Back to School: Open House, First Year Tips, Classroom Ideas and more!

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Back to School | Teacher Tips | Open House | Classroom Ideas | Teacherfashionista

I’ve had so many teachers reach out to me this past year on Instagram – seasoned teachers, first year teachers, and student teachers. I have loved connecting over questions, ideas, advice, and all things teacher-related! I am a Kindergarten teacher, and am going into year 11 in my teaching career. This post will be related to lower elementary/primary grade levels and will share insight on going back to school, feeling prepared for open house, and heading into a successful school year.

Open House

When I prepare for open house, I really want a welcoming experience. Not only are students coming to meet me – their new teacher – but their parents are coming to see who their child is going to be spending a large portion of their day with. Get ready to SHINE!

Here are my top tips for open house:

  • Decorate your door (or bulletin board, wall, or window near your door) to welcome students into your room. This is their first impression of your theme and can help make the experience personal especially if they can see their name.
  • Put toys and creative bins up or away – HIDE THEM. I learned this the hard way my first year teaching Kindergarten. My beautifully organized room quickly became a disaster as parents swarmed me with questions and their children (my future students) spilled every bin unsupervised. I was left cleaning my room for a good 45 minutes afterwards.
  • Have activities or work for students to do while their parents fill in forms or ask you questions. Some great ideas are: coloring pages (that match your theme), play doh, tangram puzzles & shapes, or a classroom scavenger hunt.
  • Use a power point slide for directions or expectations. What is your goal for open house? Meet the teacher? Put supplies away? Fill out some informational forms? Let the parents know. Here’s the slide I used this year.
  • Create and showcase a classroom wishlist (if your school allows this). School supply lists typically don’t cover everything a classroom will need, so consider making a wishlist that includes important things like 3×5 cards, tissues, clorox wipes, cardstock, ink, and more! Here’s what is usually on my wishlist: cotton balls, pom poms, pipe cleaners, play-doh, 3×5 & 4×6 cards, hp printer ink, white cardstock, watercolor paints, large paint brushes, clorox wipes, baby wipes, popsicle sticks, treasure box items, and tissues.
  • “Waitress.” Walk around, meet and greet all who come in, check on those working at the tables. Smile, answer questions, and help everyone feel comfortable and satisfied.

Links to the things I have out on the tables: Parent 3-2-1 (copied off of Pinterest), Student Information Card, My BIO on a “Meet the Teacher” template, Classroom Rules to go over at home, Teaming between Home and School letter, and Questions to ask your Child beyond “How was your day?”.

First Year Tips

If this is your first year of teaching, congratulations! I sure hope you love this rewarding profession. Here are some ways to navigate your first year in the classroom:

  • Smile. Smiling automatically puts you in a more positive place. People will feel welcome around you, and will want to be around someone who’s happy – both students and coworkers.
  • Be professional. Wear appropriate clothes for work – modest, practical, and looking the part you are there for – role model, teacher, caretaker. Stay away from flip flops, leggings (as pants), distressed denim, sheer clothing, spaghetti straps, low necklines, active wear (unless you’re a PE teacher), and graphic tees.
  • Set up your classroom. Consider having these “areas” in your room: Curriculum storage; accessible materials like white boards, readers, manipulatives, and school supplies; reading nook; horseshoe table for reading groups; teacher corner; rug/circle time spot; work space/tables; word wall/sight word wall; cubby/backpack space.
  • Go over what you’ll be teaching this year. Look at curriculum, curriculum maps, grade level standards, units of study, calendars, and the district/school website to prepare for the year. Ask questions, seek help if you need it, and start planning with your team.
  • Build relationships. I cannot stress this enough! We know it’s important to get to know our grade-level team, but going beyond that will help so much. Get to know the secretaries, your building manager and maintenance crew, the cafeteria workers, the after school cleaners, and IT team. As the year goes on, you’ll find their help is invaluable and will be happy you took the time to get to know them.
  • Know your class. Greet them at the door every day. Be present during unpacking each morning and offer help to minimize frustration or arguments. When students get done, make sure they know what is expected or next – stay quiet and listen to announcements, or start on “morning work,” or get ready for “problem of the day,” etc.
  • Be flexible. This is probably the most important idea I can offer. Even if you’re the most structured OCD person on the planet, remember there will be days you’ll need to be flexible. Whether a lesson isn’t working and you need to change it up, a schedule is rearranged last minute, or something gets canceled, be ready to rock and roll with it!

