Making the Most of Summer to Prepare for the New School Year
Teachers share their best ideas about what you can do during summer break to make the next school year the best one yet!
By the Teachers.Net Community
Reprinted from the July 2002 Gazette
June 1, 2008
Another informal survey:
Teachers.Net asked teachers what they do during the summer to prepare for the new school year. Here are some of their responses.
Decide how I want my room to be arranged, and make any changes to the way I organize materials (files, manipulatives, transparencies, class pet supplies, my classroom library, etc.).
Start lesson planning. I try to meet with my team members for this at least once. Not everyone is agreeable to meet, but we always have at least 3-4 of us (out of 10 total).
Make things like charts, games, posters, etc., that I never seem to have time to do during the year, and have them laminated.
Read kids' books. There are always plenty of titles that everyone else seems to be familiar with, and which I have never read. For instance, last summer I read for the first time The Landry News, Stone Fox, Jennifer Murdley's Toad, The Dollhouse Murders, My Side of the Mountain, and others. This summer I'd like to read The Janitor's Boy, the rest of the Series of Unfortunate Events series (I have read the first one), Frightful's Mountain, Skinnybones, Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little.
Tip for reading kids' books--go to the library and check out the audio books. Listen to them in the car or while walking/running etc. You can get through a LOT of books that way, fairly quickly.
Go to yard sales and see what you can find for your classroom, especially used books for your classroom library.
Around about the middle of July I will go in and start fixing my classroom. I'll arrange and put up bulletin boards. I also stick to bulletin boards that are year-round. I have two for showing student work (just a title and then laminated pieces of construction paper where I will tape the student work), and one for school newsletters. Of course I also have a calendar for math.
It will make decorating your classroom easier if you have a theme. I have used two themes the last two years that allowed me to keep a lot of the same stuff. For instance, I used movies as my theme one year, and my start of year bulletin board for the hall was something like "It Came From the Fourth Grade" starring [kids' names]." I used a lot of stars for that theme--like in the curtain over my door and the skirts around my desk and tables. Then I used an out of this world theme the next year and was able to keep the stars.
By the way skirts around tables and your own desk will really give your room a warmer, homier feel, and is super easy. I didn't do any sewing or anything. I just got the fabric, cut it to size, and hot-glued it onto my desk and tables. I didn't hem or anything.
Other things for first year teachers to consider over the summer:
Know how you will handle:
Individual bathroom visits
newsletter or other parent communication
student files--what you'll save, how and where you'll file it
what students do when they finish early
how your classroom library books will be loaned
trips to the media center--how often will you go as a class,
and when can students go on their own?
how and where assignments will be turned in
water bottles and snacks--will you allow them, and guidelines
where and how bookbags & coats will be stored
& accessed during the day
how and when you'll send home graded work
how you'll organize your own paperwork
what's urgent to be handled right away,
something to keep for reference,
something to handle "soon",
papers to be graded,
papers already graded, etc.
There is, of course, much more...this is not to freak you out...it's just that you need to start planning all of this out. Have you read Harry Wong's The First Days of School? READ IT! IT CAN BE YOUR BIBLE! Anna, Upper Elementary Mailring
Last summer I did a lot of prep work and it made my year SO much easier. I lined 9 large shopping bags (with handles) - one for each teaching month - along my dining room wall. When I found an activity I liked from a book or other source, I made note of it and stuck it in the appropriate month's bag. Then I went though all the bags and put together as many of the activities that I could. I used lots and lots of gallon size zip-lock storage bags (great to store activities). It was so nice at the beginning of each month to pull out my stuffed bag, many activities ready to go! I also start a new Zip Disk for each school year and create folders for every month. Each month has a newsletter template, Scholastic letter template, theme ideas, notes to parents, notes to myself about special events, etc. Anything that can be done during the summer, I do it. I know some people think I'm crazy for doing this on my "own" time, but I only devoted small portions of time weekly (it wasn't like I was doing it all day), and it made my school year SO much easier. I am a mother of 3 school-aged children, so I want to bring as little work home as I can during the school year. After seeing the difference this last year, I will definitely do my prep work during the summer again for this fall. The other teachers in my program even noticed how "organized" I've been this year. Rachel/PK, Early Childhood Mailring
I would suggest you get a hold of the teaching materials if at all possible and look through them or at least find out what you will be teaching in the fall. That way when you are out you can be on the look out for things that will help you with a specific unit or theme you will be covering. I found out my assignment for this year before school was over last year and contacted the school to see what units or themes I would be covering. I was able to pick up a few things here and there at the teacher store or garage sales that went along with my units. If you can't contact the school you can always call the district and check out their materials. They should have a copy of at least a student edition or even a teacher's edition that you can look.
Another suggestion is to start going to garage sales and pick up cheap games and books. You will need rainy day games and books for your library, and garage sales are a great cheap place to get them. I usually tell the person in charge that I am a teacher. Sometimes they will cut you a break and give you a great deal! Also when garage sale-ing look for games that are missing pieces. You can make your own question cards or spinners to go along with the board and you can usually pick them up extra cheap because they are missing stuff!
Setting up a classroom is a hard task. Really take a close look at your floor plan and what you have in it. I measured out my room and all of the furniture I knew I was going to have. Then I used graph paper to do several layouts. I finally settled on one and moved my stuff. Audrey
Harry Wong!!!!! First Day of School It has everything!!!!! - and can be a checklist for even the veteran teachers! Marcia
I read and get a lot of ideas, and I keep notebooks around to jot down the best ideas and to see if they will work out on paper before I commit to beginning the year with them. Karen Peters
I continue to read professionally. Many teachers don't see the benefit of that because it's not task oriented but it keeps the big picture in your head.
