It’s back-to-school time! If you want the new school year to be a great one, it’s important to start it off right. This year, whether you’re a new or veteran teacher, stop and take a moment to get into the back-to-school frame of mind and make sure you’re prepared to start the new school year. Armed with these 10 tips, the new school year is bound to be a success.
1. This Year is Not Last Year
Whether your last year of teaching was great or terrible, head into this school year knowing that it will be different. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a great year, it just means you need to look at the year with fresh eyes. You will have different students with different interests and unique personalities. What worked for your students last year may not work this year and ideas that flopped last year may be this year’s biggest successes.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “This year will be a breeze. I’ll just use the same lesson plans, same activities and same materials I used last year.” Instead, keep what you did last year as a backup, but go into the school year prepared to start over focused on a new group of students and their individual needs.
2. Get to Know Your Students
It takes time to get to know your students. Plan to spend a lot of time getting to know your students during the first week of school. This involves more than just learning their names. Find out their learning styles, what their interests are, and how they feel about the subject you teach. Create a few short tests or tasks to figure out where students are at so you know where to start the curriculum and to make sure no students are left behind if you’d planned to start much further ahead in the curriculum.
3. Make Students Feel Welcome
As you get to know your students, you should also make them feel welcome in your classroom. If you receive class rosters in advance, welcome students before they even step through your door by sending them a short letter or calling them and letting them know how excited you are to have them in your class. For a smaller class, post students’ names around the room or give students a special gift on the first day of school. Greet every student with a smile and a handshake as they walk in the door and let them know that it is going to be a great year.
4. Communicate with Parents
The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to get parents on your side. You may not have many discipline problems during the first week of school, but you can still make phone calls or send e-mails to parents. During the first two weeks of school, make it a point to contact every student’s parent at least once to share something positive. This will let parents know that you truly care about their children and that not every phone call from the school will be for something bad. Once students get wind that you contact parents for positives, they may be more motivated to behave in the hopes that they get another good phone call home.
5. Set the Tone
The first few days of school are usually a little more relaxed, but they are also important days for teachers to use to set the tone for the rest of the school year. In the midst of ice-breakers and administrative tasks, make sure students are clear about the rules and expectations for your classroom and start following those rules from day one. While you may not want to give homework on the first day, students should also start learning on day one. Plan an activity to introduce students to what you will be teaching and help them understand that learning is the main focus of your classroom.
6. Be Organized
If you are not organized at the beginning of the school year, it will be hard to get organized once the school year begins. Set up any folders, bins and other systems of organization you plan to use during the school year. Figure out how you will take attendance, collect and hand back student work, store extra copies of handouts and organize forms and other professional papers.
You can also get organized digitally. Create folders on your computer for each class period or to hold lesson plans and resources for specific units. Set up accounts for students on any websites you plan to use and make sure you remember your passwords for any accounts you plan to access regularly. Clean up your website and make sure your gradebook is ready to go. If you already have student and parent e-mail addresses, you can also make sure they are easily accessible in the computer.
7. Stock Up on Supplies
Even though students have school supply lists, chances are many of them will forget their supplies. Back-to-school time is the perfect time to stock up on pencils, paper, notebooks, markers and other materials you may need throughout the school year. Many large discount stores offer deep discounts on these items during the weeks leading up to the start of school. While it may seem crazy to buy 100 notebooks or 1000 pencils at once, in the middle of the school year you will love that you do not have to pay full-price to restock these items in your classroom.
8. Get Ahead While You Have Time
The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to get ahead. While you cannot plan detailed lessons before you get to know your students, you can determine the general sequence of what you plan to teach and do some lesson planning in advance. You can also start to fill out the paperwork for a grant you know you’ll want to apply for, and make initial contacts for any field trips you know you are going to take. As you are going through your to-do list or organizing your classroom, if you start to set something aside to do later, stop and ask yourself if there is any part of it you can do now in order to make it easier to finish up later.
