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Back-to-School Checklist: 10 Classroom Must Do’s to Start Off the School Year

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Those lazy days of summer are over, and it’s time to head back to the classroom. Here is a checklist to help you remember important first month of school details. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting your teaching career, these activities can pave the way for a smooth transition into the school year.

  1. Set up your classroom
    Seating arrangements: Remember to keep fire exits clear. Also, include a reading corner, homework station, and work table (for small-group instruction). Create a pencil sharpening station in the back of your room. Think about your sharpening rules before school starts. When can students sharpen? Will you have a job rotation for sharpening pencils?
  1. Student work
    Designate a wall in your classroom to display student work. You may want to include a writing wall, math wall, and spelling word display. Because wall space is limited, choose your design carefully. Find more organization ideas in this post: Classroom Organization 101.

    bookshelves lined up in classroom.

    Photo Credit: The Teacher Next Door

  1. Parent communication
    Set up a file to record your communication with parents throughout the year. Your comments will be helpful during parent conferences and administrative meetings.
  1. Pinks and blues
    Before school starts, read through the pink and blue files of your students, but don’t get hung up on other teachers comments. Use the information in your seating chart and line arrangements to minimize problems. Refrain from formulating opinions about students until you get to know them.
  1. First day of school handouts
    Write a short note to parents introducing yourself. Be sure to include your classroom rules, homework policy, school calendar, weekly schedule, and your contact information, including school email and school phone numbers.
  1. Class list
    Create your class list. Some teachers like to assign each student a number in the beginning of the year. This allows them to label boxes, books, and cubbies with numbers so they don’t have to change name tags each year. Be sure to write students’ numbers on their desk name tags as a reminder.
  1. Extra copies
    Keep extra copies and name tags in your file folder for potential new students. Sometimes you don’t have any warning before they show up, so it is a good idea to keep extra copies of all back-to-school paper in a “new student” file.
  1. First week of school activities
    Overplan your lessons and activities for the first week of school. You will face many interruptions from administrators, parents, and students, and it’s important to have simple handouts ready for students to complete independently. Keep your lessons simple and focused on reviewing skills from the previous year. Be sure to incorporate lots of ice breaker activities that build classroom relationships and practice routines and procedures. Download this free ice breaker activity.
  1. Sub lessons
    Create an emergency sub plan before the school year starts. Many students and teachers get sick that first month of school, and it’s important to always be prepared for an emergency. (No one wants to be in the teacher’s lounge at 7am making copies when you don’t feel well.) Download this free substitute emergency card. Find more sub lessons ideas in this post: “Emergency Substitute Lesson Plans.”
  1. Phone call
    Call the parents of students your first week of school and introduce yourself. It only takes 15 minutes a day that first week, and it allows you to build a positive relationship from the beginning. These conversations set the stage for open communication during the year, and parents will be more receptive to negative phone call later in the year. Gleaning information about students’ home life will also offer insight into obstacles and issues they face at home before coming into your classroom.

For more ideas for the first day of school visit Tips for the First Day of School.


Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers

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