Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Start of the Year Nuts and Bolts: Checklist for the First Day

By on August 19, 2011

Introduction Handout with expectations and grading procedures. Check.

Publishing Release Form. Check.

PG-13 Video/Clip Release Form to cover me for the whole school year. Check.

Set up YouTube Channel even though I have no idea how to use it yet. Check.

Purchased a Blackboard Collaborate account for a 100-person room. Check.

Tried out said room and can’t seem to figure out how to load a darn PowerPoint, but figured out how to remove a student from the room if he or she chats inappropriately. Check.

Sent off Book Spines templates to get copied for kids to use to show how much they are reading. Check.

Set up Weebly website. Check.

Designed first three weeks of lessons for all three different classes. Check.

Began email discussion with ELA department about digital portfolios. Check.

Set up bulletin board for opening days’ activity of agreeing on a classroom constitution and norms for online and offline behavior. Check.

Purchased 150 feathers to make quills and ink to sign said classroom constitution. Check.

Dusted off classroom library and set up realia props to lure kids in. Check.

Shoved around desks and chairs into position. Check.

Labeled chair names at each table group: Skulduggery, Prince Hal, Katniss, Mr. Darcy. Check.

Labeled table groups by colleges and universities: Harvard, USC, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, Connecticut College (mine), Lewis & Clark, Vassar. (Note to self: Allow students to do research and choose their own group’s college name during persuasive writing in second quarter). Check.

Broke into file cabinet that somehow got locked over the summer. Check.

Rigged a bookshelf that collapsed while being moved for carpet cleaning last month. Check.

Found all wires to set up Internet, LCD, and laptop at the front of the room and began yearly search for the rubber strip that allows me to walk over said cordage without breaking my neck. Check.

Air-blasted all tech equipment and set up the three classroom computers (rescued from being eRecycled a few years back). Check.

Made a list of supplies I need to purchase from Office Max, Staples, Office Depot, or whomever has the best deal this weekend: pencils, pens, post-its, highlighters, etc… Check.

Cleaned out cubbies to receive textbooks when they get delivered from the library on the first day. Check.

Killed 3 black widows. Check.

Sprayed for ants. Check.

Put up posters. Check.

Decided I’d rather have the students design the room as we go so I took down posters. Check.

Washed down the tops of cabinets and shelves that hadn’t gotten cleaned this summer. Check.

Designed opening day PowerPoint of results from my 8th grade surveymonkey activity at the end of last year. Check.

Spoke to NASA and JPL representatives to solidify their involvement in the culminating activity of a project-based learning unit that begins the third day of school. Check.

Set up phone. Check.

Cleaned out fridge. Check.

Looked inside my own desk, saw it was still a disaster, decided to just keep the drawers closed for another full year. Check.

There’s a lot that happens at the beginning of a school year before school even begins. Things are constantly happening behind the scenes, off camera, and, incidentally, out of contract. But it’s all necessary to do the job and start the year off right.

We’ve got PD days and department meetings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. During this time, we also meet our new principal for our first faculty meeting of the school year as well. We’ll get our final class assignments, schedule, and class lists to learn for sure what we’re teaching and to whom. Despite the official returns to work date, many of us have actually been working for a while, setting up our learning environment and setting up for the arrival of our clientele.

Good luck to everyone this year. May your own checklist help the start of the year begin smoothly, and may the rest of your year follow suit.

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  1. Jamie S
    August 21, 2011

    Leave a Reply

    In a few posts, you mention that you begin the year with students creating Reading Genre Posters. I’ve searched your blog and the internet high and low and can’t find any more information. Whenyou have a moment…that was a bit of a joke…woukd you be able to provide some info on this activity? It sound like something my eighth graders would love.

    I love reading the glimpses you give the world about your classroom and life. Here’s to a new school year adventure!!!

    • Jamie S
      August 21, 2011

      Leave a Reply

      I would fully love to edit my sloppy typing above, but my ipad is not cooperating!!!!

    • Heather Wolpert-Gawron
      August 21, 2011

      Leave a Reply

      Hey Jaime!
      Glad to help. Basically I break the kids into groups. As a whole class, we brainstorm reading genres. Each group selects a genre or a genre is assigned to a side of a dice and I roll to assign groups to a genre. Each group selects a background color of butcher paper and I give them a kid-length roll of black as well. I set a timer for brainstorming. 2 minutes to select jobs: model (the kid posing on the paper), outliners, cutters of image, letter cutters, whatever. Kids can double-duty.

      Before I have the kids do it, I of course model an example by sketching on the board. Inevitably, the kids come up with something far more interesting than I ever could!

      Definitely set a time limit on the project (2-3 class periods? with an opening mini-lesson per session on the characteristics of the different genres) I hang up only great ones and have since collected some great images for the classroom. Did you by any chance see the post I have on the site that has a couple of pictures from this activity? Picture iPod ads.

      Good luck and send my pictures! Let me know how it turns out!


  2. Jamie S
    August 21, 2011

    Leave a Reply

    Thanks for the info!!!

    Have you ever explored shelfari.com or even goodreads for your students? I know you love techstuff. They both are great sites geared toward student managment of independent reading. Plus, everyone in class can link up to see who is reading what, has read what, or even wants to read what. Book cover pages included!!! (at least on shelfari.com)

    Have fun tomorrow!

  3. Amy H.
    August 22, 2011

    Leave a Reply

    I think your checklist is really valuable and helps touch on many important \to-dos\, but how can you make 3 weeks of lesson plans when you don’t even know your students? Don’t you need to pre-assess to see what they know, understand and are able to do related to the standards, check their learning preferences and interests and then develop differentiated lessons accordingly? I can see a few days of lessons that help you accomplish those goals, but I do worry about developing a battle plan that’s 3 weeks long without knowing your learners if you are moving into actual content-related instruction.

  4. Lori
    August 22, 2011

    Leave a Reply

    My list includes moving all the furniture back in place! Everything…teacher desk, bookshelves full of books, file cabinets full of files, 6 ft. tall(full)metal storage cabinet…it’s all in the middle of the room. The janitors put it all there so they can do the floors. There’s 4 of them with a furniture dolly or two. There’s one of me… an out of shape, middle aged, woman who needs to focus on lesson plans, class lists, assessments on new students, scheduling conferences, etc. But, I come to school early to wrestle the furniture back in place. My plan for next year…photos of where the furniture belongs. I’ll put them on the empty bulletin board and ask that the furniture be returned to its proper location. Yeah right!

    • Rosemary Weiss
      August 23, 2011

      Leave a Reply

      our janitors do that. It is possible! My former janitor even drew a picture for himself!!
      Good luck

  5. Jen C
    August 22, 2011

    Leave a Reply

    Great post! What’s the survey monkey activity from last year ? Thanks and have a great year!

    • Carrie
      August 26, 2011

      Leave a Reply

      Yes, would you please talk about survey monkey activity? I am interested in that as well.

  6. Heather Wolpert-Gawron
    August 22, 2011

    Leave a Reply

    Absolutely right! If you were to look at my plans, you would see that pre-assessing, a norms building activity, small group collaborative introduction activity, and student-created rules and procedures, benchmark testing, etc…is actually about 3 weeks worth of plans. Frontloading takes time, but it’s worth it!

    Thanks for commenting!

  7. Dana Gentry
    August 26, 2011

    Leave a Reply

    Can you tell me where to get the book spines templates you mentioned? I am not familiar with what that is…

    Thank you,

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