I have an ongoing list of things that I want to do next year .I add to it when I think of something.
Two or three weeks before school I go in and set up my room. That takes the pressure off me when school starts and I can spend time schmoozing without guilt.
I maintain a balance between my personal life and professional life. As someone once said. "Your work should support your life, your life shouldn't support your work." The result is that I'm a better teacher.
This summer, to get ready for the next year I will paddle every chance I get, go on at least two canoe camping trips, read the pile of books by the hammock, plan and freeze some quick, healthy meals to have on hand for the school year, go hang gliding for the first time as part of my try-one-new-thing habit. I will also teach summer school for the month of June so I can have money to buy a new boat.
Teaching is important....duh. And it's easy to get swept up into being important and feeling that you are the only one between that child and hell...so to speak…that you lose yourself in the process. And it is yourself that is the most important resource that you bring to the equation. Take care of it, and one more thing...it doesn't count if you do with a sense of guilt or martyrdom. You matter more than a dozen bulletin boards and a hundred dittos put together. Debra
Get a tan on your legs and feet so you can go without pantyhose when you wear dresses and capris. It will be much more comfortable because most classrooms are hot when we go back in late Aug. or early September. Next, a new teacher should make sure he has lots of storage space to store materials, books, etc. I used to buy stuff at yard sales. I bought a four drawer file cabinet to keep stuff in at home. I keep it in my basement. I have organized all materials into units. For example: authors, friendship theme, Martin Luther King, jr., holiday stuff. Cheryl/Va
Get your list ready of what is expected in your room and let that be known day one! Have a letter to your parents ready too so they will know your expectations.
Think about how you can set your room up where transition for one center or table flows easily.
Make labels using pictures and words as to where everything goes such as backpacks, crayons, pencils, glue, etc.
Make name tags ahead of time if possible. (I have to make them for their cubbies, backpacks, lunch chart, behavior chart, as a model for them to use to write, for them to wear daily.)
Have your first week or two planned and ready (activities and lesson plans).
To help organize your units/themes, I would buy those storage boxes that you can label the outside and start collected activities that you see that go with the themes you plan to teach.
First of all, I head straight for the beach to regroup and relax for about a week! The rest of the time off, I go through all of my monthly files to organize and review some of the activities I had done with my students. I usually pick up a class or two, but this summer I plan to do all of my work at home on my own time. I do read a lot every summer in an effort to get new ideas and methods of teaching, and I really take a lot of time searching for online resources. When I find ideas I think could be helpful, I make copies and place in folders so I won't forget about them. Since I already know the objectives to be taught early in the year, I look over old lesson plans and combine the best lessons and activities with new ideas that I run across. I make lesson plans for the first 2 weeks of school and get as much ready as possible so that I don't have to in those few days before school opens. We don't get our class lists until about 4 days prior to the opening of school, so personalizing and setting up the classroom is the last thing I do, although I do make a couple of plans for room arrangement. That way, once I can get into my room, I can knock it out.
For teachers just starting out, I would suggest using some time over the summer to become very familiar with the standards and teaching and learning objectives, then find ideas for implementing these objectives through personal research in as many resources as you can find. Start developing an organizational system that will work for you. I finally got wise and bought lots of accordion folders, and I sorted ideas, lessons, and tests in monthly folders and arranged in the individual pockets by subject. This has been a lifesaver for me, and I know I won't waste time looking all over for these anymore! Finally, be selective about what you accumulate, and if you have packrat tendencies as I do, just keep one or two copies of activities and toss the rest out, or share with colleagues. (I created a "Busy Box" that students can use when they have free time and feel like doing paperwork for some reason! There are always some of those kids in every class!)
I hope these ideas help somebody out there! Sandy
I always go through the teacher's editions and look through the curriculum to plan for anything that I'd like to do different or add/subtract from what I already do. Even though I know the curriculum like the back of my hand, it helps refresh me on any new ideas that I may have. If you are a new teacher and don't have a copy of textbooks available, try contacting your state dept. of ed. for a copy of state standards for the grade level you will be teaching, and start looking through them to see what content you will be teaching, and maybe begin preparing yourself on the kinds of activities that you would like to do for different subjects.
Each year I arrange my classroom a little differently, so over summer I sketch out what my new classroom layout will be for the start of the year, how I plan to collect student work/and a method for returning it to them, where my reading corner will be, what types of bulletin boards I will put up (I do only permanent boards that will stay up the entire year like a math bulletin board that changes with each new unit of study, and a socail studies board that changes with each unit).
Although most things remain the same from year to year, I'm the type of teacher that needs change to feel refreshed and to begin anew each year.
Do things to prepare for classroom management, curriculum, mobility in the room (where things should be placed like homework turn in/and return etc.), and your own organization.
Hope this helped. Good luck. Anna
As a grade one teacher these are some of the things I do:
pick one of my topic areas in social studies or science to work on developing new experiments, worksheets, projects, etc.,
look at my assessments and see what I can do to improve on them.
order films from our resource department.
decide on a few of the themes I'm going to do and look for pictures, books, other items to supplement it.
now that I've been in the same classroom, I usually bring along a map of the classroom and design different types of arrangements so that I can be prepared for when I return to school and begin doing the set-up.
I usually know at least some of my students so I start to prepare some of my first week materials - i.e. I have a fonts program that allows me to type with interlines and dotted letters so I do a practice printing page with their names for the first day of school.
The summer is also a nice time to take a look at some of those Fall holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween and start preparing resources or ideas - there are still quite a few sites active with those holidays over the summer.