7 Tips for the Busiest Month of the Year

I love the freshness of a new school year, don't you? I also love the busy-ness of the first few weeks of school!

But, and there is always a but, I don't love the overwhelming feeling we all get as we try to write lesson plans, make nametags, hang bulletin boards, create new projects, and teach our classroom routines.

So, let's see if I can give you some ideas and quick tips to get going smoothly in the busiest month of the school year!



Let's Focus on Procedures, Projects, and Preparation!

We all know that teaching our rules and procedures (routines) will get the year started slowly, but it will pay off later. Kids grab onto those expectations and then your year will flow smoothly! I have two topics for this one:
  • Teaching Procedures
  • Teaching Classroom Rules
Next, is the endless decorating we want to do, but I have some ideas:
  • Bulletin Boards
Next up will be Projects! As soon as your kiddoes are acclimated to their new classroom and you get past those first days of normal assessments and paperwork, you might be ready to jump into a project or two. Hopefully, something STEM-related! I have a few suggestions:
  • Towers
  • Pencil Structures
  • Teaching the Scientific Method
And, don't forget about YOU! 
  • Surviving the First Few Weeks
Hang onto your hats and get ready to take notes!

Those Procedures That Will Save Your Sanity

As a former classroom teacher, I have started my year badly by teaching all my rules and procedures on the first day. I cannot imagine how excruciating it was to have to sit and listen to a teacher talk about all the procedures for hours. Did the kids remember it? NO!

I learned the hard way yo teach a few procedures every day and spend the first two weeks practicing all the routines we would follow.
Even specialists have routines and procedures to teach in the first weeks of school. Check this blog post for some tips.

Now, as a specialist, I know this is still important. We practice everything- from how to come into the room, where to sit, how to clean up, and how to use materials.

Here's my favorite tip for specialists that need to clean off tabletops at the end of class:
Place a dishpan with wet washcloths in a central location. When teams have their tables cleared off  a student can grab a washcloth and scrub down the tabletop. Use real washcloths! They work better than paper towels.
Links at the end of this post will take you to blog posts about each topic!


Teaching Your Classroom Rules

I hope you already know my fun way to teach STEM Lab rules. First, my kids have a fun scavenger hunt to find items in the room- which just happens to include my Rules Bulletin Board. Kids LOVE Scavenger Hunts! So, what happens when they finish the hunt?
Here's a fun way to teach my your classroom rules. First, kids have a fun scavenger hunt to find items in the room- which just happens to include your Rules. So, what happens when they finish the hunt? THey build a model to represent on of the rules and teach it to the entire class!
It's time for STEM after the scavenger hunt! This little challenge has turned out to be one of our favorites.

Each team chooses a rule to model. Then they choose their materials based on what their building plan might be.

Can you say engaging? The best part, however, is sharing all these models. Each team shares and teaches the rule to everyone in the class! So much fun! 

And, this challenge is free in my TpT store!

Oh, My, Those Bulletin Boards

Do you love bulletin boards! I do! This year I painted the background of my bulletin boards black. I really love the way posters and brightly colored paper "pop" off the black background. If you cannot paint your boards, try using a fabric background. I like the painted version or fabric because you can staple items to the board and reuse the background endlessly (no staple holes).

Here's another tip about bulletin boards! If you ever create one you absolutely love, take it down carefully and re-use it another year. Change it around a little bit or recreate it exactly the same.

Tips for Bulletin boards! Check the blog post for more ideas for the busy month of September!
The boards in the photo were so fun to make! The first one (the top photo) took a long time to create. I loved it so when I took it down I carefully saved all the pieces. The following school year I recreated the board using the scientist parts and some new posters. 

I have several Bulletin Board blog posts! Links at the end!

Projects - Towers

Okay, you are finally ready to get started with some big projects in your classroom. Routines are going well, procedures are being followed, kids are doing their work.... well, let's hope all of that is true!

So, it's time for some STEM!
STEM Challenge: Some easy tower ideas and even more tips for the busy month of September! Check this blog post for your tips!

Start with some simple towers. These towers use easy materials that you might already have and there is very little prep. This will help your students learn about the Engineering Design Process and it's the perfect opportunity to bring even more teamwork into your classroom.

I would start with the Spoon Tower- just because it's a little silly and will engage your kids right away! (Kids love silly!)

Projects with Pencils

So, one year I found myself with so many boxes of brand new pencils. Well, that sounds heavenly, right?

Nope. They were all unsharpened. I totally dreaded having to sharpen pencils to get started and then I noticed something. Those round pencils reminded me of dowel sticks which reminded me of building things- which led to STEM Challenges that use pencils as the main building supply!
STEM Challenges that use pencils as a main building supply! After building these fabulous structures, students can take turns sharpening the pencils! Win-win!

We really enjoyed these challenges using pencils! It includes towers that have a twirling part, pencil boxes, and drawbridge models.

In a STEM Classroom, we have to be very frugal with our materials and we reuse as much as possible. I save everything and try to find unusual and inexpensive materials. With multiple classes, I have to do this. Using the brand new pencils was a perfect idea! After we took structures apart, the pencils were sharpened and ready to be used- as pencils!


Teaching the Scientific Method

I don't know about your classes, but my students come to me with very little knowledge of experimenting or using the Scientific Method. When I discovered this a few years ago, I decided to create some fun experiment events that kids would really enjoy and throw the Scientific Method right into the middle of it!
This Effervescing resource is perfect for learning the scientific method. It's designed for elementary students and will be so engaging for your little scientists!
This resource proved to be amazing for the students. They experiment with different liquids to see which will create the fastest dissolving of the effervescing tablet. Then they design their own experiment after creating a hypothesis. Highly engaging and so fun!

Surviving the First Few Weeks

My last tip is all about you! These first two months of school are overwhelming and stressful! How do we make it every year?
Tips and Tricks for Surviving Those First Weeks of School- just some easy tips for busy teachers to get the year started off well on a positive note! Includes a great easy recipe!

This post (above) is not about school! It's about things you can do at home to make your school year begin with some organization and tips to make it a little easier!

A Little Recap


  • If you are a specialist, don't forget how important it is to teach procedures and practice them. 
  • Try an engaging STEM Challenge to teach your classroom rules! This hands-on method is a sure-fire way to have kids remember your rules!
  • Paint your bulletin board backgrounds! Or cover them with fabric. It will save time in later years.
  • Save your favorite bulletin board pieces and arrange them in a different way for another school year.
  • Try a STEM Challenge that uses easy materials to work on collaboration and teamwork.
  • Use materials frugally and even try some unusual materials for STEM - like pencils!
  • Use an amazing experiment to teach the Scientific Method!
  • Take care of YOU!

LINKS:

Tips for relieving the overwhelming of the first months of school. This blog post includes tips for teaching procedures and classroom rules, tips about bulletin boards, tips about using STEM in the early days, and tips about taking care of yourself!




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