9. Ease into It
Don’t throw yourself into the new school year. Instead, ease into it. If you can, gradually start setting your alarm earlier and earlier so it’s not so much of a shock on the first day of school. Instead of rushing to get everything done two or three days before school starts, take a few hours each day a week or two before school starts and get a little bit of prepping done here and there. That large essay or massive homework assignment you want to give students can wait too. Instead of arming yourself with loads of papers to grade the first week of school, give a smaller assignment that you can check in class or have students take online. If students had a summer assignment to complete, check off those who brought it in and then give them a week to polish it, giving you some time to adjust to the new school year before being swamped with projects to grade.
10. Think Positive
Maybe you have to teach seven out of eight periods a day. Maybe you were saddled with multiple preps. Maybe your class roster contains some of the most notorious discipline problems in the school. Maybe your school performed poorly last year and the pressure is on to do well this year. Whatever issues you may face this school year, you must go into the year thinking positive.
Yes, you may have a full load of classes, but you get to influence that many more students. Prepping for multiple classes is hard, but at least you don’t have to teach the same thing all day. Those discipline problems are going to test your patience, but you’re guaranteed not to have a dull moment and maybe you’ll actually turn them around. And those test scores? With your amazing teaching skills, of course they’re going to go up.
You can be organized, have a cabinet full of supplies, and know exactly what to do during the first week of school, but if you have a negative attitude, none of it will matter. Whether this is your first year of teaching or your last year before you get to enjoy retirement, think positive. This school year will be successful and, if it’s not, it’ll be over in around 180 days. Then you’ll get to start again.
You can always ease students into the learning process with Back-to-School worksheets from HelpTeaching.
Emojis have taken the Internet by storm. While their overuse may make you cringe, they’re a big part of the language your students speak. We say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” By embracing emojis and making them a part of your teaching, you can start to speak your students’ language and make your classroom a little more fun.
Reading and Writing with Emojis
Rebus stories are texts where key words and phrases are replaced with images. Create your own rebus stories using emojis to represent some of the words or have students create their own rebus stories using emojis. As students read through the stories they can build their vocabulary and comprehension skills as they decode what each emoji means. Here’s a cute rebus story for you to use as an example.
Instead of giving students a traditional writing prompt, give them a prompt written entirely in emojis. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of putting emojis together, websites such as the Random Emoji Generator will provide random prompts for you. We’ve also created a short emoji prompts worksheet you can use as a fun activity with students.
Can you imagine what Shakespeare would look like written in emojis? Test students’ understanding of texts in creative ways by having them translate key scenes or quotes from novels into emoji-filled sentences. The idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. In fact, a group of writers already translated Moby Dick into emojis, but we bet your students can do it better.
You can also turn the tables and translate some of your students’ messages and comments using emojis into plain English. This will help your students see how they can use different forms of words and other styles of communication to convey a similar message. It also serves as a great lesson on the difference between formal and informal language.
When students read a text, you encourage them to annotate the text by highlighting and writing notes in the margins. When students read texts on the computer or tablet, why not have them annotate with emojis? These little faces and other images can help students quickly note their feelings on different sections of the text and give them a simple way to locate important points later on.
A popular game shows players four pictures and has them guess the word all of the pictures have in common. Use emojis to create a similar game using your students’ vocabulary words. For example, a snowman, snowflake, Christmas tree, and set of skis may be used for the word “winter” or a trophy, sunglasses smiley face, star, and exclamation point may lead students to the word “stellar”.
The Common Core State Standards discuss how language changes over time. Talk with students about how emojis are part of a changing language. Hold a formal discussion where students share the pros and cons of emoji use and the effect they have on society or use this worksheet to get students to think about the changes on their own. You can also talk about changes to emojis and what emojis need to be added or taken away.
Math and Science with Emojis
Pictographs are graphs that use pictures to represent information. Instead of using traditional clip art or hand-drawn pictures, students can use emojis to create their own pictographs to represent data. Each emoji will represent a different unit.
Spice up traditional word problems by incorporating emojis. You can use emojis to replace key words and phrases, similar to how you would use them in a rebus story. Emojis can also represent numbers in problems. For example, if heart+heart=10, then how much does one heart represent?
Illustrating a Process
Few scientific videos are more entertaining than Bill Nye’s explanation of evolution using emojis. Like Bill Nye, your students can create their own videos or diagrams using emojis to illustrate different parts of a scientific processes. Or you can just incorporate Bill Nye’s series of emoji videos into your teaching.
