Part of our Cash in on Learning Series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.
I know, you just started your summer break from school, and here I go telling you that it’s time to start thinking about school again. Well, it’s never too early to start gathering ideas for the upcoming school year. After about a month of “no school,” I found myself, unconsciously, noting things that I could use in my classroom. Now that you’re not overwhelmed with the day-to-day routine of school, it’s a great time to look for authentic materials and experiences that can be incorporated into your classroom next school year.
Here are four ideas for using the summer to prepare for the next school year:
Field Trip Options
While you’re cruising around your local community, heading out on a family vacation, or exploring possible dream vacations, take the time to consider new field trips for your students. We sometimes get so caught up in the routine of “we always do this field trip” that we overlook new options that arise in our local community. Take time to explore local destinations that may apply to your curriculum. Look for new and interesting destinations that your team didn’t consider, such as going to a local bakery or manufacturing facility to see how all parts of a system work. Think about going to a local advertising agency to learn about career possibilities. Ask a local restaurant to allow your students to craft a healthy menu, and then develop a fundraising dine-out night. Think outside the box while you’re enjoying your time away from school.
Bonus! Download Getting Your Class Into the World: Tips for Field Trips, a free printable from Everything a New Elementary School Teacher REALLY Needs to Know (But Didn’t Learn in College). This four-page guide includes everything you need to know to plan and carry out a successful field trip.
Document Your Learning
One of the best ways to help your new students overcome fears of the new school year and new challenges ahead is to show them how you, their teacher, are a learner as well. During the summer, try to learn something new. From waterskiing to skateboarding, from calligraphy to gardening, summer is a great time to develop new knowledge. Document your learning through a blog, video, picture collage, or diary. Highlight the ups and downs of your learning experience. Post this information on your classroom/teacher webpage, or display it in your classroom to show students your journey in learning.
Kids need to see adults in the learning process and how they react to successes and failures. This could be the key one of your students needs to become an intellectual risk-taker in your class.
Summer is a great time to go on an artifact hunt for resources or materials for your classroom. As an elementary teacher, I was always in need of buckets, tubs, boxes, and other general stuff to supply students for project work. In my middle school classroom, I was always in need of artifacts for my social studies lessons, from maps to cultural materials that represented the countries my students were studying. Now is the time to keep your eyes open for things you can use in your classroom to enhance your curriculum, offer concrete examples, or support the learning of your students. You can do this by going to local garage and yard sales, attending cultural events around your community, and looking for unique materials for your classroom while traveling.
Set Your Agenda
Now that you’ve had time to breathe, relax, and clear your head from the rush of the final days of school, it’s time to take stock of the previous school year. Reflect on what went well, what you would change, and what you want a “do-over” on. You should consider both your curriculum and instructional practices as well as your classroom management and design.
Think about all the units you taught throughout the school year, and ask yourself:
- Are they mapped correctly from month to month?
- Did I focus on essential questions and skill development?
- What do I think my students really got out of the experiences I offered?
Think about your classroom management and room design and ask yourself:
- Did all kids feel comfortable and confident in my classroom?
- What student behaviors were most challenging, and why?
- How did student movement around my room encourage collaboration and effective communication?
As you answer these questions for yourself, write down what you may want to do differently, the same, or better during the next school year. Set an agenda to increase student engagement, communication, and collaboration in your classroom for next year. Lay out things that:
- You’re definitely willing to change
- You may be willing to change
- Are not something you want to tackle in the year to come
Setting your plan now can get you into the right mindset for a productive and purposeful learning year ahead.
Most importantly, use your summer time to recharge and reenergize. Teaching is hard work, mentally, physically, and emotionally. You must be at your best, so don’t feel guilty if you take time this summer to relax, do something silly, or just catch up on connecting with family and friends. Keep in mind that teaching is a vocation that requires a vacation!
Enjoy your summer!
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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