Classroom Ideas

I thought I would share a few of the things I’m loving and using in my classroom, including decorations, dollar aisle finds, teaching / learning materials, and center ideas.

  • STEM / STEAM Bins: This year I will be using these for the first time and I am SO excited! I am using these bins off TPT, and watched the Facebook video by Brooke Browns to learn “how to.” A few ideas other teachers gave me are: Set one bin on each table for early finishers to collaborate over. Have a station where the bins are available to early finishers individually. Use the bins as one of your centers. Plan a short STEM/STEAM period if you have time in your schedule.
  • Daily Schedule: I post a daily schedule for the students so they know what their day will look like. I love this one off TPT – I laminated the cards and have used this for 6 years now!
  • Primary Marker boards: I had a parent donate a class set of these marker boards a few years ago, and they’re still one of the most used materials in my classroom.
  • Reusable Dry-erase Clear Pockets: Center time can easily get switched up simply by replacing what goes in the dry-erase pockets. I LOVE these for rhyming, word families, fill in the blank pages, or response to activity.
  • See my Target dollar finds and some classroom/open house videos on my “Teaching” highlights on Instagram!

Classroom Tour

Here’s my window display this year:

Back to School | Teacher Tips | Open House | Classroom Ideas | Teacherfashionista

Pete the Cat  |  Pigeon  |  Corduroy  |  Chameleon  |  Pout Pout Fish  Splat the Cat

Every year I do a class pet that my weekly star student gets to take home for a few days. Now I can display all of the favorite “pet” book characters in our window to start the year. This year’s “class pet” will be Biscuit. Can’t wait to see the photos and journaling my students do with him this year!

Back to School | Teacher Tips | Open House | Classroom Ideas | Teacherfashionista

Here is my horseshoe table where I do reading groups. I have our word wall behind us (that I’ll fill as we go), and use the blue bins to keep my guided reading and small group lessons organized by groups/levels.

Back to School | Teacher Tips | Open House | Classroom Ideas | Teacherfashionista

This is where we do rug/circle time. I love this spot and got lucky with this school rug that I inherited. We have a cute home-made stool a parent made for us, and it helps my students reach the smart board.

Back to School | Teacher Tips | Open House | Classroom Ideas | Teacherfashionista

This is my reading “nook.” I got this book case online 3 years ago and have LOVED it, and it’s held up so well! It rolls around on wheels which is nice when I want to switch up where it goes.

Back to School | Teacher Tips | Open House | Classroom Ideas | Teacherfashionista

This is how I set up my tables. I am using caddies (from the Target dollar spot) for the first time this year and am excited about the spots for crayon boxes, scissors, and glue sticks. The pencil basket is from the Dollar Tree, and my name tags are from Lakeshore.

Back to School | Teacher Tips | Open House | Classroom Ideas | Teacherfashionista

I use these file boxes to plan out my week. As I do my planning and pull materials, I fill the boxes for each day of the week and try to keep them filled a week ahead of time. As I empty a day, I refill it for the next week. (Some of these bins are from Lakeshore, and I have a few from Target this year, too, for enrichment work and future lesson plans/materials!)

I also have sections in my room for centers and center storage (which I’ll try to do a post on later this year), a kitchen/dollhouse/free choice play area, a listening center, student computers, cubby space, a teacher corner, and general storage areas.

I hope this post was helpful! If you think of other things I could share or give ideas on related to teaching, please let me know in the comments section, or message me on Instagram!

Thanks for stopping by to read! XO

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