Five things to do before starting school

1. Revamp your workshop/independent work time.
No doubt by the end of the previous school year your IWT was starting to fall apart. It always does even if only slightly. Plan to start IWT off right this year. I usually start in the second week of school by picking a time that will remain sacred all year for IWT and then sticking to that time, generally increasing it in terms of length and complexity. Listen to the podcast for more info.

2. Check your library.
Make sure you are incorporating great literature. In the lower grades, have selections available for independent reading which are related to unit themes or are just great books. In the upper grades, make sure you’re reading the full length versions of some of the stories in the basal (Island of the Blue Dolphins, Diary of Anne Frank, Mrs. Frisby, etc.) and some additional literature to foster a love of reading in students. Suggested books are listed for every unit on the web site or do a search for Newberry or Caldecott award winners.

3. Get organized.
For each unit you should have a file, a box, a folder, with unit resources. I hope to have provided you with some of those resources and pictures but you also need to incorporate realia…the hermit crab shell you found on your trip to Hawaii for an animal unit, foreign currency for a money unit, etc…

4. Make a plan to stimulate higher level thinking this year.
Prepare your handing-off discussion question in advance for the first unit, using the manual as a guide. Some teachers complain about the program not promoting higher level thinking and then don’t ask questions of students or teach them to ask their own questions which will require higher level thinking. You can’t just give yourself over to the manual and abdicate your responsibility as the leader of that classroom.

5. Take care of yourself.
Take these last few days to read a good book, watch a good movie, take a long walk.

Good luck to you and have a good year.

Post your own ideas for what you’re going to do in your classroom this year below or in your own blog linking back to this one…

3 Responses to “Five things to do before starting school”

  1. Ivan Rivera Says:

    hello, my name is Ivan and am a pre-k and kindergarten english teacher in a school in mexico, we use the open court reading program and I´m just starting getting acquainted with it, and I would like to have contact with sometone who has used the program for a little bit more than one year. Thanks, hope to hear back soon.

  2. Mathew Says:

    Thanks for visiting, Ivan. I recommend that you join our discussion board where there are about 2,000 Open Court teachers who may be of help to you…

  3. kathy Says:

    hi ivan

    i taught open court for 40 years in california. i’ve retired and now am back teaching open court on a volunteer basts in jessieville, arkansas to the lowest or most behind first graders. i love open court and feel i can teach anyone to read. if i can help you, please don’t hesitate to let me know. my e-mail address is

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