17 Tips to Start the School Year Off Right


It happens to me every year! I start summer break thinking that I have all of the time in the world. I have all of these big plans to “change-up” my classroom and “new activities” I am going to prep and use next school year. Then, without a doubt, the first day of school sneaks up on me. And all of those plans I had got pushed to the side due to the simple fact that I don’t have time ⏰… But not this year!!! I’ve finally made my list of tips to start the school year and I’m sticking to it!

πŸ’ͺ 2022-2023 is going to be the year that I feel prepared and stress-free. (Or at least I am going to prepare for everything I know that comes with back-to-school season). Many of these tips can be done over the summer and won’t take hours and hours of your time. πŸ˜‰ This year, I am going to follow these 17 tips to start my school year off right.

  • No coming into school two weeks before everyone else to get started.
  • I’m not scrambling to put together “Meet the Teacher” information.
  • No waiting in line at the copy machine to put my plans together.

Tip #1 – Join a Teacher Support Group

There are so many virtual teacher groups out there on Facebook. Join one today and know that you will have a place where you can ask for advice, search for activity ideas or book lists, and offer your expertise to other teachers in need. If you are a primary teacher, we have a group for you! Come connect with other teachers in one of our Fearless Facebook groups.

πŸ– Kindergarten Fearless Group

🚌 First Grade Fearless Group

βœ‚οΈ Second Grade Fearless Group

Start the School Year Tip #2 – Prep Beginning of the Year Centers

I enjoy binge-watching television series on Netflix and Hulu, but I have a hard time just sitting there and watching. I need something for my hands to do. (Like cutting out laminated pieces for my literacy and math centers.) I can get at least the first month or two done and organized while watching my favorite shows. πŸ™Œ First on my list to prep… Roll, Read, and Write CVC Words and Add a Tower.

Tip #3 – Gain Access to Unlimited Teacher Worksheets

I refuse to search the internet, TPT, and my workbooks this next year looking for printables I need in my lessons, centers, and small groups. I want access to supplemental materials with the click of a button. Head over to Education to the Core Premium and become a member of the fastest-growing teacher printable subscription site.

Gain immediate access to thousands of worksheets in all subject areas. New resources are being added all of the time to ensure that you and your students have what you need for a successful school year. Use the promo code SUMMERPREP and save $10.00 off an annual membership. Click, download to your library, and print when you get back to your classroom in the fall. Lesson planning made easier! 🧑

Start the School Year Tip #4 – Create Procedure Charts

You may be a step ahead of me here if you created your charts and then laminated them. I always seem to change up my procedures and have to make new charts each year. The only one that I save for after school has started is our Classroom Expectations poster. It’s very important to me that the students have a say in how our classroom community runs.

Tip #5 – Map Out Your Classroom Floor Plan

This usually doesn’t change much from year to year, but I still like to create a rough sketch of my classroom floor plan to make things easy breezy when I do go back into my classroom in the fall. Have a new school building? Moved to a different school? Changed grade levels? Now is the time to play around with possible furniture layouts.

Scholastic’s Classroom Setup Tool and Classroom Architect are two different programs that allow you to design a classroom virtually. It will save you (and your spouse/friends) time and energy instead of moving and dragging heavy items to a new location every 5 seconds. πŸ₯΅

Start the School year Tip #6 – Set Yourself Up for Yearlong Success

I am constantly on the lookout for new activity ideas, tips, tricks, hacks, etc. I’m a teacher who feels like I can always add to my toolbox 🧰 of strategies. If you feel the same way, then I have something extra special for you. Education to the Core offers free weekly email support for teachers. Become a member of our Teaching Tiny Humans group and set yourself up for a year of support from top-notch teachers. Each weekly email promises to be filled with activities for your students, advice, tips, tricks, and of course freebies. πŸŽ‰

Tip #7 – Put Together a Sound Wall

Have you made the switch yet? Sound Walls have become all the craze and are replacing Word Walls in classrooms. I’ve decided to try it out this year and see how it supports and improves my phonics instruction. Sound Walls are student-centered and student-focused.Β  This wall is truly set up from the learner’s point of view and perspective.Β  Sound Walls are a reference tool for students that shows the phonemes (individual building blocks, or smallest units of sound) of the English language. It helps students focus on the articulation of those phonemes (sounds) and recognize and use the graphemes (spelling patterns that represent those sounds – of which there are often many).

The best part about my new sound wall is that it also includes supplemental teaching materials, such as student independent practice worksheets, anchor chart sound sorts, student center sound sorts, and digital teaching slides with audio. This resource is definitely taking your phonics instruction to the ultimate level. 🀩

Start the School Year Tip #8 – Create Your Student Welcome Gifts

Another quick tip to start your school year right is to prep your student welcome gifts. What do you like to hand out to your students during Back to School Night? Some teachers give bubbles and a cute tag. Others like to give their students a snack with a special saying. My personal favorite is a pair of sunglasses and a note from me. 😍 Whatever you choose to do, this project is a simple one you can get done quickly one day before returning to the classroom.

Place them in a box and bring them to school when you return. They will be ready when you need them and it frees up time for you to lesson plan, grab lunch with your teacher besties, and attend all of those wonderful beginning of the year staff meetings.

