It’s Labor Day and the first day of school is right around the corner fo us! The back to school season is chaotic for everyone : teachers, parents, and homeschoolers alike. Thankfully, I have found a selection of the most helpful tips from experienced professionals to help us get through this season.
When experiencing overwhelm at the thought of back to school, there are three critical areas to be addressed that comes to mind : classroom setup, teaching strategies, and helping students adjust. These are the obstacles that my search was focused on. It has helped me to tackle these things early on and I hope that you find it beneficial as well.
* Click on the quotes and the links below to explore each topic in depth.
Setting up the classroom is one of the first things we do to prepare for the school year. Making sure everything has a place and that it is a space we feel comfortable in. Sometimes even trying new arrangements or themes. This is my favorite part of preparing for the school year. I enjoy it so much that at the end of the school year, I am already thinking about how to tweak things for following year. However, this year was a huge challenge.
This school year I am adding two additional grades to the madness. Tackling the art of organization was a must! My shelves and drawers had become a mess, papers were in disarray, and planning became dysfunctional to say the least. This was costing me time. While I was fumbling through papers, preparing for the next week, I could have been having quality time with my family. I wasn’t sure where to begin with organization. I felt that organization was not instinctive to me. What it actually came down to : I didn’t have enough storage!!
” We may not all have a Pinterest ready classroom, but the organization and management of a structured classroom are key components for teaching and learning, especially when the new school year begins. “Christine – For the Love of Teachers
It is a lot easier to plan and find resources when everything is organized. Sometimes we believe that we are not naturally organized, so this may sound like a difficult thing to accomplish. Although, it may not be that we’re naturally disorganized, but rather lack the tools that help execute organization. If you’re anything like me – sometimes its best to go back to the basics and remember that storage is key. If everything doesn’t have a home, it can be extremely difficult, sometimes impossible, to organize. Which then eats up precious time.
Here are a few examples of what storage might look like :
It feels good to make our space feel comfortable and inviting.As I am getting things ready for the school year, I like to browse inspiration to help spark ideas on organization, decor, and classroom arrangement.
A classroom set up influences the functionality of the learning environment. It sets the tone for the students and for ourselves.
Lori, from the The K Files, explains how rearranging her classroom after the holidays was a game-changer :
“…I have learned to follow my gut instinct and now my students are more focused, the social distractions are controlled, and I am able to manage center activities while meeting with FOUR guided reading groups daily.”Lori – The K Files
I absolutely love Lori’s classroom! It is inviting and full of color.
This year we are remodeling our homeschool classroom. Learning from others about how they prepare, organize, and decorate their classrooms has been extremely helpful for figuring out how to arrange and fill our space for a conducive teaching environment.
This topic could literally go on forever. But I want to focus on two main concerns that I hear and often wonder myself : “How do we meet all the standards?” and “How do we meet the specific needs of our children?” These two subheadings can be discussed in breadth as well, so let’s jump right in.
Meeting All the Standards
It goes without saying that the most effective way to teach multiple standards is to get creative about teaching multiple skills at once. But I like to see examples! I think that it’s more helpful to see what this can look like in action, rather than to just hear about it. Seeing examples trigger more creative ideas that are sometimes relevant to the visual and sometimes not.
I found a wide range of blog posts from experienced teachers multitasking with their lesson plans. Here are a few that shares how they fit it all in :
- Using math centers to teach life skills.
- Incorporating character ed activities alongside reading and writing.
- Reviewing science standards while teaching current standards for science.
- How a simple board game can cover multiple skills such as following rules, taking turns, communicating, and possibly subtraction and addition.
- Using penmanship practice as an opportunity to teach phonics, grammar, and punctuation.
Meeting Each Students’ Needs
We are diverse human beings! We each have a unique finger print. So it is with learning styles, specific needs, and strengths. Children are diverse! Teaching with those diversities in mind doesn’t have to be overcomplicated.
” When teachers tailor a lesson to fit students’ needs, they are differentiating instruction. It’s the act of modifying an activity to better suit diverse abilities. Teachers do it all the time, whether they realize it or not. “Christy – Exceptional Thinkers
If you are wanting to learn more about differentiation and are concerned about how to modify lessons and assessments, I highly recommend reading this article. Christy does an excellent job of explaining how we may already be meeting each students’ needs and what that can look like.
Helping Students Adjust
Transitioning from summer is difficult for all of us. Especially those summers that were thoroughly enjoyed. You know what I’m talking about. It takes time for us to adjust and while we are adjusting so are the kids. And each child has their own unique way of getting used to the new routine.
Providing structure in the classroom is definitely key and the earlier students begin to practice independence the better. First, let’s talk about how to address the insecurities and uncertainties that they might be feeling.
Building Self- Confidence
Learning new things is intimidating no matter how many times we choose to grow and self reflect. It’s not any different with our kids. At the beginning of each school year, we are all learning to adjust and be confident in our ability to learn and adapt. It is important that we are there to support them during this time of transitioning.
But before we discuss what are the best ways to build self-confidence in students let us reflect on the power of positive and negative feedback. We want students to feel comfortable. We also know that constructive criticism is necessary. The key here is balance.
Nicole, from Speech Peeps, explains that there is a perfect ratio between positive and negative feedback. Nicole recommends 6 positive feedback to every one negative. She shares the studies that she has come across to support this ratio and gives specific examples on how to accomplish that balance.
What are some other ways to build self-confidence? I love this suggestion for the start of the year :
” Providing activities where there are no right or wrong answers frees students to be bold and audacious with their thinking. “Hinemoa – Top Teaching Tasks
Procedures and Expectations
As a homeschooler, classroom management tends to get overlooked. I think we just assume that kids are already watching us intently and learning how to properly use school supplies and know what kind of behavior we are looking for.
What I’ve learned from some wonderful teachers is that what you put into your classroom management at the beginning of the year is what sets the bar the rest of the year. This is not something that we want to breeze right through!
Here is a detailed article about how to model procedures and expectations and why it is so effective. Christy from For the Love of Teachers does an excellent job in providing resources of how to model procedures and expectations and ideas for what to model.
The following quote explains perfectly how procedures and expectations go hand-in-hand with our next topic :
” Once students know where all the supplies are they can access them themselves without relying on your assistance. “Sarah – Curiosity and the Hungry Mind
Transitioning to Independence
Early on, we want our children to feel confident and empowered enough to do tasks independently. However, we also don’t want our students to feel brushed aside. How do we provide that stability while trading some responsibility.
In this post on differentiating handwriting, I explain how giving children options and choices supports independence. Choice can simply be incorporated into Morning Tubs (a great independent activity).
This blog post, “Have Your Classroom Manage Itself,” was also extremely helpful! You will notice that a lot of topics we’ve covered simultaneously encourage independence. Win! Win!
Sometimes we overcomplicate how to address our concerns. Trust your instincts, get some help from those with experience, and don’t let the overwhelm get the better of you. You got this!
Are you feeling confident this school year?
This time of the year definitely keeps us all on our toes. Was this post helpful to you? Do you have any additional advice?