GE Emoji Science
Another emoji resource to use in your teaching is GE Emoji Science. This Periodic Table ditches the chemical symbols in favor of emojis. Clicking on an emoji will open up an engaging explanation of a scientific concept for kids.
Emoji puzzles help build critical thinking and logic skills in students. To build an emoji puzzle, create a set of emojis related to a particular concept. This Can You Solve These Emoji Puzzles? video uses movie names and other pop culture references, but you can do the same for scientific principles, theories, or famous people and events in history.
Social and Emotional Learning with Emojis
Recognizing and Expressing Emotions
Emojis help kids learn how to recognize and express emotions. Have kids use their faces to recreate emojis or imagine what sound each emoji would make. Teachers who work with kids who struggle emotionally may also find that allowing them to express themselves through emotions rather than orally may help break down communication barriers.
Some kids have trouble communicating with regular language, but they may not have as much trouble communicating with a secret code. Encourage kids to use emojis to write out messages, and then attempt to decode the messages they create.
Emojis can be a simple way to track student behavior. Keep a chart of student names and regularly add emojis to log student behaviors throughout the day. Make these logs accessible to students so they can see how they’re doing. Encourage them to get all smiley faces or decrease the number of angry faces as they go throughout the day.
And when you need to get our your own emotions, don’t forget to check out We Are Teachers Emojis of Teaching to help you express yourself.
What are some of your favorite ways to use emojis in the classroom?
School is out. The weather is nice. And your kids are… bored out of their minds. While blog posts about letting kids experiencing boredom this summer have gone viral, we know that sometimes they need a little help figuring out what to do. From activities designed to help kids learn and give back to their communities to those focused on making kids a little money and helping them have fun, we’ve gathered the ultimate list of over 100 summer activities for kids. Most of these activities can be done at home, so you don’t have to spend the summer running your kids from place to place.
To help prevent kids from experiencing the summer slide, engage them in some educational activities. Last year we shared 15 summer learning activities for all ages. This year, we have a few suggestions to add to that list.
1. Create and distribute a family or community newsletter
2. Keep a summer journal
3. Write and direct a play or puppet show.
4. Write letters to family and friends
5. Join a summer reading program, such as one found at your local library or Barnes and Noble.
6. Challenge yourself to finish all of the books on a list, such as the ASLC Summer Reading List.
7. Spend rainy days looking at the resources found on the Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science.
8. Conduct a science experiment
9. Find out what plants are in your yard using a field guide or an app like Project Noah.
10. Take a free summer math course, such as the one from Ten Marks or the Summer Math Challenge
11. Grab a measuring tape or ruler and start measuring random plants outside
12. Figure out the perimeter of the local pool
13. Count your steps as you walk and try to get in a certain number of steps each day
14. Plan a trip by getting out a map and tracking where you want to go. You don’t have to go, just pretend
15. Go geocaching
16. Go letterboxing
17. Take a course or learn a new skill, using some of the resources on the Ultimate Guide to Free Online Self-Learning for Kids
18. Visit a museum. Many museums offer free days throughout the summer. Bank of America customers and military families can also get free admission to museums during the summer
Socially Responsible Activities
Summer is also a great time to teach kids to give back to the community through volunteering, taking care of the environment, and other socially responsible activities. Try out a few of these suggestions this summer.
