I headed into my classroom today after two weeks away. I know that is not every teacher’s wheelhouse during a break, but it brings me peace of mind. I am one of those teachers who prefers a gentle transition with a bit of preparation as opposed to a jarring jump back in with catch-up and chaos.
I made a list of tasks that I knew I wanted to accomplish in order to feel ready to go the moment my students walk through the classroom door. My goal was to redo, restock, revamp, and reorganize. Here is a bit of an overview of how it all went…
Redo Seating Charts and Sub Plans
In middle school, seating charts are essential for so many reasons. My main purpose for seating charts is to make sure that my students are positioned within the classroom for success. I know my students well (we are heading into the 3rd quarter), and I know where they thrive in the classroom environment. Seating charts are also critical to my classroom setup when considering both student IEP and 504 accommodations.
I use Progressbook to create my seating charts because it is the tool that I have found to be the most efficient. My favorite features of Progressbook seating charts are that I can edit/shift a student seamlessly at anytime, AND student pictures can be utilized, making my seating charts even more helpful for subs or other adults that may be in my classroom.
Today, I simply redid each of my classes’ seating charts (I teach 3-double-blocked ELA classes), saved them, and printed them to add to my sub binder. Total time spent: 15 minutes.
Restock Snacks, Treats, and Supplies.
Teaching middle school means that kids are ALWAYS hungry, so I like to make sure that I have snacks and treats in my classroom. I do not feed every student every day, but I have a snack bin with items when a kid is in need. In addition, I found a cool snack dispenser on Amazon (check out my Amazon classroom essentials) that was a perfect fit for my classroom. I buy cereal that is on sale and just keep it stocked in my classroom. Honey Combs and Cocoa Puffs are two of my students’ favorites. Each day during reading time, I pick four students who get to sit in the comfy classroom chairs and have a little snack. It is an added bonus to reading time when their name is chosen.
I also took a few minutes to restock my ELA classroom must-haves. This includes pencils, cleaning supplies, and replenishing student birthday goodies. I also re-filled the air freshener, wiped down the desks, and put new batteries in my lights. Having these little things restocked and ready means we are ready to take on learning, which puts my mind at ease. Total time spent: 15 minutes.
Revamp Book Displays
In quarter 3, we are transitioning from our service learning/informational text unit to fiction, so shifting book displays and returning books to our public library were priorities.
This quarter we will be using The Hunger Games as our mentor text, so pulling copies of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay, and a variety of other fictional texts that exemplify the importance of courage was essential.
This task took a bit of time because I am also working to introduce my students to a variety of fiction texts that they are excited to read. Considering my students’ interests, the goals of our novel units, and the connection to our essential question were all key components of my book display revamp. Time spent: 30 minutes.
Reorganize Learning Spaces
Clean and orderly are two non-negotiables in my middle school classroom. I want to be an example of order and organization for my students so that they recognize the importance of taking pride in spaces where they spend a good amount of time. I also believe that an organized classroom is an efficient one.
When things are ready to go and we have what we need, learning can take place. Updating word walls, recycling first semester copies, updating my daily agenda slides, and making copies are just a few of the simple ways to make my classroom setup ready for semester #2 of the school year. Time spent: 60 minutes.
As teachers, we have to do what is best for us within our own unique circumstances and situations. Because I do not have a ton of time to spend in my classroom before or after school due to my own three kids’ activities, I need to make the most of these flexible times during winter break. However, if the thought of heading into school to do any work during break makes you cringe, I totally get it. Take this time to do what is best for you. All the best as you head into 2024!