Classroom Hacks to Kick Off a Great School Year!

Plan your first day and prioritize what’s most important. For me, getting to know my students’ names is the most important thing. As a person who finds “name games” exhausting, I go a different route. As my students fill out The Daring English Teacher’s ‘About Me’ survey, I take a picture of each student holding up a whiteboard with their name on it. They take it far less seriously than school pictures, so these make great candids to look back on at the end of the year!

This also gives me a minute to connect one-on-one with each student as I take the picture, which is the first step in building a relationship. I study the photos at home and master the names in no time. (Pro tip: keep the student surveys organized by class in a binder so that you can refer to them when needed.)
-Danielle from Nouvelle ELA

When I start a new school year, I know that I need to get organized - it’s not something that comes easily to me. One hack that I came up with a few years ago was the creation of these group work kits. I bought some plastic containers at the dollar store, labeled them as you see in the picture, and filled them with the things my students might need when they work in collaborative groups (which they do a lot). Each one contains sticky notes, highlighters, markers, a glue stick and paper clips. Now, instead of me wasting time passing these things out one at a time, my kids know that they need to send someone to my back cupboard to grab a kit. I can start circulating or conferencing right away, since the kids can form their groups and get ready to work without my assistance. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done!
-Room 213

I avoid spending the first couple of days of classes reviewing the syllabus and rules (I save this until about day 3). Students often spend the first full day of classes hearing the same things over and over in their classes which doesn’t make for the most positive transition back to school and they often tune teachers out by the end of the day. Instead, you might consider incorporating a small group challenge, setting up chart paper stations where students can reflect on general questions to pique interest about your course, or facilitate an activity to develop classroom community. Although setting the tone for classroom management is definitely important and you’ll want to make sure students know your expectations for each of these activities, I tend to disagree with the “Don’t smile until Christmas” advice and instead try to build a positive classroom culture from the start.
-Presto Plans

One of the first things I do when I set up my classroom for the new school year is set up my whiteboard. I like to have a dedicated place in my room where I write the weekly agenda for all of my classes. During the first few days of school, I make it a priority to show the board to students and to explain that if they miss a day they can easily see what they missed by looking at the board. On the agenda board, I include the main lesson for the day, any homework students might have, and important due dates. Another great benefit of setting up a classroom whiteboard is that is keeps me on track.
-The Daring English Teacher

My mum always said: “Start as you mean to go on!” So, whatever my personal goals are for the school year, I try to be extra intentional about them in the first few weeks. If you want to be better at work/life balance, make sure - even in those busy initial weeks - that you set strong boundaries. If your goal is to be more relationship focused with students, spend a solid amount of time talking with them and greeting them by name when you see them around the school. If you plan to be more organized, fill in that desk calendar or planner on day one, and review it before you leave each day. Whatever my personal or professional goals for the year (or at least for the first term/semester), I try to make sure that I am really intentional about them, and that I then actively work at achieving them during those first few days and weeks, to solidify them as habits.
- Stacey Lloyd

Students will start to form an impression of you and your class on day 1. I want my students to feel comfortable when they walk in the room, but also showcase what I value. One hack I use when setting up my room is to make sure I give students a sense of inclusion with which books I exhibit right away. No matter how big or small your classroom library is, select a few diverse titles to display with the full cover. Students will be more curious about the books and more likely to want to check them out, plus, they may see themselves in the cover art and feel more welcome in your room. Even if you don’t have a library, just showing a few diverse titles you’ve loaned from the school library propped on the whiteboard with a message such as “Books I Recommend” has the same effect.
-Tracee Orman
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