Tip #9 – Print Your Morning Work

What do you have your students do in the morning when they walk into the classroom? What is part of the morning routine each day? Do you have a warm-up worksheet your students work on, or maybe a morning meeting slide with a task they have to do in their journal? Whatever you choose to use, this is a simple task you can do before school starts and then not have to battle with everyone else at the copy machine. As a matter of fact, we have two weeks worth of morning work for FREE you can save and use to kickstart your students this next school year. Grab your set, save it on your desktop, and simply print it when you get back into your classroom.

If printable morning work isn’t your thing, I highly recommend no prep Morning Meeting Digital Slides. You can pass out composition notebooks to your students at the beginning of the year. Every morning you have a slide projected. Your students sit down, get out their notebooks, and respond to the question. I’ve also known teachers who have a quick-write journal prompt up on the board each morning for their students to work on while they take care of all the morning to-do’s teachers have before the day can begin.

Start the School Year Tip #10 – Start Your Teacher Binder

Every year my principal walks around and lets us know when our “teacher binder” or sub binder is due. Usually, we have the first 10 days of school to get it turned into the office. We put a lot of important information in this binder… classroom routines, how students get home, medical information, class list, important phone numbers, and supply locations.

This task takes me hours to put together. 😭 Is that really what we should be spending our time on during the beginning of the year? The answer is definitely… NOPE! That is why we created an Editable Teacher Binder Bundle with scripted lesson plans you can use in your Emergency Sub binder. Fill in the information on one page and it auto-populates to other components of the packet. Save yourself hours prepping that binder with this resource. It’s another time-saving tip to start the school year off right.

Tip #11 – Create Student Work Mats

Speaking of binders… how many different work mats do your students have when it comes to completing math and literacy centers? I use a ton of them and they always end up in stacks around my classroom. Then I forget that I have already copied that mat and make a whole new class set, which then gets placed somewhere else in my classroom and the cycle continues. Talk about a waste of time and paper. But not anymore!

This year all of my students’ work mats are going to be housed in binders. And I’m not just going to put center work mats in those binders. My students will have weather charts, writing practice pages, counting charts, calendars, and so much more. The best part is that I won’t have piles of unused work mats lying around, and my students’ desks aren’t going to be filled with smashed-up papers. Everything will be in their own personal CORE Binder. Win-Win!

Start the School Year Tip #12 – Set Aside Your Beginning of the Year Read Alouds

What are your “go-to” books for the beginning of the year? We all have them. Those favorites that we read to our students year after year. Put those books in a box or bin and place them in a safe place in your classroom or bring them home to take up space in the bottom of your closet over the summer.

Tip #13 – Plan for the First Few Weeks

Get your first few weeks of copies done before the line to the copy machine looks like the wait for a ride at Disneyland. Better yet, what if I told you that I have a no-prep packet of review activities you could use for those first few weeks?… Warm your students back up to learning with these Warm-ups. If you are teaching 1st grade, grab the kinder packet. Second grade, then snag the first-grade bundle. The summer slide is real, so let’s start the school year off on the right foot.

Don’t forget to add in those procedures from the beautiful charts you made in #4. Take your time when practicing procedures. It is definitely one of those “go slow to go fast” concepts. Specifically, add in practice time each day for your procedures. Lastly, incorporate classroom community building daily during those first few weeks of school. It will set the tone for the rest of the year.

Start the School Year Tip #14 – Organize Your Google Drive

Over the school year, my google drive becomes a hot mess express. Lesson plans are saved in different spots, digital downloads aren’t in subject folders, and everything that has been shared with me over the year is only organized by date shared. I have to get my tech life together! For easy search and find, I am putting all of my files in subject folders and renaming everything so that I know exactly what each file is. And while I am reorganizing all of those files, I may also snag a few more digital resources to fill in the gaps.

Tip #15 – Get Some PD Out of the Way

Taking professional development from the comforts of your couch sounds glorious, doesn’t it? Do you have some hours that you need to take care of before your next certificate renewal? Education to the Core has a variety of PD videos that you can watch. Each video comes with a certificate for one hour of professional development. Learn a little bit this summer, check some recertification hours off of your list, and gain access to some freebies along the way. Sign up for one of these courses today and get some PD out of the way!

Beyond the Running Record

Have you Heard? Sound Walls are the Word

Small Groups… Big Impact!

Start the School Year Tip #16 – Prep for Back to School Night

Back to School can be a very chaotic time! I try to get a few BTS items off of the checklist before actually returning to school. You can type up your parent welcome letter, put together the students’ gifts from tip #8, and copy some simple activities my new students can do while their parents fill out paperwork. A favorite of mine is a Classroom Scavenger Hunt. Your students can complete this simple search while learning where all of the important items and areas are in your classroom. (And as I said before… it gives them something to do while their parents are filling out all of that necessary school paperwork.)

Tip #17 – Relax and Take Care of Yourself

Most importantly, take plenty of time this summer for yourself to do the things that you enjoy. The school year takes a lot out of us teachers and we need some time to recharge our batteries. Grab a good book, put up your feet and lose yourself in the story, or maybe spend some much-needed time with family and friends. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it fills your bucket. You will need all of the fuel you can get before starting another wonderful year. If you happen to need some ideas that are completely non-school related, check out this list. πŸ˜‰

Get ahead of the game by using some or all of these 17 tips to start the school year off right. Make sure to take the time to do #17 especially. This year, ETTC wants to help make your life easier, give you back some “you” time, and be one of the teacher besties that you turn to when you need worksheets, have questions or are looking for new activity ideas.

Written by – Janessa Fletcher


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