Dyan Branstetter | July 2017
Have Your Best Year Yet: Summertime Tips for Getting Organized
The first few weeks of school are always a blur. In addition to getting to know students and introducing new material, it takes quite a bit of time to fall into a routine with classroom procedures. During this time – before your classroom is running like a well-oiled machine – it is helpful to have everything else prepped and ready to go.
A classroom in April can probably handle a run to the copier (oops!) mid-lesson, but a class in September definitely can’t. Here are a few tasks that you can do now (without fully leaving summer-mode) that will help tremendously during those first few weeks.
1. Copy, copy copy
Now is the perfect time to make copies of any documents that you are certain you’re going to need throughout the year. There won’t be a line for the copier, and you won’t have to worry about making anyone wait to use the machine. Please note that I’m not promoting teaching through worksheets. It is difficult to copy resources for lessons too far in advance because we need to prepare those in response to the needs of our students.
However, there are certain forms that we use frequently in the classroom. I make copies of the following documents over the summer:
- Morning work templates
- Graphic organizers
- Bathroom sign out sheets
- Get to know you activities
- Self-reflection rubrics for partner work
- Spelling lists for the year
- Required school district assessments
- Directions for projects
Of course, this list is very specific to me, but the general idea is to copy anything you can, and store it in an organized way so that you can find it! I have a spinning magazine rack in my classroom for forms that students need to access, and a hanging sweater organizer in my classroom coat closet for papers I need to access throughout the year. I keep an ongoing digital list of everything copyable so that I don’t have to recreate it from scratch each summer.
2. Set up all accounts and passwords, archive or delete classes from previous years
Another thing that is extremely helpful to do ahead of time is to set up and organize online accounts for classes/students. Take time to archive or delete classes from previous years, and set up the group for the new year. If students have multiple passwords for multiple online tools, create labels for them and stick the labels on index cards to keep on a binder ring. This will save you so much stress when you’re in the midst of lesson planning in the fall. Instead of having to take the time to set up accounts, you can just dive right in.
3. Purge your classroom and digital files
Just like your closet- if you haven’t worn it in a year, donate it. Well, the same applies to the classroom. Go through the files on your computer. If you haven’t accessed them in recent years, trash them! It will save you time as you are searching for files that you really need. If you’ve been saving physical items in your classroom for a long time, this can be overwhelming. Start small- even clearing out one cabinet can help you feel like you’re making space for new ideas!
4. Map out your year
This is huge, and vital for your success this year. Start by filling out your calendar: mark all important dates, specifically marking periods, when grades are due, holidays, early dismissals and in-service days. Then, loosely mark in your main units of study. Think big picture, and use marking periods and holidays as your guide, making sure you can fit all required topics/units in prior to the end of the year.
Once you’ve mapped out the calendar, then zoom in to think about cross-curricular topics that can integrate well. Is it possible to move content around on the calendar so that it can be taught at the same time as something it relates to? For example, I teach a unit on plant growth and development in the spring, and our core reading program has a selection on the life cycle of a tree which typically falls in January. I moved them around so they could happen simultaneously.
Supercharge getting organized!
At this point, take the time to reflect on your curriculum to think about where you will explicitly integrate the Arts. Where do you already have Arts integrated lessons or units? Are there any lessons/standards that students always struggle with? These are the standards that could benefit from Arts Integration the most.
Make a list of lessons that you teach that are based on these challenging standards, and take it to your specialists. See if they can point out connections to their discipline or if they have ideas for lessons or projects to help students further understand these standards. If you start with a general idea for an Arts Integrated lesson now, it will be easier to plan when things get busy.
Check out these resources to help (click each link):
- Curriculum mapping, done for you
- Arts Integration Curriculum Planning Kit
- Common Vocabulary: ELA and the Arts
- Common Vocabulary: Math and the Arts
Best of luck to you as you get ready to embark upon a brand new year. Take the time to leisurely check these items off of your “To Do” list now. When the beginning of the year rolls around, you will be ready and organized to have your best year yet!