19. Read stories to or play games with residents of a local nursing home
20. Spend time visiting the animals at a local animal shelter
21. Serve a meal as a family at a local food bank
22. Use a service like VolunteerMatch.org to find organizations in your area that need volunteers.
23. Visit with elderly neighbors
24. Offer to do chores for neighbors free of charge
25. Raise money for a local charity
26. Hold a neighborhood food drive
27. Donate items to a thrift store or charity
28. Do random acts of kindness
29. Take snacks to the local police or fire station
30. Offer to watch a friend’s dog or cat while they go on vacation
Helping the Environment
31. Clean up trash in your neighborhood or at a local park
32. Start recycling cans and bottles at home and encourage neighbors to do the same
33. Plant a garden
34. Make bird feeders
35. Go the farmer’s market. Check out Local Harvest to find one near you
36. Pick your own fruits or vegetables. Find a farm using Pick Your Own
37. Practice conserving water by taking shorter showers and watering plants in the evening
38. Start a compost pile
39. Raise butterflies
While most kids aren’t old enough to get an official summer job, they can use the summer to make some extra spending money. Encourage them to earn money to save up for a toy or other item they really want instead of just going out and buying it for them. Some suggestions for making money include:
40. Mow lawns
41. Sell lemonade
42. Make and sell crafts like bracelets
43. Ask parent or neighbors to do chores for pay
44. Bake and sell baked goods
45. Have a garage sale or toy swap
46. Walk dogs
47. Weed gardens and water plants
48. Play an instrument in a public place
49. Sell clothes and toys to a local consignment shop
Of course, at the end of the day, summer is a chance for kids to have fun. There are lots of ways to have fun at home and in your local community.
Cooking and Food
50. Make a pitcher of sun tea
51. Make ice cream in a bag
52. Make sculptures using fruits and vegetables
53. Mix whipped cream and food coloring to make edible paint
54. Place different flavored fruit juices into paper cups, add a wooden stick, and freeze to make popsicles
Arts and Crafts
55. Paint or draw a picture.
56. Practice your photography skills by taking close-up photos of animals and plants
57. Host an art show featuring artwork created by kids
58. Make a picture or sculpture using items found in nature
59. Draw with sidewalk chalk
60. Create a sidewalk chalk mural
61. Paint on the house or sidewalk with water
62. Tie-dye a t-shirt
63. Put watered down paint into a squirt gun and spray it on paper outside
64. Collect and paint rocks
65. Gather leaves and create leaf rubbings
66. Dry out flowers by pressing them between two heavy books
67. Mix bubbles with food color to make popped bubble art
68. Paint your feet and walk on white paper outside
69. Listen to music. Many towns offer free outdoor musical performances during the summer
70. Go to a fair or festival. Fairs and Festivals highlights many of these events around the United States
71. Attend a baseball game. Many minor league games offer inexpensive tickets
72. Host a neighborhood carnival with simple games such as ring toss and bean bag toss
73. Go bowling. Kids Bowl Free partners with local bowling alleys to let kids bowl free all summer
74. Take a picnic to a local park
75. See a movie. Many movie theaters, such as Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse and Regal’s Summer Movie Express play free or $1 kid movies during the summer. Cities and towns also often sponsor summer movies under the stars.
Rainy Day Activities
76. Play a board game
77. Make up a new card game
78. Design a new board game
79. Have a movie marathon
80. Visit a fun website, like those found on our Top Free 100 Education Sites
81. Jump in puddles
82. Make a rain gauge and measure how much rain you get
83. Redecorate your room
84. Set up a tent indoors and have an indoor camp out
85. Have a water balloon fight
86. Hold a wet sponge toss where you try to land wet sponges on a target on the ground
87. Run through the sprinkler
88. Buy a kiddie pool and soak your feet
89. Play “Does it sink or float?” in a kiddie pool
90. Fill a tub with water and use measuring cups and other water toys to play with it
91. Fill bottles with different amounts of water and blow across them to make music
92. Fill buckets, squirt guns, and other containers with water and have a water fight
93. Make a fort using cardboard boxes, sheets, or tree branches
94. Have a picnic in your backyard
95. Camp in your backyard
96. Make a mini-golf course using plastic tubs with holes cut in them
97. Lay on a blanket and watch the clouds
98. Blow bubbles using different items, such as slotted spoons and funnels as bubble wands
99. Grab glow sticks and play a game of glow tag in the dark
100. Make a stunt track for your toy cars in a pile of rocks or dirt
Fun with Friends
101. Have a neighborhood scavenger hunt and see who can find all the items first
102. Ride bikes around the neighborhood
103. Have a dance party
104. Challenge friends to competitions, such as who can stand on one foot for the longest or who can jump the highest
105. Make up a special summer song or chant
106. Start a game of kickball or capture the flag
Whether it’s Make Something Monday, Wander Somewhere Wednesday, or Fabulous and Fun Friday, there’s plenty of fun to be had all summer long. What do you love to do with your kids in the summer? Share your ideas in the comments to help our list grow!
