Teacher Tips & Tools for Transitioning Back to School!

Hey, hey, HEY everyone!

I hope you all have been having a fantastic summer! Did anyone else’s summer seem to fly by this year? Mine certainly did. Next week teachers are returning to school to prepare for what hopes to be another great school year!I know I raved about my students from last year practically all the time and they set the bar so high for themselves AND me, but I have to give them one last (maybe) shout out for their top-notch performances on their EOGs. SO MANY 3s, 4s and 5s! Oh they made me proud! So, that said, I’m definitely looking forward to this year’s class meeting and exceeding that high bar of excellence!

So, as I was working with a few of my awesome science department members in July I was inundated with more ideas and tips to make planning and collaboration, easier. Our school district adopted a few Google products last year and after using them for year I’m so into them (mind you, all you need is your Google email to use them). Plus, if you’re a tech savvy person, they even have apps – but hey, this is Google we’re talking about.

1. Google Drive

Our district emails have very limited space and constantly sending/receiving documents or PowerPoints with my PLC quickly made me reach that threshold. My pattern became: save docs to computer, delete emails, try to find docs again when needed.  Enter in Google Drive.  In my opinion, this is the BEST way to share documents, store, organize, and collaborate on live documents with my PLC team members. I organized my material based on standard to make it easier for me to reference down the road. You can color code your folders, make folders within folders, create forms for surveys/polls or assignments, make a virtual “turn in” folder for your students who make up excuses like its their job, and more… the list is endless.

Google Drive Snapshot

For more information on Google Drive – click here.

2. Google Calendar 

LOVE this tool! Last year we used a template in Word with a plethora of text boxes to make our year curriculum pacing calendar. Not the easiest to use, but manageable to some degree. Not this year. Google Calendar makes it so easy to “add events” aka what standards (i.e. 8.P.1.1, 8.P.1.2, etc.) we will be covering and shorten or lengthen the amount of time necessary without any issues. You can color code different objectives, add in “events” for specific topics you’ll cover. It is legit.

Google Calendar

For more information on Google Calendar, click here.

3. Designing in PowerPoint 

This one is more for those who like to create their own resources. If you’ve been a habitual Word user, like myself, you know the mini frustrations when trying to place a picture, object, or text box at an exact location. You can always “place in front of text” or whatever, but that can become old, too. PowerPoint makes putting things exactly where you want them, how you want them way easier. There’s even a grid function for you to ensure things are properly aligned! You can play around with it and see which one you like better. Check out this banner I made for our back to school “Happy School Year”  party:

Happy School Year - Hornet Nation 4.Make Reference Guides

In the classroom, I try to develop my students as independent learners. I am always there to help and answer questions if needed, but I (like any other teacher, I’m sure) want my students to be able to think, reason, and solve by their own means. I post examples of what is expected for certain products or instructions for completing tasks so the students always have that information available to reference and are not stuck saying “I didn’t know”. I’ve taken a similar approach with my PLC (professional learning community) team members. We have protocols to complete for before and after assessments which can look overwhelming or daunting to complete. That said, making a reference guide for your teammates on how to do certain things – be they protocols, forms, lesson plans, etc. – can really help throughout the year.

My student’s flashcard reference guide:

Vocab Card Instructions New

My PLC reference guide:8th Science Reference Guide Snapshot

5. OrganizationCohesive & Consistent

I know, I know, I know – some are more organized than others. All that matters is finding an organizational system that works for YOU and your STUDENTS that you can consistently implement throughout the year. A few things in my room that I love are:

a. Daily Board/Objective Labels – for keeping all my information organized.

b. “Extras” bins for students who were absent for a given day or days of the week. These small things help maintain organization for both myself and my students. For the extras section, I have plain manila folders with the date on the tab. At the end of the day, any extra copies I have left over are put into the folder and into that day of the week. If a student was absent, s/he can go to whatever day they were absent and pull out the material from that day. At the end of the quarter, I take all the folders out and store them in my curriculum bin.

Consistent Organization

c.  “Turn It In” bins on the board with each class/block labeled.

d. Lesson Plans bin – for any of us that are observed, it’s nice having that one “go to” spot for lessons.

Consistent Organization 2

When developing your system, try to keep a cohesive theme throughout. It’s a small thing that can contribute to the “togetherness” of your teaching, your room, and your students:)

What tips or tools do you all have to ensure a smooth start to the school year? I’d love to hear them!

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