15th August 2017
What colour do you associate with September?
This was a question we were asked in a recent CPD session. We had quite the rainbow of answers. I chose green. Green – for fresh starts and the turning over of new leaves.
Before the fresh starts of September comes August. August, as we all know, is not just a time for rest and relaxation; it is also a time of preparation. As the saying goes: Fail to prepare, Prepare to fail.
Although it is nice to be laid back and “go with flow”, I would undoubtedly say preparation is essential in the world of teaching. You need to have a plan in order to have the best start to the new school year.
You need to be prepared for potential problems.
You need to know about the class you are receiving.
You need to establish organisational systems.
You need to create an engaging environment for the children.
There is a lot to do but if you make sure you are prepared, I guarantee you will have more free time for yourself at home and you will enjoy the job more, thus improving your overall mental health and well-being. ?
Here are my preparation tips:
Know your class!
Ensure you look at the assessment data from their previous teacher. You need a good idea of the level at which each child is working. Know who is going to require support and who needs to be challenged. If you have had a ‘transition day’, this will have given you a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of your pupils. Using the previous assessment data and your own observations (because we all know that sometimes you don’t agree with the data!), create your table plans for different subjects as well as for registration time. I try to ensure children are sat in mixed ability groups during registration. You should also take into consideration what you know about the behaviour of certain pupils. I would definitely recommend having a conversation with their previous teacher to learn as much as you can about each child.
If you have spoken to the previous teacher or taught the class during a transition day, you should have a reasonable idea about possible behaviour issues you may have to face. Every class is different though. The behaviour systems used for one class may not work for another. Think about what will work for these pupils. In one of the classes I taught, there were quite a lot of boys who would fight for attention. They constantly shouted out and had short fuses. They would explode with anger at each other and at staff. They had not responded well to the previous teacher’s firm and strict approach so I felt that they needed a lot more positivity. Therefore this was what I focused on when decorating my classroom (see next bullet point). I also had to ensure that my classroom rules were clear and to the point. I made sure that the behaviours and corresponding consequences were clearly displayed in the classroom. This way, I could direct them to this poster when they started to argue with me about the consequences of their behaviour. I would always suggest using one of the very first lessons in September to build your own list of classroom rules with the class. This way the children have ownership of the rules. They can even sign it like an official contract.
Ensure each table has the required stationery so you’re not rushing around inSeptember looking for pens, pencils and those notorious glue sticks! Although a little pricey, I have been using these caddies for a couple of years now and they hold everything perfectly (they also match my table colours!).
Another key thing to remember is to label the drawers and cupboards in your classroom. This allows children to access classroom resources more independently and reduces the amount you have to do (which surely can’t be a bad thing). Other labels not to forget include the children’s drawer and peg labels. If you can give the children a choice of what they would like on their labels before the Summer, this is always a bonus as children love to make decisions about their own learning and environment. Perhaps they would like dinosaurs, owls or superheroes… We all love something that has been personalised! Now, while we’re on the subject of choices, we must remember: “With freedom comes responsibility.” So, make sure you give the children their own responsibilities in the form of classroom jobs. As mentioned previously, children love to take ownership of something and… if they are remembering to give out the letters, water the plant or collect the word banks then that’s one less thing for you to remember.
Decorate your classroom!
Now for the fun bit – sprucing up the learning environment! I love browsing through Pinterest looking for new and creative ideas. But, you don’t have to be the most artistic person to create an engaging classroom especially with wonderful sites like Twinkl out there. Again, think about your children and what they require – sometimes classrooms can be so busy they are distracting. Personally, I do like quite a busy and colourful classroom within reason. Make sure you display key vocabulary and questions and think about how you can make some of your displays interactive. I also like to display discussion prompts at the front of the room as they help children to articulate their thoughts more clearly. Your classroom environment should be positive, vibrant, stimulating and useful. Happy stapling and Blu-Tacking!
September is the teacher’s January. Make your own new (school) year’s resolution! Be positive! How are you going to organise yourself better? How will you ensure the children make outstanding progress? What problems did you encounter last year? What can you change about your practice to avoid these problems?
Most of all, know your class and keep smiling!