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5 Back-to-School Tools to Add to Your Teacher Toolkit

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The start of the new school year for children is exciting and a bit overwhelming. Parents take their kids to the store -- with school supply lists in hand -- to buy all the newest school supply items. For the young, the excitement of a new box of crayons and a lunch box is a big hit. The older child looks for folders with emojis or the latest cartoon craze on TV. Children get new clothes, shoes and backpacks. It’s a fun time!

What’s New in the Teacher’s Backpack?

But let’s take a look from the teacher’s perspective near the start of the new school year. We think about our new planners, look at emails from our school administrators and text our grade teammates. However, are we filling up our own backpacks with new ideas and new concepts for a new year? Are educators shopping for new ideas academically, socially and emotionally for the students? Are we re-evaluating lesson plans and concepts that we have used for years? Have we thought about how to weave in the newest trend of STEM cross cutting concepts, differentiated instruction, executive functioning skills to our first day, week and month of school? 

Tried and True or Something New -- How about Both!

As an educator myself, the “tried and true” lessons are always a source of comfort. The lessons work for me and there is some comfort in knowing what I know. However, let’s “buy” something new. Let’s fill our bookbags with new ideas and fit them into our existing lessons. 

Five Top Places to “Buy” New Ideas

1. Pinterest, is a great source for teachers of all grades. Once you sign up for the app, type in any keyword in the search bar and find many different ideas to look at. I love looking at different ideas for bulletin boards if I type “Beginning of the year bulletin board or organizing your classroom.” Teachers love to share their ideas and you can share your ideas too. You can take a favorite book that you have always loved to read and find new art projects, graphic organizers or other creative ideas that someone else brought to the table. There are many different boards for reading and math. If your lessons are created by theme,  type in the theme and many different ideas will pop up. It is a wealth of information. Personally, I like the “how to organize your classroom” boards. The boards have such innovative and creative solutions to most teachers’ problems of organization.

2. PBS LearningMedia has many free teaching resources to inspire kids including lesson plans, videos, art projects and so much more. With standards-aligned resources, the site is curated to let you search by grade, subject, specific standards, and special collections. 

3. STEM learning has incredible websites, but my favorite for preschoolers is PEEP and the Big Wide World. PEEP is comprised of videos, games, and parent support articles. Each activity teaches children a new science and math concept in a creative way. The STEM Laboratory is another great resource, you can find links to hands-on projects for young students that teaches coding, graphing and technology. The activities are very easy to follow and the projects typically suggest materials to use that you have around your classroom. 

4. The most recent buzzword now is Executive Functioning. EF is a set of mental skills that help you get things done. Executive function helps you manage time, pay attention and gain the ability to handle multi-step directions. How many of us have seen students struggle with this and we assume they are being lazy or not listening? Executive functioning is a struggle and there are many strategies to help create a classroom environment that supports and meets the student where they are with these EF skills. EFPractice has the latest resources, strategies, and tools for all age groups.

5. STEM and the six cross-cutting concepts (patterns, cause and effect, systems and models, energy and matter, structure and function and stability and change). You can take any of these concepts and merge them with everyday curriculum in all subject matters. Have you thought to teach “cause and effect” with Pre-K or Kindergarten to reinforce self-help skills? I have had a blast teaching the students simple ideas which link to cause and effect. An example:  if you don’t put the tops back on the markers (cause) what is the effect? The markers will dry out and we won’t have any markers left. Such a simple idea and yet we are bringing in terminology that the students will hear for years to come.

So, teachers – start each new year the way your students do, by “shopping” for new, exciting and the latest and greatest ideas. Let’s refresh our minds with new concepts that you can use throughout the whole school year.  It’s not “out with the old and in with the new,” but better yet, “keep the best of the old and surprise yourself and your students with the new.” You may find “shopping” for new ideas as fun as your students do.

Have a great school year!

Eve Margol

Eve Margol Educator

Eve Margol is an educator with 18 years’ experience in the classroom and individualized instruction. Eve is a curriculum and instructional specialist for The Auburn School. Before Auburn, Eve was the program Director and General Studies teacher at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Eve was an integral part of the team that developed the curriculum for the new Gurim “junior kindergarten” program. Eve also spent 8 years as lead teacher at the highly regarded Maddux School in Rockville, Maryland. With a Masters Degree in Early

Childhood Education and a concentration in special education, training and trainer for the Phono-Graphix®reading technique, K-Reading Kickstart Orton Gillingham,

Handwriting without Tears® and certification in coaching non-medicated strategies for children with ADHD. Eve’s guiding philosophy is to create a specialized learning environment that offers differentiated instruction designed to help students learn. In addition, Eve was the founder of Yoginos Unbound, a yoga program for children, including those with special needs as well as the Owner of LinkEducation Resources which offers consultation services, training and educational therapies to meet the individual needs of students and the teams that support them. 

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