We’re soooo close! The end of the school year is mere weeks away, and no matter how much you love your students or what you teach, you are ready for sweet, sweet summertime! Of course, contrary to the belief of some outside of Education, teachers do not spend their entire summer endlessly binging new shows, or snacking poolside. There is still work to be done, and much of that work involves getting ready for the next school year.
I know, right now you’re trying to wrap all kinds of loose ends. You’re finishing up a hefty to-do list of teacher checkout items, wrapping up assessments, planning End of Year activities, and facilitating field trips. You probably feel like you do not even want to think about next year!
Humor me, though, and take a minute to think about what life is like when you walk in those doors on your first day back from summer break. Your to-do list is suddenly a mile long. You have a classroom to set up, lessons to plan, and many, many meetings to attend. The powers that be might even throw you a few curveballs—a change in your schedule that you weren’t anticipating, new colleagues, a new curriculum to learn, maybe even a new classroom. Ok, now take a few deep yoga breaths if I’ve accidentally got you all worked up!
Good news! You can reduce some of that back-to-school craziness by getting ahead of it right now, at the end of the school year! And it doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. You can complete some simple tasks now to make the new year much more manageable.
Today’s blog post will show you five simple ways to prep for next year NOW!
1) Organize and clean with a purpose
In my early years of teaching, I was so overwhelmed that by the time the end of the year rolled around, I just wanted to shove everything into cabinets pell-mell, lock the door, and bolt! Over the years, I learned to get more purposeful about how I packed up. I also learned that my students could be ready and willing helpers in this process!
An easy place to start is with your classroom supplies. Have students test out heavily-used highlighters, expo markers, and regular markers, tossing the ones that no longer work into the trash can. Let students sharpen pencils and organize wayward supplies that have ended up in the wrong bins. Tell students to count how many packages of Post-Its and index cards you have left. When they’re done with these tasks, compile a shopping list. You can use this list in the summer when those school supply bins show up in stores far too early….at least you’ll have plan!
Another organizational task at the end of the year can be an inventory of student materials such as manipulatives or task cards. I often found that some of my task card sets, despite lamination, got a little bent up over the school year. Some cards were even missing! Check your sets and see if you need to reprint any new ones for next year. Be sure to peruse the many Text Detective task cards in the Think Tank Teacher store to add to your stash.
2) Unit Audit: What felt flimsy?
This is another good time to reflect on some of the units you taught this year, while they’re still fresh on your mind. Think about some of your main units. What units worked well? Which ones fell a little flat, or seemed a little thin? What resources do you need to make your units more effective? Maybe you want students to be more engaged, and learning with a more active, hands-on approach. Check out some of these escape rooms or scavenger hunts for an excellent way to bring critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and movement into your classroom! We have so many topics covered, just waiting for you to use to enliven and enhance your existing units!
3) Prep the materials you need for the first week of school
Just think about how much time you would free up on your back-to-school schedule if you already had the materials you need for the first week ready to go!
Print your teacher info sheet that you give to parents and/or students at the start of the year, print your icebreaker activities, print any other materials you know you’re going to need those first few days, and make those copies now while there isn’t a line for the copy machine!
I love to have these Back to School Doodle Stations ready to go as an “about me/icebreaker” activity on the first day of school. This fun, colorful, collaborative activity helps students get to know each other, and makes for a great Open House display!
In this activity, students visit six different stations. At each station, students answer a question. The answer to their question will involve colorful codes. For example, if they have a dog, they may color in red. If they have a bird, they may color in the doodle with green. If they have a cat, they may color in purple stripes. Each answer has its own color code.
Next, students present their doodles to a classmate and a worksheet is provided for students to analyze or decode the colors to learn about their new friend! And last but not least, I love hanging up their beautiful doodles for families to see on Open House or Back to School Night!
This is such a fun activity, and when it’s prepped and printed ahead of time, it will make those first days of school a breeze!
4) Ready your classroom displays for next year
Bulletin boards. You either love them, or you hate them. Regardless of your feelings for them, bulletin boards take some time to set up. Get ahead now and plan what you want to display on those first days of school. If your school allows you to do so, go ahead and put them up now. You could even enlist your students’ help on this! This Sweet Year Bulletin Board set is so cute for back to school. It’s a printable, colorful candy-themed display that will set you up for a “sweet year!”
5) Plan your own PD
Lastly, I like to go into the summer with a plan to learn or explore at least one new thing that will make me a better teacher next year. Maybe it’s a topic your staff has already been discussing that you’d like to go further on. Perhaps it’s a new tech tool to learn like Flipgrid or how teachers can use Chat GPT in the classroom! Either way, if you go into the summer with a plan, you’re more likely to stay motivated to explore a new topic.
The end of the school year can be a super busy time for teachers, and even though it’s tempting to rush through all your remaining tasks, you run the risk of coming back in August or September to more feelings of craziness! Focusing on these five simple tasks at the end of the school year will make the beginning of next year much less chaotic. You will thank yourself later! We can do this, teachers!