Back to School Tips for Teachers

Back to school is such a crazy, hectic time! It's like trying to ride a bike, but the bike is on fire, you're on fire, and everything is on fire (have you seen that going around the internet)? I have a few tips to help you get back to school while keeping your sanity, and some tips that will help you get off of the right foot with classroom management.

TIP 1: Transition from your summer to your school year bedtime and wake up time about a week before school starts 
This is a great thing to do if you have your own children too! It's not good for our system to suddenly start waking up two or three hours early on the first day of school (or to suddenly stop napping - just cut out naps before that). 

TIP 2: Use the first few weeks to develop classroom routines and expectations
Be firm about these expectations. My mom taught third and fourth grade before I was born and she told me she made a big mistake by being too "nice" and not being firm. By December the first year, her students were badly behaved and she had to crack down. One kiddo said, "Mrs. Mawn, why are you so mean now?" But besides being firm, students really need time and practice to absorb everything. For example, with classroom jobs, I introduce one or two a day and then the next day, one or two more, and have students start taking over the jobs I introduced the day before. The same for reading centers. First day, we try one rotation only. Then the next day we might do only one again, or try two... ease them in! Reinforce the success and give that feedback. 

TIP 3: Reach out to Parents
Yes, I know you're groaning internally here. It's so busy during the first week or two, but sending a short (2-3 sentences) e-mail or call (or send handwritten note) to all parents within first two weeks with something positive! It reassures many parents and sets things off on a positive note. This is especially helpful if you have to contact them later about something less positive. Plus, you might get a positive e-mail back! 

TIP 4: Plan Ahead BUT be Flexible
Plan ahead  - I always have the first five days of plans set and copies made, math books labeled, etc., but be ready to change things up as needed, Your students may need more time than you thought they would to complete activities, or move through things faster. They may also need more scaffolding and support, or you may find students need enrichment. 

TIP 5 : Start Talking "Growth Mindset" Early On!
I am a huge believer and proponent of growth mindset, I have many activities I have purchased but I do starting talking the talk right away. For example, you know all those beginning of the year assessments you have to administer? This is a great time to say things like "This is to help you show me what you can do  now, so I can help you learn a lot this year"  or "Do what you can now. You might not be able to do all of it YET, but you will soon!"
I have more tips specifically for organizing your personal life before you go back to school! Check  out that blog post here.  
Also, you can see what back to school books I recommend for teachers at this post!

Finally if you are looking for an easy peasy way to start the year with your students in grade 1, grade 2, or grade 3, the Back to School Starter Kits are your key! They are chock full of fun activities to fill the first week of school. Each kit has:
  • math assessments/printables
  •  handwriting check ins
  •  writing prompts
  • classroom scavenger hunts
  • get to know you activities
  • morning work
  • and more!
You will barely have to plan with these!
Check out my video walk through of the second grade kit here!

Here are some in action photos of the Second Grade Starter Kit. Clicking on any will bring  you to the resource on TpT!


Check out these images from the Third Grade Starter Kit!

 This is a good photo of just some of the activities from the First Grade Starter Kit!

Do you have any back to school tips? Be sure to let me know by commenting below!

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    12 New Flexible Seating Ideas

    Ready to revamp your flexible seating for this school year? I have looked back at what I have shared with you in the past, my classroom experience with flexible seating for my second graders, and done some research on some new flexible seating options that you may not have considered! Here are twelve new ideas for you! Also, if you want my free Flexible Seating Ebook, click here to grab it!

    Tall tables have been super helpful for my class! They are great and a wide variety of students enjoy them. If you don't have one, you can elevate a regular table with bed risers. I bought some at Wal-Mart in case I needed them, but you can also grab some at Amazon for less than $15.

    Several teachers at my school got desks like these for their students, including a rocker bar to keep those feet busy. I am a big fan of this model by Stand Up Dad. Click here or on the image to check out what he is doing! 

    I have seen tire seats in a few places, but my favorite are those from Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey. She even has a great tutorial for you on her blog so you can DIY!  Get inspired!

    Camp chairs are my favorite, personally. You can get them on discount at many places now so go for it. They also make a great conference seating area!

    Lap Desks are an easy and inexpensive addition to any classroom. I have found them for less than $5 and you might even be able to get parents to donate some. They don't have a long shelf life though. I have seen them at toy stores, Hobby Lobby, Target, and craft stores like Michael's and AC Moore.
    These are on my personal wish list! I already have scoop rockers but these seem like they would work for taller and older students, and even adults. These can be found at Lakeshore

    Oh I am in love with the Nugget. It's not just a couch - it's totally flexible and you can arrange it in tons of ways! I would LOVE to add one to my classroom. Also could be great for a playroom!

    Kick balance boards from Wittfitt would be a terrific addition if you have a tall table or stand up desk. They allow kids to work their core and get the wiggles out, while standing. Also, I reached out and they were kind enough to offer my blog readers free shipping until the end of September! Just mention this offer to Wittfitt!

    I love stability balls, but I had to take mine away this year because my class didn't want to sit on their bottoms. Ball chairs with feet and wheels such as the example below might be the trick. This one is from Amazon but I'm  sure you could find it at online educational suppliers.


