would like. Kids are hyped up. I like to have something that will get them right back in the classroom mindset and working. This would be perfect. We went to recess right after lunch so, this is how it would have worked last year had I done it this way. 1. As we are prepping to go to lunch, pass out the problems (which I already had cut apart because there are multiples on the page) and glue. Have students glue in the problem on the page. As they are lining up, put the glue away. Notebooks and pencils are left on their desks. 2. After lunch/recess when we come back in the classroom, students can sit right down to work on their word problems. It gets them right into the classroom mindset and gives the teacher time to get ready to move onto the next activity. 

If you would like to see the word problems I used for my math journals, you can click the image below. I am currently working on another set that should be up in the next week or so. Make sure to follow my facebook page to be alerted when I list it since I always give a copy away and list items for 50% off the first 2 days!

For more star ideas, be sure to check out the link up below. I hope these simple ideas can help you get off to a great back to school season!!


  1. Love your math journal idea. Just curious, Is it very expensive for Office Depot to cut these in half? ilive2learnilove2grow 

  2. Even though it's frustrating that I have to buy most supplies on my own, I don't miss having to sort through supplies brought by students. We don't even send home a list of things to bring. I love the schedule of when to do math journals. I have to wait to see when intervention groups will be pulled and the rest of our schedule, but I may be using this. Thanks for the tip.
    The Traveling Teacher

  3. Love your tips for the first day of school with your students! Great ideas!

  4. I really love your math journal! I too started one last year and it was a bit crazy until we all got into our routine. I really like the idea of having the problem prepped at a time before it actually needs to be used. I am going to do that next year now, since our math intervention time and journal time will be after lunch now! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to hearing about your math journal journey on the blog once school starts!
    Mrs. Bentin's Blackboard

  5. I love the idea of cutting composition books in half!

    Sally from Elementary Matters


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