Hi, this is Karla from CMajorLearning. I, like most teachers this time of year, am deep in the trenches of back to school work. I have been busy setting up my classroom, putting up bulletin boards, creating song lists, working on concept plans and writing lesson plans. While I've been doing all of this work, I have had this blog post in the back of my mind....what was I going to write about.....So I started thinking about what are the most important things I do before school starts to get my year off to a great start. Here is my list - in no particular order:
Collaborate with Colleagues and Meet New Staff
While the few days before the students arrive is very busy, I always make sure to find time to talk with fellow teachers in my building. I don't mean just asking about their summers, but talking about what we can do together to support the learning of our students. I usually just get a few seeds of ideas but it is enough to start me thinking about ways that I can support them and vice versa. I also make time to introduce myself to any new teachers in my building. This is just a great time to say "hello", let them know who I are and give them a few pointers as to how I would like them to wait outside my room at their music time. These conversations only take a few minutes but they make a world of difference as we start the school year.
Think About Big Events or Field TripsWhile I am not making any decisions about programs or events in my building, I am thinking about what I want to have happen and when. At Indian Trail Elementary, I get the privilege of taking all the 2nd graders (around 250 students) to see The Nutcracker Ballet at the amazing Ohio Theater in downtown Columbus, OH. This is a HUGE undertaking but worth every single minute. I've already gotten permission from my principal, filled out the field trip paperwork and let my teachers know the date of the field trip. Having this information out there now, lets folks know that things are in the works and that more information will be coming. Years ago, I didn't really communicate anything about doing something like this until it was 4-6 weeks into the school year, but several years ago I changed and started getting the word out earlier and to be honest, it has made a big difference - I'm not exactly sure why but things seem to go smoother since I started putting the information out their earlier.
Class ListsThese lists are so important for many reasons. It is important to get your hands on the lists as soon as you can. Looking them over gives you the opportunity to spot potential problems before the students walk into your classroom. I also like to fontasticate (yes I made this word up - it means to use a cool font and not just TimesNewRoman) my lists as well as build my star student files. You can see more about how I do star students by reading this blog post. Also, once the students have been to class, do take the time to note who is there, who is not and if anyone has nicknames they like to be called. It is a great deal of information to manage (I have 32 homerooms grade K-2) but I believe that it makes the students feel like you care more about them by making sure that you have the correct name etc.
PlanningThis is probably my favorite thing to do at the start of the school year but the thing I get to last. Why? Well for me I have to get my room physically ready (read more below) before I can sit down and write out long and short term plans, song lists, concept plans, and finally daily lesson plans. I will admit that I do not write the traditional year plans as I was taught in my levels classes, but I do have a system that works for me, it just looks different than most peoples year plans! Once I have this worked out, I plug in as many known things (field trips, programs, assemblies, school projects etc) that I can. I then consult my song list and concept plans (that I do not rewrite every year, but rather add to, take out or clean up each year). Then, finally I get to write out the plans for the first music class of the year. Again, I do not write out a month worth of plans - my brain just doesn't work that way. I really need to see the classes at least once before I can get a true sense of how I can move through the curriculum this year.
Lesson Plans for the 1st class of the YearI'm sure that many of you have your tried and true plan for the first day of class....I do too, but this year I'm going to try some different things on the first day. Why? Well, to be honest, I was kind of bored with what I had been doing (not because it was bad but because I have been doing it for a long time) and decided that if I wasn't excited about the activities then the students wouldn't be either. I'm going to start off with a name game for each grade level and then go to a movement activity, teach a new song and end with a favorite from last year. All throughout the lesson I will be inserting my classroom rules, procedures, expectations and consequences. I hated nothing more than when I was a student to sit through a long lecture on what I was expected to do so I do not introduce this to my students in that format. Also, one of the joys of seeing the students every year is that my 1st and 2nd graders know me and pretty much know what is expected. It is a great opportunity to teach the new students by the examples of former students.
Classroom Layout and Bulletin BoardsMy classroom can only be set up in a couple of different ways and fortunately for me, I think I've got the layout set up the best way possible. Having that done, I can move on to my bulletin boards and decorations. I have spent countless hours working on these bulletin boards because I typically do not put up new ones throughout the year. I want the decorations to be colorful, inviting and purposeful. This year I went with a mustache theme and you can see pictures of my classroom at CMajorLearning later this week when I link up with Aileen Miracle at MrsMiraclesMusicRoom for her "My Music Room Set Up" linky party.
1. Enter the room quietly and make a circle (I do not use assigned seats or spots)
2. Make good choices
3. Raise your hand to speak
4. Treat the classroom and instruments respectfully
5. Have fun!
We have a school wide discipline system in place through a program called "Project Achieve". One part of the program is the use of common language by the teachers with a matrix of rewards and consequences. With this in place and used by everyone, I spend very little time discussing it because the students already know what will happen! This has been a HUGE change in the school climate and culture because everyone (students, teachers, administration, custodians, secretaries and parents) knows the routine!
Purchase New BooksI LOVE this part of back to school! I have a very small budget so I have to really pick and choose what I want/need. This year, I am super excited to use several new to me picture books. I purchased "Rissaldy Rassaldy", "There's A Hole in the Bucket" and "The Derby Ram". I have sevearl of the others so my collection is almost complete!!! I can't wait to use these with my students and I think it is fantastic that there is a download of the song for FREE. Click the picture to check out all the titles at West Music.
I hope that all of you have a great start to the school year and would love to hear what you find to be the most important part of your preparations!!
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