Friday, July 31, 2015

LOTS of Ideas for Start of School

This is the next post in my Start of School series. I use Doodle Bugs'  Five for Friday linky to share a BUNCH of back to school stuff. You'll find various freebies sprinkled throughout. I think there's a new idea or two in this meaty post, so let's get going.

1. Are you overwhelmed with all the STUFF that has to be prepped for the start of school? Student folders labeled, bulletin boards put up, laminate cut, and the list goes on. Well, for years I was overwhelmed, too. Until I started Work and Mingle Night. Each year I send out this notice to parents.

As well as cutting the work I have to do to a fraction of what it would be, it has become very popular with parents... maybe not because they like cutting so much :) but because they get to know both me and the other parents. True friendships have started this way. As I say on the flyer, these parents are going to know each other for a long time to come.

And parents really like to get a sense of me, too. I like parents, and I like getting to know parents, so this is a two way street.

Two small cautions, though... you do need to put in a LOT of prep to have everything in a state where people can actually help you. You'd have to do it anyway, so for me having a deadline of the meeting time is a good thing, even as it is another push on me. And, you might find yourself in the hot seat that night. Parents ask all sorts of questions and your responses will be heard by many, so you need to be able to think on your feet and know your own mind... or be able to gracefully say "I'll think about that."

My favorite time to hold this gathering is the Thursday before school starts, but some years I have to do it the first or second week of school, which is still helpful, but not quite as much. I hope you'll give it a try. It has a LOT of good features. I didn't make the flyer downloadable as you'll need to change it for yourself. But if you Pin it, you can come back to it and type up your own if you like my wording... note those last little lines... I highly recommend that part!

2.  We all know that teaching routines is VERY important. One of the most important is the routine of lining up to get from place to place. Let's face it, our pride is on the line here because everyone can see how it's going when we're out in the hall. Here are some little tips to how I teach hallway behavior.  I think there is no one good way to do this, but many, and I like to mix it up a bit. Once kids know the expectations, you can use different sayings and techniques to spice it up and keep it engaging.

Slinky dog is our model of how to move down the hall as a group. Each week on our rotating job board we have an assigned Head, who is the line leader, Paws who holds  the door, and Tail, who makes sure no one falls behind as he brings up the rear. We might spread out a little as we walk, but we always "slinky up" back together again as we stop at our stopping spots in the hall... oh, official stopping points that everybody knows are good to have, too. Usually at corners, but sometimes at other hall landmarks, just in case I'm not at the front of the line at every moment.

There are several ways we talk about keeping our hands to ourselves and keeping quiet so others can learn... that whole reason of WHY we stay quiet is something we talk about a lot. Rules are better learned when the reason is in the forefront at all times.

I keep a multi-bubble wand near the door. I wave it and the kids know to "catch" an imaginary bubble in their mouths and hold it without letting it get away. They have to hold their lips closed and make a funny face like they have a big bubble in their mouth.

I made up this little saying as we rest our hands at our hips and say,

Hands off friends and wall, 
On ourselves, that's all.

A Freebie from Sweet Kindergarten- click
This Freebie is a real goodie. I printed and laminated the cards and keep them on a hook near our door. As we line up we say choose one to say. The kids know lots of them by the end of the year. You can go to Rachelle's TPT store to get them by clicking on the picture above.

And one common but effective models for walking down the hall is the old "Hands on your hips, and fingers to your lips." The nice thing about this one is that after the kids use it, you can simply do the motion and they know just what to do. I think I first heard about it on Little Minds at Work. You can click on Tara's photo to go there. We use this little chant, too.

We put a hand on our hip,
and a finger to our lip,
So we won't get in trouble,
as we take our little trip.

One last hallway tip I leave you with is that we talk about going in "stealth mode" so no one hears us or even sees us. The kids love it. It looks something like this... hee hee hee.

3.  Does your classroom have words to live by? Over the years I've honed mine to one simple sentence that fits EVERY thing we do in class. I had this sign custom made on Etsy and it stays at the top of our white board where we refer to it all. the. time. It is very much a living statement.

Someone makes fun of someone else– uh oh, remember we are a CARING community. Someone is talking during listening time– uh oh, we can't learn and our friend can't learn if we are talking. Someone is being rough and breaking crayons– uh oh, we are a caring community that takes care of our things. Some kids are not letting other kids play– uh oh, we are a community, which means we all interact in ways that effect each other so we need to be kind to everyone. Caring. Learning. Community. Key words that cover it all.

Starting on the very first day of class we discuss our words to live by and what it means to us. It really is our class behavior plan in a nutshell. No matter what words you live by, I recommend you, too, start it the first day and live it until it becomes second nature in your classroom.

4.  There are few things so valuable to me that years after a class moves on I still have for every student. It's my student information card. The aren't just any student info card, these are ones I've put together to get exactly the information I need to best meet the needs of my students all year long.

First of all, I make sure parents know that this card, unlike all the other paperwork they've filled out for the school office, will be just for me. And I tell them I carry the cards with me, and refer to them all year long. If they want me to know it, they need to get it on the card.

Stuff like who may and who may NOT pick up their child, the names and ages of siblings, religious practices that may effect their child's interactions at school, schedules for kids living in two households, toileting issues, and much more.

And it fits on one half sheet of paper. I run it front to back on bright green card stock, then cut it in half for two cards.

You can get a copy, completely editable, by clicking on it above. It took some finagling to fit in on there, and allow room for writing, but I did it. If nothing else, it may give you ideas of things you want to ask your parents, too. If you're like me, years later you'll still have cause to look up some little bit of info on one of your kids who is now big.

5. And if you're thinking about back to school, you won't want to miss yesterday's installment in the Start of School series. It was about the crucial first minutes of the first day of school. Go to it by clicking below.

Whew! If you've made it this far, you deserve a medal :) I hope you found some new ideas and they got your wheels a'turning as you anticipate the Big Start! 

Click on Kacey's link now to find all sorts of ideas on all sorts of things.

Enjoy your final weeks or days of summer break. For those of you who are already back, I hope your launch went well. More posts ahead in my Start of School series are coming up, including ideas to get EVERY parent involved in your classroom. See you soon.


  1. I LOVE your hall walking ideas! LOVE the bubble wand. I bet the kids think that's great! Slinky Dog is a great visual, too. Thank you for the parent question paper! It's great! Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. This was a long one, glad you could find some useful stuff. Would love if you'd Pin. See ya later! Kathleen

  2. Work and Mingle Night is a great idea! Love the idea of the parents getting to know each other...and helping you out, too!

    1. You're gonna love it. Thanks for stopping by! Kathleen

  3. Thanks for sharing your work and mingle night form! I have to admit I'm getting a little overwhelmed by all the tasks still needing to be done! It's coming too quickly! :)

    Carlee Van Ness
    The Kindergarten Press

    1. Oh, yeah, know that feeling. Hope this idea pans out for you. Kathleen

  4. Your parent info card is hands down the best one I've ever seen. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks SO much! And thanks for telling me. Please Pin away. Hope you'll stop by again for the rest of the series. Kathleen


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