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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Quick Tips for Back to School

All teachers are looking for ways to save time, especially when they head back-to-school! I just started my 8th year of teaching (already?!) and there are a few things I do every year that make the following weeks so much smoother.

back to school

One of the first things I do is to set up email shortcuts. We use Outlook for our school email, and I like to have a shortcut for emailing my 4th grade team, another for sending out plans, one for a committee, and one for emailing parents (if it’s not part of the gradebook or other software).

By choosing “Add Quick Step” at the top of the Outlook menu, you can set yourself up to send any of those emails in one click! Saves me SO much time.

Another favorite way to use this is to create automatic filters when emails are coming in. For example, I use Sign Up Genius for my parent-teacher conferences- so I set up a QuickStep to auto-forward those emails to a Conferences folder. I still have them, they're organized, and they don't clutter my inbox.


Look for ways to share the workload. Now is a great time to recruit volunteers and students to pitch in around the classroom! My students help me brainstorm jobs, and fill out job applications convincing me to “hire” them.

When our team is lucky enough to have a parent volunteer, we keep a bin of papers to copy or laminate. I love these free forms from Firstie Kidoodles to let the volunteer know how they can help! Getting a system set up early really pays off in a few weeks! I try to get my first few needed papers copied early, and I also use student or parent volunteers to help put up student work for open house.


One of the most important things to do is picking out a few really fabulous back-to-school books.  In my classroom, powerful books like One and The Junkyard Wonders really help to build our classroom community, while Your Fantastic Elastic Brain and Seymour Simon’s The Brain teach us about learning with a growth mindset, so we can set the stage for “making our brains stronger” every day! (Note: Book links are affiliate links.)


Help your students develop a homework plan. We read the book Frog Medicine and make a plan together. This little book has students answer questions like "How will you know if you have homework?" or "When will you do your homework?"

Taking the time to discuss this now really helps once our weekly homework starts- so students don't let it all pile up until Thursday night! We also share our homework plans with the students' parents at Curriculum Night.


Especially when I was self-contained and my schedule was a little different every day, a traditional plan book of squares just didn’t make sense for me. Instead, I was inspired by a colleague of mine who made a custom lesson plan template! Including weekly routines on the template sped up my planning and helped me remember important things.

You can pick up your own copy of my FREE customizable lesson plan page in my Luckeyfrog TpT store, and read more about personalizing lesson plans here.

plan page

Of course, once students arrive, it’s so important to get to know your students. One of my favorite ways is to read the book Exclamation Mark because I love the message- those things that make us feel “weird” are sometimes the things that let us do something completely unique and amazing! My students write about how they’re unique and create an exclamation mark all about themselves. Such a great back to school bulletin board!

You can check out this Exclamation Mark Mini-Unit in my TpT store.


All in all, remember that the first few days are always crazy- but anything you can do now that will save you time later is WORTH it!

As the year goes on, you can sneak a peek at what’s happening in my 4th grade science classroom by following me here on my blog, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


Another way I save time is by finding great resources created and tested by other teachers in their own classrooms. Could you use $25 in TeachersPayTeachers resources? Enter to win below- but hurry! The giveaway ends Sunday 8/21 at 11:59 EST.

Even better? TOMORROW, Monday 8/22/16, is a one-day sale where you can save 28% in my TpT store! Don't miss it :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more quick back to school tips (and more chances to win!), check out the blogs below. Happy back-to-school season!


  1. We just got a new outlook system this year. I need to look into this tip. Thanks!

  2. I love, love, love the idea of discussing homework using Frog Medicine. I am doing this tomorrow!! Thank you! :)


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