Thursday, August 18, 2011

Classroom Prep and Planning: Details

One reason that I blog is to show what life in the classroom is really like--to share the nuts and bolts of the daily life of a teacher.  Often teachers are portrayed in ways that belittle the profession and cast a shadow on our work rather than accurate portraits of what really happens and all the effort that goes into our work.  Hence, I wrote this very specific post.

Classroom days are approaching.  I find my focus moving inward toward classroom life and fourth graders.  Fourth graders are eager, energetic, full of ideas, and optimistic.  They want your guidance and attention all the time, and thrive in a fair, caring, structured community.

Thanks to my PLN, the conferences I've attended and the books I've read, I'm returning to school with a broader lens towards teaching.  I've had many days to ponder the greater thoughts, theories and ideas related to teaching I learned over the summer months.  Now, with a few days left to plan and prep, it's time for the specifics--the details that make a big difference.

I'm sharing my to-do list with you, as you may see a missing piece or one I could do without.  You may not be interested at all in the little details that make a classroom tick, and if that's the case, this is not the blog post for you, but all teachers know teaching is a mix of big ideas, knowledge and many, many details.


  • Create and display anchor posters based on Ellin Oliver Keene's Comprehension Research.
  • Name tags for important objects/areas in the classroom.
  • Library set-up with name tags for each book collection box.
  • Display guiding posters for math, ELA, social studies, science and community work and study.
  • Organize and label supply bins.
  • Put-together new classroom comfy Adirondack chairs and place chairs in optimal reading spaces.
  • Lug all additional materials from home to school and organize.*
  • Shop for cleaning supplies, missing pieces.
  • Prep initial bulletin boards: What's Your Culture?  What's Important about Biodiversity? What Poems Speak to You?  Climbing the Story Mountain: Focus on Story Elements,  What do Good Readers Do?,  Why Math?,  Class News and Responsibilities, and Birthday Graph.
  • Prep vocabulary sentence strips that go with bulletin boards to define essential terms in each area for start of school year study.
  • Create quote pages (one or two quotes) that support each bulletin board/unit study with a guiding focus and inspiration.*
  • Move all links from last year's social network to class website for easy reference.
Lesson/Organization Prep
  • Create fall parent conference schedule for first-week-of-school curriculum night.
  • Plan a morning for parent-student-teacher tech workshop to introduce the tech side of our classroom.
  • Create a weekly plan to use as a planning sheet each week and to make sure that all subjects are taught.  Leave some room for flexibility and change.*
  • Update class social network for the start of school with important messages.*
  • Write first day of school letter including notes about weekly routine, Internet use/connections, social network protocol/membership, homework routines, curriculum night, and contact information.*
  • Prep first week of school lessons, materials.
  • Have one or two extra desks ready for potential new students (which generally happens the first week of school).
  • Write name tags and assign seats and numbers for start of school (that will shift as the year goes on)
  • Number all cubbies, coat hooks and other materials students will use daily.
  • Meet with colleagues to organize schedules, recess/lunch routines, field trips, PLN efforts, grade-level meeting time and other collective efforts.
  • Complete request sheets for fall tech conferences, personal days (highly important events), and reimbursements for summer study events.
  • Plan and prep for initial reading, writing and math assessments.
  • Plan efforts and dates for initiatives introduced on teacher prep days (there's always a few new events to consider and plan for).
  • Complete field trip preparation and forms.
  • Complete WPSF grant proposals.
  • Prep first-week-of-school Curriculum Night for family members.*
  • Create Google calendar planner.
Home Prep
  • Prep essentials for daily ease: lunch routines, comfortable clothes (that do well on rainy playgrounds or working on rugs), work space at home.*
  • Organize my family's schedule--a weekly pattern to rely on.  Include Tuesday's #edchat and Monday's #4thchat (#elemchat and #mathchat too when I can).*
  • Set aside best mornings and late afternoons for meetings.
  • Make time for healthy activity and fun.
  • Update family calendar with important dates and events.*
I'll return to this list in the days to come.  Most schools provide a day or two for teacher set-up.  Usually those days are filled with important meetings related to vision, initiatives and collaboration.  Hence, most teachers complete the prep and planning for classroom life during the late days of summer.


If you have thoughts related to this post, please share.  Best of luck as you prep for the year ahead, or revise initial planning if you're now fully engaged with the daily work of teaching as I know many schools are already in session throughout the country (and world).