Summer break can be a tricky thing to balance as a teacher. By the time the final days of school roll around, we’re usually pretty wiped out. I don’t know about you, but summer vacation was always crucial for me to recharge and be the best teacher I could be. This meant lots of time reading, relaxing by the pool, and taking family trips. Somewhere in there though, I knew I needed to get a few things done for my classroom over the summer to set myself up for success. If you’re not sure how to balance the two, you’ll love what we’re chatting about today! Check out these 6 tiny tasks to do over the summer to prepare for back to school season!
The Importance of Rest on Summer Vacation
First off, let’s chat about rest. I know firsthand how easy it is to blow the entire summer working on all the school things. As teachers, we take pride in our classrooms, and we want to make sure they’re up to our standards. I get it, I really do. But I also know that doing this doesn’t allow for much rest. We need time away from the classroom and thinking about school to be our best selves in the fall. As hard as it may be, taking time to rest is so important!
Finding Time for Intentional Rest
Being intentional about scheduling vacations is one form of rest and relaxation… But depending on how old your kids are, that can feel like a lot of work, too! So if you’re in the midst of summer break, can I make a suggestion? Grab a piece of paper and think about what your days look like in the summer. Jot out a rough schedule based on what you’ve got going on.
Once you’ve got that figured out, try blocking out a few hours of time that are just for you each week. This will look different for everyone depending on your personal obligations and the ages of your kids. You might want to squeeze in some early morning walks before everyone is up and at ’em for the day. Or maybe you plan to read for 30 minutes during a daily nap time. Or maybe sitting by the pool a few afternoons a week is just what the doctor ordered.
The key here is to think about things that help YOU recharge and find small pockets of time to make them actually happen. I don’t know about you but if I wasn’t intentional about this, I tended to fill my days with all.the.tasks. When summer came to an end, I always wound up feeling like I missed it. Don’t fall victim to this. Find some time to rest and take it!
Finding a Balance to Prepare for Back to School
Now that you know you’re going to be intentional with rest, let’s talk about how to prepare for back to school. As teachers, we all know that getting things ready in the summer is key to feeling successful in the fall. This doesn’t mean you need to spend every day working on your classroom though. Instead, let’s talk about tiny tasks!
Tiny tasks are small actions that move the needle forward. You can use tiny tasks to tackle any big project you have, but I especially like to apply this concept towards getting ready for back to school time. Get started by thinking about things you can do in 10, 30, or 60-minute increments. These might seem small, but added up over summer break will make a huge impact!
When it comes to choosing tiny tasks, I like to focus on things that can be completed on autopilot. For example, think about things you can do while watching T.V., sitting on the floor of the playroom, or lounging by the pool. They don’t take too much brainpower and can be easily started or stopped without a lot of fuss. If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in luck! Here are my top 6 tiny tasks to help you prepare for back to school without wasting your summer away!
1. Prepare Back to School Classroom Decor
This one is always at the top of my list because it makes such a huge difference when it comes time to set up the classroom.
Over the summer, I liked to print and laminate my classroom decor set that I’d be using for the following year. This can quickly be done with a personal laminator and then cut out while you’re binge-watching Netflix, hanging out at the park with your kids, or relaxing by the pool.
I loved getting classroom decor prepared for back to school because when it came time to set up my room, the process went much more quickly. I tried to think through all the elements of my classroom decor and made sure to prep each piece.
For example, I would do the calendar pieces, student name plates, welcome sign, word wall, and other educational posters to start. Extras might include things like drawer labels, supply labels, center signs, and rule charts.
If you’re not sure what you need to prep for your own classroom decor, make sure to check out this post that discusses my top 4 elements to include!
2. School Supply Mania
Is there anything more fun than shopping for classroom supplies when everything is marked down to crazy low prices? I think not! If you’re a teacher in the primary classroom, you’ll likely agree. There’s just something that’s so satisfying about shopping for all the things we need in our classroom at a super-discounted rate. Some of the things I stocked up on as a first-grade teacher included:
- folders (take-home, small groups, portfolios, etc.)
- notebook paper
- composition notebooks
- glue sticks
- glue bottles
- pencil boxes
- binders for my lessons
- supply caddies
Planning some shopping over the summer to grab these essentials is a great tiny task. It’s also a lot of fun too! During the summer, I always took advantage of these amazing sales and stocked up what I could when prices were at their lowest point.