    These Core ErgoErgo stools for active sitting look fascinating. They are a little pricey (check them out here at Amazon) but could be amazing!

    Can do donut inflatable balls are at the top of my wish list and seem to be about $20 at Amazon right now, so they are doable. This model is 33" wide. I think this could provide the core resistance and wiggle "support" without kids rolling all over their place on the more tradition stability ball chairs.

    Haven't tried these yet, but I know some teachers have! Have you? My only concern would  be scissors and pencils nearby! These are about $27 from Amazon.

    These active seat cushions would provide support for both younger and older students. I haven't used them yet, but some colleagues have and been pleased. Have you tried them out? These are from Moving Minds and called Ever Ready Active Seat Cushions.

    That's your update! What was new to you or what option did I miss that I should add for my next flexible seating options?? Be sure to comment and let me know!

    Grab your free ebook here!

    10 Websites Teachers May Not Know About

    New and useful free websites and apps pop up quicker than Jiffy Pop popcorn (if you're a child of the 70s or 80s then you get me)! It can be hard to keep up! A friend recently gave me a list of 100 websites for teachers and students and I decided to start looking at all of the websites listed. Many have associated apps for Apple devices and other tablets. Of course, it was when school was in session and I did not get through all the websites, but I did check out about 60-70 of them. Out of those, I chose what I thought the best options were for elementary school teachers and students, and here are the top ten!

    Smarty Games has:

    • memory games
    • addition games
    • puzzles 
    • and more (like Math Ski Jumps). 
    • It's free, but there are ads on both sides (usually for specific sections of Smarty Games.
    •  Based on what I tried, it works best on an internet browser, not a smart  phone.  

     Here's a telling time game I found - not fancy graphics but fun and could be engaging for students.

    Turtle Diary - there is an  app available; however,  I just looked at the free website. There are ads on both sides, which I didn't love.
    What I did like:

    • games like racing and ninjas for quite a few subject areas.
    • Educational videos such as compound words, what is math?  and hammer subtraction
    • Number detective activity, shape riddles
    • There was a fun adjective activity where you practice adjectives in this  describe the picture game. With each correct answer, you get the mouse through the doors and higher up in the castle (pictured below)
    Geometry Sorting Activity


    Fun Fonix 

    • A big focus seems to be that it has LOTS of printables
    • To find online games, you have to scroll down to a link
    • I noticed in one video A sounded like K 
    • games included concentration, short vowels,  CVC words, beginning sounds
    • Kids can collect stars

    CVC Game on


    Have you heard of Youtube teachers? If not, take a look. If your school has regular Youtube blocked, you might be able to get this one okayed

    • teachers: can also access your regular you tube information from Youtube teachers
    • Suggested to me were videos and playlists such as figurative language , similes, metaphors, and what is hyperbole? 
    • 500 K videos with channels such as Stanford, TED,  PBS, Steve Spangler Science


    Manythings ESL is a very plain, not cute website but possibly useful, especial to English Language Learners or teachers looking for read alouds

    • website, no app
    • Not fancy at all or cute (I didn't even take a screenshot)
    • but useful
    • You can get bilingual sentence pairs and listen to both
    • Daily study options
    • Learn - listen and read, for example Langston Hughes, People in America

    Aplus Math is now owned by Varsity Tutors LLC - you get redirected to them

    • Free online activities like flash cards. 
    • With them, students much press return to check their answers
    • Online math games like Matho - screen shot below. I had to shrink my screen to see all of the board though. 
    • Ever present phone number you can call for tutoring but clean screen and little ad clutter


    Math Pickle is a unique and fun website with a lot of puzzles

    • Puzzles 
    • Games 
    • Mini competitions
    • Games like sheets and sidewalk prinatble game cards
    • An example of games included is Hex - made famous by John Nash ( but created by Piet Hein) with printable boards - some videos
    • Possibly good for math enrichment 
    Puzzle at Math Pickle

    Life of Birds exists thanks to PBS and Sir David Attenborough
    Students can learn about:

    • Bird brains
    • evolution
    • champion birds
    • parents' songs

    Have Fun with History 
    • Great for teaching history 
    • Educational videos like one of a Puritan family of early New England
    • People timeline videos such as  Presidents, Frederick Douglass,  and Susan B. Anthony
    • events timelines
    • videos on historical events  such as the  Gold Rush, Civil War
    • History in a minute such the Mayflower, Minutemen, and the Cotton Gin
    • Jamestown online adventure game where you are the captain

    • Award winning activity
    • Students act as history detectives and investigate what really happened at the first Thanksgiving (screenshots below) 
    • Also there is an online virtual field trip hosted by Scholastic 


    Now I will be totally honest and tell you some of these are much better quality then others, and all could be useful, but because they are free, their usefulness and quality is limited. Some of the websites I use every day like Spelling City and Dreambox require a paid subscription. However, if you are like most teachers, we don't always get what we request for our students, so free websites and apps are a great option. Which one here is your favorite? Or did I miss one you use? Comment and let me know!

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