Teens can accomplish more with their phones in an hour than most people can accomplish in a week. However, while technology moves us forward, basic life skills are slowly fading into the background. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, along with other social media tools, make it so easy for teens to interact with people from the comfort of their homes that in-person job interviews or public speaking tasks seem daunting. And with banking apps to help manage our finances, it’s easy to see why many young people don’t know how to write a check or balance a checkbook. Still, basic life skills, which include managing a bank account, writing a resume, or understanding how a paycheck works, are as important today as they were 20 years ago.
Help Teaching offers worksheets on the following topics to help teenagers understand, learn, and remember the basic life skills they need before entering adulthood:
#1. Driving and Safety
Knowing driving laws plays a big role when it comes to driving safely. Being a defensive driver – doing everything to avoid an accident – is also essential when on the roads. Once teens get a driver’s license, it is imperative that they stay within legal speed limits, obey the rules of the road, and keep their seat belts on at all times. The Driving and Safety worksheet is a great reminder that driving correctly isn’t only important for the driver and his passengers, but for all of the motorists on the road.
#2. Managing bank accounts
It’s not difficult to open a bank account, but it isn’t always easy to maintain one. Our Understanding Checks and Bank Accounts worksheet covers what teens need to know in order to manage their money in high school and beyond. It touches on understanding the difference between a checking and savings account, discovering how interest works, learning how to withdraw and deposit money, and keeping a checkbook up to date. Teens may not realize that balancing a checkbook isn’t always easy — it takes discipline and time.
#3. Filling Out a Check
While teenagers have seen parents or other adults write checks, many do not know how to write one out on their own. It’s important for teenagers with checking accounts to know how the process works. The Understanding Checks and Bank Accounts worksheet refers to important details, such as filling out a check, where to find the routing, account, and check numbers, and where to sign a check.
#4. Writing Resumes and Cover Letters
A resume is a summary of work experience, skills, and education, and can be utilized even if an applicant doesn’t have much of a work history. Help Teaching’s Resumes and Cover Letters worksheet addresses what type of content is needed to make a good impression on a potential employer. Items such as professional quality, easy to read content, and error-free grammar and spelling are a must. It also touches on the need for cover letters to be tailored to each job application, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
#5. Searching for a job
Finding the right job takes time, knowledge of labor laws, and some detective work. This process can be frustrating for anyone, but our worksheet The Job Search provides tips and guidance on how to proceed. Items such as networking, when to apply, what jobs to apply for, and age limits are covered.
#6. Job Applications
Job applications are generally used for all places of employment. Deciding what information to have on hand, or knowing what should be filled out on the application can be daunting to someone just starting the job search. The Filling Out a Job Application worksheet touches on what is important when applying for a job. Employers need easy to remember items such as name, address, and phone numbers, but can also require information not known offhand, like a social security number, emergency contacts, or former supervisors’ information. The worksheet also discusses what to do if there is no work history to include on an application, such as preparing a list of skills that can go a long way to impress a hiring manager.
#7. Job Interviews
Once the application has been received, a personal interview is the next step. Help Teaching’s Life Skills worksheet The Job Interview recognizes how intimidating it can be to meet with a potential employer. It can be difficult think quickly when nervous, or to answer questions on the spot, so it is wise to be prepared before going in the interview room. First impressions are key and things like being on time, what kind of clothing is worn, and overall demeanor can be the defining factors in getting the job or being passed over. Knowing what skills are outstanding, what skills need improved, and having questions ready for the hiring manager will make a positive impression.
#8. Understanding your paychecks and taxes
Once a job is obtained, our website’s worksheet Paychecks and Taxes can help guide employees through the ins and outs of deductions and taxes. For teenagers and young adults, often the number on that eagerly awaited first paycheck is not nearly as high as had hoped. This worksheet discusses 401 K, the difference between net and gross pay, overtime, and benefits on a paycheck. It also introduces topics such as tax forms, dependents, Social Security, and Medicare.