If your school sends home supply lists to students, keep in mind what you’ll be asking parents to provide as well. I usually asked them to bring in communal supplies such as disinfectant wipes, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, art materials, and extra writing tools. That way, I can stock up on the basics, and they bring in the nice-to-haves.
3. Prepare Back to School Take Home Folders
Once you’ve grabbed those folders at an amazing price, why not get them prepped and ready for the school year?
This activity is a good one to do towards the end of the summer when your school is open and available to be used for prep work. I liked to make copies of all the necessary contents in my take-home folders, and then put them together at home so they’re ready to go.
You can also do this with small group folders, parent information folders, and your own teacher lesson plan binders too. Think about anything that requires copies and assembly and try to knock it out in a few minutes while you’re enjoying summer break.
I know I was always so happy this task was DONE prior to the first day of school. Those first couple of weeks are busy and the last thing I want to do during that time is fuss with folders and copies!
4. Plan Back to School Night
Next up, I’ve found planning back to school night is a fun activity to work on over the summer. This is one of those events that you either love or hate, but no matter which camp you fall in – preparing for back to school night makes ALL the difference. Over the summer, I liked to think about how it went the year prior. Some great questions to consider are:
- What went well?
- What could have been improved?
- How can I find ways to engage parents better?
- How can I help them get the information they need about our school and curriculum?
- Do I want to include any special activities like icebreakers or games?
Taking some time to think about this and jotting down thoughts in a notebook will be so helpful when this day rolls around. You’ll likely only want to make a rough overview of this during the summer and add the final planning details once school starts. My school changed up the expectations for back-to-school night regularly, so I always waited to fully cement my plan. Regardless, using the summertime to think about how you’d like it to look is a great way to feel prepared and ready when it rolls around.
5. Lesson Planning Inspiration
There’s something about summer that allows for some space in my brain when it comes to planning. During the school year, it can feel hectic at times.
That chaos can really hinder creativity as a teacher! It seemed like I always got my BEST ideas for the classroom over breaks when I had a bit more mental capacity to think and be inspired.
I liked to take advantage of this by spending some time over the summer thinking about things I’d like to do in the classroom. While much of our curriculum was the same year after year, there are always things that I added to supplement it.
Summer is a great time to get inspired in your lesson planning and think about new ways to teach familiar concepts. I always spent some time on Pinterest, browsing through pins and saving ideas that looked fun to incorporate as we prepare for back to school. This simple action will leave you feeling excited for the new school year. It can easily be done while hanging out with kiddos in the backyard, too!
6. Prepare Back to School Activities
If you’re anything like me, when you’re going through Pinterest and your lesson book, it won’t take you long to have much of your year mapped out. There are certain things that I did year after year, without fail. These activities are great to prep and make copies of over the summer months. In my classroom, some of the things on this list included:
- morning work
- no-prep printables
- center activities
- small group lessons
- fact fluency systems
- grammar journals
- fast-finisher activities
This will be different for everyone, but it’s a great idea to think about your daily routine and then plan accordingly. For example, in my room, we always started with morning work. Then, we moved to group instruction before breaking up into small groups and centers. The afternoon had a similar flow to it, with a couple more blocks of whole-group instruction. Think about your schedule and what you’ll likely be doing each day. If you already know exactly which activities that means for the first month of school, get those copies made and activities prepped! You’ll thank yourself when the business of back to school is in full swing!
More Fun Activities to Add to Your Lessons
If you’re looking for simple streamlined, low-prep resources to add to your lessons this year, I’ve gotcha covered! Be sure to check out the Fun Times in First Shop to help prepare for back to school! As a special treat, I’ve got a FREE set of morning work pages that are perfect for the first week of school. Grab the freebie and get those copies made to make back to school season a little easier on yourself. This is a great opportunity to test out a morning work routine in your room if you aren’t already using one.
And don’t forget teacher-friend, the name of the game is balance. Don’t spend your whole summer preparing for back to school. Instead, look for small pockets of time that fit into your life, to make things easier on yourself when back to school season rolls around! Happy prepping!
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