Summer’s half over? How can that be possible? And yet, for many of us it’s true. Fall will be upon us before we know it.
While we’re still trying to enjoy some “down time,” we can’t help anticipating the new school year by planning, prepping, and writing checklists. How can we make next year the best ever?
When school’s in session, we have precious little time to research or implement new ideas. So take advantage of your free time this summer, and bring your “best laid plans” to life! Here are 10 tips to help you get excited and prepared for Back-To-School, before the chaos begins:
#1 – Reflect
Evaluate the prior year, and your own teaching successes and set-backs. What worked best? Where did you need a different approach? Which activities engaged and inspired the students the most? Think of ways to incorporate more of the engaging strategies into your lesson plans for the upcoming year.
#2 – Review the Curriculum
Find out as much as possible about the coming year’s curriculum, while there’s still time to plan. Understand the administrators’ expectations and objectives for you, and set your own as well. Assess which parts of the curriculum will be the most challenging for your students, or the hardest to teach, and plan ways to meet those challenges.
#3 – Create Experiential Lesson Plans
Experiential learning has proven to be more successful for student engagement and retention than mere “book learning.” Through the act of experimentation, and devising unique, hands-on solutions, students acquire new skills, exercise their creativity, and tailor their projects to their own interests and learning styles.
Now that you’re familiar with next year’s curriculum, brainstorm on ways to make your lessons more hands-on, interactive, and experiential. After you have imparted new data and concepts in class, give your students projects in which they must apply this knowledge to “real-world” situations, and projects that have relevance in their own lives.
Interactive, collaborative learning games, in which students solve problems in teams, are another way to apply the experiential approach. TeachHub has compiled a list of games for all grade levels, which they say “allow students to become leaders, followers, and peacemakers… with the opportunity to learn and shine.” Check out games for your grade level here.
#4 – Get Supplies
Creating interactive experiential lessons may require materials beyond the standard teacher allotment. Paying for supplies out of your own pocket isn’t easy, so we suggest shopping at summer yard sales. Look for:
- Materials students could use to build things – or reimagine as something new
- Cheap items students can take apart and put back together
- Old kitchenware that could come in handy for science experiments
Think outside the box, and you might be surprised at your own ingenuity. If all else fails, you can always find used books for your classroom library.
We offer a few experiential activity ideas in an earlier blog.
#5 – Get Creative and Hands-On
Are your creative juices flowing yet? Take advantage of that energy, and get hands-on yourself. Make lesson-enhancing aids such as charts, posters, games, etc. – anything you won’t have time to create once the school year starts.
#6 – Plan Icebreakers
Continue your creative streak by planning new, engaging icebreakers to get your students interacting and at-ease on that tricky First Day. We suggest activities that get the students moving, interacting, and being hands-on right from the get-go (a quick science experiment? A history skit? Creating a team poem?). TeachHub also has ideas for various ages, to add to your own.
#7 – Read Kids' Books
What are your students reading this summer? What’s piquing their imagination? Leisure reading time may be non-existent during the school year, so take advantage of this opportunity for an easy read, which will also give you a new way to relate to your students.
A simple web search will help you find the hottest titles, on web lists such as:
#8 – Try Something New
This is the time to revisit those brilliant ideas that you’ve never had time to develop or implement. Read up on trending teaching methods and educational practices that intrigue you, and devise ways to use these methods in your lessons. Brainstorm and share ideas and tactics with colleagues.
#9 – Create a Class Webpage
Speaking of something new, do you have a class webpage? Web-design tools like Wordpress, Wix, and GoDaddy are easy to learn, with attractive templates and graphics. Many of these tools are free.
Having your own website will help you communicate with students and parents, and give you a way to engage with students on the devices they love. It can also help you create a sense of community. Use your site to share important telephone numbers, homework assignments, due dates, school rules, schedules, photos of events, etc. You can also use the site to showcase top student projects.
#10 – Don’t Forget Your ME Time
While preparation is a critical part of success, don’t forget that summer is also a way to recharge and take care of you for a change. A little down time will help refresh your attitude and perspective. Enjoy this chance to make a plan for achieving a good work/home balance.
Replenishing your supply of inspiration is one great way to recharge. Reflect back on why you chose teaching as a career. Take pride in the difference you’ve made in young lives. And as you indulge this opportunity to prep for making next year the best school year ever, you may discover you’ve regenerated your motivation to be your school’s most inspirational teacher.