#9. Credit Card Management
When that paycheck begins to come regularly, a credit card may be desired. Without out the right knowledge, it’s easy to fall into credit card debt. Anyone under the age of 21 must have a co-signer to obtain a credit card, unless they can prove they have a five-figure income. Our worksheet Understanding Credit Cards discusses how credit cards work and how to manage them. It refers to credit scores, credit history, and payments, along with APR and interest fees.
The amount of knowledge teens and young adults have with basic life skills is often taken for granted. As a result, many go out into the real world not knowing how to write a check, use a credit card wisely, or even remember basic driving skills. Teachers can use the Life Skills worksheets in any high school or higher grade level. Some worksheets such as Understanding Checks Bank Accounts can be used for early high school, and even middle school. Find more life skills worksheets at HelpTeaching.com.
Teaching kids about money goes beyond giving kids an allowance or having them fill a piggy bank with spare change. It involves creating budgets, setting savings goals, comparing prices, and even coming up with ways to earn more money. That may sound like a lot of work, but thankfully you don’t have to do it on your own. We’ve chosen a few of the top tools that you can start using today to ensure your kids develop the healthy money habits they need to become financially stable adults. Remember: it’s never too early to start teaching kids about money.
Financial Peace Jr.
What: book, chart, activities
Age Range: preschool – elementary
When people want to get out of debt, one of the first people they often turn to is Dave Ramsey. However, Dave Ramsey does more than help people get out of debt. He also offers resources to help parents teach kids about money. One of those resources is Financial Peace Jr. and the Junior’s Adventure story series. In the Financial Peace Jr. kit, kids receive giving, saving, and spending envelopes, a fun chore chart, and a book full of activities to complete. In addition, parents get access to video lessons and a digital copy of the book Smart Money, Smart Kids to help them learn more about the importance of teaching kids healthy money habits.
Sesame Street Finance for Kids
What: videos, worksheets
Age Range: preschool – early elementary
Sesame Street is a favorite of toddlers and preschoolers around the globe, so it makes sense that it would also be a good platform for a lesson about healthy money habits. Finance for Kids features a short video where Elmo tries to earn money, discovers the difference between needs and wants, and sets earnings goals. Parents can download a guide with activities and questions to use along with the video. The site also features coloring pages and other worksheets that can be downloaded and printed out. For more help, parents can check out the Elmo’s Adventures in Spending, Saving, and Sharing podcast.
Current Debit Card
What: debit card with virtual wallets and parental controls
Age Range: upper elementary – college
With Current, parents can teach kids and teens about responsible spending with an actual debit card and an online platform that helps kids learn more about money. Kids are given three wallets: spending, savings, and giving. Kids earn money through chores and/or a general allowance, both of which can be set up in the app, and can also have money transferred into their accounts by their parents and others. The money can then be moved between the different wallets. Current gives kids freedom to spend their money, but also provides parents with tools and opportunities to see how kids are spending their money and talk to them about responsible spending habits. All transactions are itemized and parents have the ability to control what kids are allowed to spend their money on.
What: chores and allowance management
Age Range: upper elementary – high school
BusyKid helps simplify the process of monitoring chores and giving kids an allowance by combining them into an online platform. With this program, parents can set up chores and see suggested rates for common chores. They can also approve payments for those chores. Kids can then use the money they earn to purchase gift cards, contribute to popular charities (such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Autism Speaks), and even purchase stocks. The idea is to teach kids how to save, share, and invest their money responsibly.
What: videos, games, activities
Age Range: middle school – high school
When kids visit Biz Kids, they can learn all about healthy money habits through engaging videos, fun games, and other activities. Through BizKids, kids and teens can learn about a lot more than just spending, saving and giving. They can also learn about concepts such as starting a business and how to spot common advertising tactics and scams. These lessons come largely through the video clips from the BizKids show. The website also features lesson plans for teachers and a blog that highlights kids who are doing awesome things with their money.
Whatever tools you use to teach your kids about money, remember to practice what you preach. Take time to show your kids your household budget, tell them about some of your savings goals, and regularly talk to them about any spending or giving choices you make. The more kids see you making smart money choices, the more likely they are to make those same choices themselves.