Classroom Management,  Organization

9 Back to School Tips for a Successful Start to the Year

9 Back to School Tips

Back to school is just around the corner! Whether you start back in just a few weeks or still have a whole month ahead of you, you’ve likely already started getting ready for the first days of school. I know that back to school can be such an overwhelming time, and it can be hard to keep track of all the things you need to do. To help you out, I’ve compiled some of my favorite back to school tips to help you start the year off on a good note!

Tips for Back to School

The beginning of the year is really important to set the stage for the rest of the year. However, not everything needs to be done right away! These back to school tips will help ensure that you focus on the RIGHT things at the beginning of the year, so that you have more time later in the year to focus on the other things.

1. Don’t underestimate meet the teacher night!

Back to School Tips - Never Underestimate Meet the Teacher Night!

I will never not stress the importance of your meet the teacher event. It can be easy to blow this off until the last minute, and then throw together a few meet the teacher handouts – but this time is SO important for building parent and student relationships.

In most cases, meet the teacher is the first impression that both your students and your parents will receive of you. It is important to come across as professional, organized, and friendly. It is a great opportunity to clearly communicate important information with parents and to start building relationships with the families!

Do not put off preparing for meet the teacher until the last minute. This is an incredibly important time and you want to make sure you are fully prepared and make a good impression!

For more tips on how to host a successful meet the teacher event, check out this blog post.

2. Make a few new student folders.

If you’re likely to get a new student or two in the middle of the school year, then you’ll definitely want to have a couple of new student folders on hand! While you’re preparing your meet the teacher handouts – including any important paperwork for you to keep on file, your contact information, etc. – make a few extra copies and keep them in folders. This way, when a new students walks in your door on a random Wednesday in October, you can simply send the folder home with them. No scrambling around at the last minute trying to figure out what you need to give them!

Included in my new student folders were:

  • A letter from me introducing myself
  • Important paperwork provided by my school for all students to fill out and teachers to keep on file
  • A handout with my class’s Remind information
  • My business card which included all my contact information
Back to school tips - create a new student folder

Alternatively, you can also make a new student bag that includes paperwork, but also other items such as school supplies or books that students may need as well.

3. Create a file system for important student information.

What will you do with all those forms once you get them back from students? If you don’t already have a system in place, create one!

You will need to consider what information is important for you to hold on to. Decide whether a binder is enough to store this information, or if you need something larger like a filing cabinet.

Personally, I used a large binder and dividers to store this information. I assigned each of my students a number, and used those numbers for my tabs. (Using numbers meant I didn’t have to change out the tabs every year like I would if I used names. I kept a reference sheet at the front of my binder to help me while I learned their numbers.)

Back to school tips - organize your important papers

I used dividers with pockets for each student. Behind each divider, I hole-punched important information such as contact information, signed notes, etc. In the pockets, I kept documentation of discipline referrals (my school had a strict policy for this and we were required to hold onto our paper copies). This system made it easy for me to quickly pull any important information on a student.

4. Spend the first week focused on procedures.

I know, I know. You hear this from everyone all the time, every year. But it’s so true and important!

Don’t worry about the academics. Don’t worry about teaching content. Spend that first week largely focused on teaching your procedures. I know in some cases you may be required to start teaching content by a certain date, but do your best to work that content in while still focusing on procedures.

If you have never read it, I HIGHLY recommend reading the book The First Six Weeks of School by Responsive Classroom. This book completely changed the way I approached the beginning of the school year and set me up so well. I followed the sample lesson plans provided and I can’t even begin to describe the huge difference it made.

Spend your time before school starts creating detailed lesson plans focused on your classroom procedures. If you are required to start teaching content, work that in. For example, you can practice your procedures for independent work by completing a math worksheet. You can practice your procedures for carpet time while teaching a lesson. Just keep in mind that for the first several weeks, it will take a little more time to get through things as your students learn the procedures. So, don’t plan TOO much for your lessons until they have it down.

5. Create your procedures.

As you’re planning how to communicate your procedures to your students, it’s possible you will realize you don’t have a procedure for something (or need to change it). Spend some time reflecting on this and come up with a good system! Then work it into your lesson plans.

If you’re new to teaching or you need a bit of a classroom management makeover, I have a few blog posts that may be helpful to you. This post details the most effective classroom management system I’ve ever used. This one shares some different systems you might wish to implement in your class.

6. Have a system for pencils.

This goes along with creating your procedures, but it’s such a struggle that I feel like it deserved it’s own bullet point! If you teach elementary school – especially in the lower grades – you need a pencil management system! Nothing is worse than students NEVER having a pencil, ALWAYS needing it sharpened, and finding hundreds of broken pencils on your classroom floor every day. Spend some time thinking about how you will handle the pencil problem in your class.

It isn’t perfect, but this is the system that I used for 2 years with a lot of success:

Every student had their own pencil bag with their name on it. I used sandwich sized bags with the zipper on top (NOT press to seal). Each bag contained 5 sharp pencils, a BLACK dry erase marker (no fighting over colors!), and a pink eraser.

Students were responsible for the items in their bag. They could add their own items (birthday pencils, etc.), but the items I put in there had to stay in there. Every Friday, they turned their bag into me. I would double check that all the supplies were in the bag, and if so, they received a small surprise in their bag on Monday! (i.e. a small piece of candy, a sticker, etc.)

I implemented a pencil lost and found for extra pencils that were found in the room. Students could replace missing pencils from their bag with those. I also provided backup pencils in the caddies at their tables in case a student was without their bag one day. The table pencils were color-coded by table so we could easily identify where they came from. I only included as many pencils per table as there were students so there was never any question how many pencils should be in that caddy. I checked daily that all caddy supplies were present, and had a table points system to encourage students to be responsible for their supplies. It all worked, for the most part, really well – and I never ran out of pencils in my classroom!

7. Hold parent teacher conferences.

One of the back to school tips I will emphasize the most is to host beginning of the year conferences. I know the last thing you want to fill up your time with in the first few weeks of school is conferences, but I truly believe in meeting with parents early BEFORE any issues come up. This helps you get to know each other and establish a good rapport, so that if issues do come up later, they’re easier to talk about.

I call these “Get to Know You Conferences” because they are focused on getting to know the families you are working with. It’s a good time to communicate any important information and see if the parents have any questions. It also creates a safe space for families to address any concerns you might not be aware of – such as unique family situations, for example – but are important for you to know.

Back to school tips - set up parent conferences

You can read more about these conferences here. I highly recommend initiating these conferences at your meet the teacher night since you will have many parents present. For more tips on hosting conferences, check out this post.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a hard time sleeping in the days before school starts. It’s partially nerves, and partially all the things on mind that need to be done – but it all adds up to a major lack of sleep.

Do your best to not let work take over your mind and get some sleep. We all know how exhausting the first week of school is, so get your sleep while you still can. I know it’s easier said than done – but I hope you will be able to truly turn your mind off and relax.

9. Back to School Organization Tips

Back to school organization tips

The last of these back to school tips I’d like to share is to get organized. Decorating and prettifying your classroom can wait – but organizing is important! You definitely want to make sure you don’t lose all the important paperwork you’ll be receiving, and that you have a place for the school supplies as it comes in.

Last year, I did a six-part series on classroom organization for back to school. If you need help in any area of organization, I highly recommend referring to these posts!

  1. Organization Basics
  2. Organization on a Budget
  3. Managing Paper Clutter
  4. Classroom Storage Ideas
  5. Time Management for Teachers
  6. More Organization Tips

Share your best back to school tips in the comments!

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9 Tips for Back to School

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