13 Back to School Must Haves

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Teachers, it's back to school time for some of us. For others, there are a few more weeks. Wahoo! I'm excited to be moving to a new school as a third grade teacher. I have a brand new classroom that is super empty. I'm trying to learn my way around the school. It's a huge campus, and it's easy to get lost. I have so much to learn about my new school and third grade! 

Fortunately, this will be my fifth year teaching. I have learned what not to do as well as what to do at the beginning of the year (I always learn something not to do). I have 13 non-negotiable beginning of year ideas/tips that I will continue to do this year. You want to know what they are? Here goes...



These classroom essentials are non-negotiable in my room!



1.    WIGS/PIGS

WIGS is an acronym for Wildly Important Goals while PIGS is an acronym for Personal Important Goals. Let me explain my own personal story so you can understand why this is a non-negotiable for me. When I was about 10 years old, I didn’t have much. I was struggling in school and I didn’t have much of a home-life (at the time). I did however have a natural talent for running track. I had made it to the Junior Olympics that year, and I knew that I was destined to be in the Summer Olympics in 2004 or 2008. After the 96 Olympics were over and out of my town, I lost my vision and ultimately abandoned my dream. This is because I didn’t “see” my goal everyday. Four years is a long time to stay focused on a goal. My point is, if we don’t have these WIGS in our sight everyday to remind us of what we are trying to accomplish, we are going to lose sight of the big picture. This is definitely going in my classroom this year to keep my students and myself on track throughout the year. Personal goals are just as important because, if a student is anything like me, then they may not succeed in making academic goals all year long. All students must feel valued in EVERY aspect of their life. 

2.   Classroom & Professional Mission Statement: Again, this is to hold each one of us accountable. It is our purpose for why we exist in our roles within the classroom on a daily basis. The best accountability partners will be my kids this year because they are sure to never forget. 

3.    Leadership Roles: No, these are not jobs, no one is getting paid for anything. These are roles. I let my students create the jobs last year and we had great success with everyone participating.

4.     7 Habits of Highly Effective Kids: These are from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I teach at a Leadership Academy and I have got to post these to encourage each student to create these habits.

5.    Leadership Notebooks: These are non-negotiable for me this year because I witnessed an enormous amount of growth in reading last year with my students. We had great success with students holding themselves and each other accountable. They designed their own action plans to accomplish academic goals they set based on their data. The students knew exactly what they were working on and followed through. It was an incredible tool for us!

6.    Classroom Library: Well this is a no brainer! We have to HAVE a classroom library to allow our students the opportunity to read, research, and quench their curiosity as many times as possible throughout the day. Our library is open to all students, and this year, I think I may suggest a classroom librarian. Anyways, I am going to try to place the bookshelves on each side of the promethean so that the books are front and center of the classroom. I also created some classroom library labels to add to my baskets this year. I’m hoping that I can keep it a lot more organized this year.

7.   Technology Center: Having a specific area in the classroom where drinks and snack are not allowed will be perfect for us. I have never had a drink/food spill on any of our equipment, but just in case I’d like to keep it that way. Plus, by having all of the equipment in one area, this will help our IT locate the technology with less class interruption.

8.    Small Group Center: Well this is also a no brainer. I’ve added a supply caddy to my small group center this year to keep supplies in one central location. I am going to print out pictures of the supplies and use box tape to tape them onto the caddy so that my students know exactly how to put the materials back.

9.     Meeting Area: This year, I am trying my best to clear out more floor space to add more squishy mats so that we can all sit comfortably on the floor at our meeting space. For some reason it seems like my meeting area shrinks every year. I’m not sure if it’s just the extra furniture, more classroom pupils, or a combination of the both, but I did throw out some furniture that I’ve not been using this year. 

10. Vision Board:This is one of my most favorite parts in my classroom. Every year, I add more and more to my board. This is a vision board for my students, and a hall of fame for myself. Every time we do something special in my classroom, I love taking pictures. I print these pictures out to hang on my board. We have field trip pictures, Science Olympiad pictures, pictures of some fun things we did in class (like hop out of the window and catch a bullfrog), etc. It has everything! My kids get to know me immediately, and they have a vision of themselves doing something amazing because, let me tell you, these kids want to get on the board. They eventually will.

11. Word/Writing Center: This year I have created a space where I have raised my round table to a standing table. On the writing table, there is a caddy with writing supplies and pictures exactly like my small group center. There are also color-coded parts of speech words on index cards. Next to it, I have placed a pocket chart. Students use these words to practice their words using the Word Work binder, and then they use the words to build sentences on the pocket chart. All around that area are parts of speech and writing anchor charts.

12.                  Student Work Display: Student work will be displayed low to the ground where all students can easily see other student work up close and personal. This will help all of the students to see examples from other students and hold them accountable for excellent work.

13. Student Self Portraits: I bought these little frames and am going to let the students decorate them to their own liking with stickers, paint, markers, etc. I’m going to take their picture and hang it up on the wall so that they have their beautiful smiling self up on the wall each and every day.



These are the non-negotiables in my classroom this year and I have to have them because I know that they will make the environment of my classroom much better.