Thursday, June 11, 2015

3 Summer Tips to Make Back-to-School Easier

Hey Friends! It's Theresa from True Life I'm a Teacher! I'm having an absolutely terrific summer so far! Buuuuut, I can't help but to start thinking about next year! Crazy, I know, but I just can't help it!

I'm here today to share how I plan and organize during the summer that helps me feel prepared for the new school year. I know, I know...some of your aren't even finished with the current school year, but I hope you'll be able to use these tips as well!
I shared on True Life I'm a Teacher that I follow the "One-A-Day" rule - try to accomplish one thing each day of summer. Clearly, I set the bar super high ;)

Anyway, while I do definitely try to do lots of things that I just don't have much time for during the school year (just getting caught up on laundry...or maybe that's just me), I do have a few MUST do's that make my life so.much.easier once school starts again.

Let's take just a minute to recognize that there are a TON of things that can't really be done over the summer, because they're contingent on either arranging furniture and getting your classroom set up, OR based around knowing what your schedule will be. AND, I don't spend my whole summer preparing for school or doing school-related projects, but I view summer as a gift of time, and that last thing I want to do is be completely overwhelmed the week before school starts, and wish that I had been more proactive during the summer (because I've been there, done that).

Now we covered what can't be done...let's talk about what we CAN do!
One of the things that puts my crazy mind (seriously - my mind goes nuts in the summer...too much Pinterest!), is to write down major things that happen each month so I'm not thinking, "Man, I totally forgot about my stash of St. Patrick's Day books." 

Here's what my yearly plan (you can grab your own copy here) looks like (I add to it as things come up or as I remember things):
From here, I like to take the standards for my grade, and type them out based on when they have to be taught. Think of this as sort of "zooming in" from the yearly plan. I'm such a visual person, I want everything for each 9 weeks/quarter on one easy to see page.

Disclaimer: This may require you to do a bit of digging around on your school district's website, or asking an administrator or academic coach. Chances are, they have them, but may not have shared them with everyone. Fortunately, at our last faculty meeting for the year, we got our "Teaching and Learning Frameworks" for 2015-2016, so I was able to write out the standards, just how I like them.

Anyway, here's what they looked like when I got them...
Can't even handle the various formats and the fact that each subject is on a different page. Here's how they look now. Boom.
Once I have the yearly plan created, I create pacing guides for each 9 weeks (or quarters...whatever your district call them). My teaching partner and I actually got together earlier this week finished these for the entire 2015-2016 year! Go us!

It took us about 4 hours, and we both walked away feeling like we had accomplished something amazing! (There will probably definitely be adjustments that need to be made, and some rearranging that takes place, but that's totally normal!)

It's kind of like putting a puzzle together...what makes the most sense where, and what do we have to teach when? Having a good game plan before actually starting the year helps me have a good picture of where we're headed!
Having these pacing guides makes lesson planing and finding/creating resources a breeze! Seriously! So worth the time it takes to create them!
My last must-do for summer, is to create simple grade sheets. Nothing fancy, just something I can plug my kids' names into, print and be on my way. The first 9 weeks always flies by, and I usually struggle with grades for this grading period because so much time has been spent on routines and procedures, and building classroom community. Typically, I'll go ahead and write in the standards/topics that are assessed (because I have my pacing guides and yearly plan finished). Having the grade sheets done ahead of time, just helps in having one more thing checked off of the to-do list.

Ready to make the most of your time this summer? Grab your copies below: