Best Back to School Tips Blog Hop and Giveaway!

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Can you smell the dry erase markers yet?  Are you hearing phantom bells ringing?  Are you practicing getting up early again?  Yep, it’s that time of year again when teachers are preparing to go back to school!  If you need some back to school tips to get you re-energized and ready, then read on. We’re a group of teachers, TpT-ers and bloggers who’ve created this blog hop and giveaway to get you ready!

Read more by clicking below…

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to enter the giveaway.  Each of the participating blogs is offering a $25 gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers!  Continue throughout the hop by visiting each of our blogs and get another chance to win!  At the bottom of the post, you will see the link to the next blog.  Just click on it and continue the hop and continue to get more chances to win.

My Best Back to School Tips – #1

I am fortunate at my school that our grade level fundraisers bring in enough funds to purchase EACH third grader at my school a pencil pouch.  We used to get pencil cases, but the quality of those went down so we switched to these pencil pouches .  They are the best!  They are rugged, have a metal zipper and big enough to fit what the student needs to be prepared for learning.  They also come in many colors so if you’re ordering as a grade level, it’s easy to assign one class a particular color.

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

Why do we do this?  Because in the past when we’ve asked students to bring their own pencil boxes and school supplies, it was a disaster.  Many kids didn’t bring anything.  Those that did brought pencil boxes that looked like suit cases and they were stuffed with everything BUT pencils.  Another reason we do this is because the students at my school do have to move to another classroom during the day for RtI or ELD instruction, it’s easy for them to take this pencil pouch with them and be ready to learn.

Of course, you have to be careful during the year that students don’t start stuffing it with “personal items” or other supplies not needed.  So I usually have weekly or biweekly pencil pouch inspections to clean out unneeded items.  It also teaches the students responsibility and learning how to stay organized and prepared to learn.  I have these ready and waiting for my new students on the first day of school.  We go through it and I explain why we do it and the expectations I have for it.  Overall, it’s one of the most successful ideas we’ve implemented at my grade level in the past 5 years!

My Best Back to School Tips –  #2

Do you want to make sure that parents are informed about what’s going on in your class and the school?  Do you send countless flyers home in Communication Folders yet parents still seem uninformed?  Here’s a better way to to keep them informed:  use the remind app.  It’s available via the website ( and as an app for iOS and Android.

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Essentially, you send text messages (that can include images) to parents.  You can use any device to send the messages.  The parents will NOT see your phone number, but they do have to sign up to receive your text messages.  So at Back to School Night, I have everyone take out their mobile device and sign up. It’s as simple as texting a message to a number.  That’s it!  To sign up, I project the number and message and it’s immediate.  Just a tip, have them sign up with their CHILD’S name.  Sometimes, students and parents do not have the same last name and it becomes a game of guessing which parent is which!

It’s important because not only can you send out whole class texts, but you can text just one parent as well.  It works sort of like a chat.  You can also set office hours to that you don’t get texts back from the parents after certain hours.

Overall, it is very effective because almost everyone nowadays has a mobile device.  Those with mobile devices are more apt to check their texts than go through a Parent Communication Folder sent home once a week.  These are immediate texts that are sent and received.  What do I use it for:

  • announce field trips
  • announce upcoming tests
  • announce picture day
  • announce special events at the school
  • announce special homework projects
  • remind parents when school projects are due
  • remind individual parents of their appointment for a parent-teacher conference
  • answer questions by parents quickly and efficiently
  • send images of their child doing something special in my classroom
  • and the possibilities are endless!

You can also write your announcements and schedule them in advance!  I usually send out my announcements at a set time, usually around 4pm.  That way the parents know it’s a regularly schedule announcement.  

My Best Back to School Tips – #3

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

This year I plan on gently forcing parents to supply beginning of the year info that I request about their child by using Google Forms.  Since we are a 1:1 classroom, I really want the parents to see that many of the forms that we send home can be filled out online making it easier to aggregate and organize the information we collect.  They can even fill out these forms on their mobile device!  I think parents are really unaware of how much paper a school uses trying to get information from them when the same information can be done digitally and save reams of paper!  I will be starting out slowly with one or two forms at the beginning of the year.  Once they are used to it, then it will just be the thing I do:  send a Google Form to collect needed information.

My Best Back to School Tips – #4

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

This is something completely new that I’m going to try this year on the FIRST day of school.   On each student’s desk there will be a “bill.”  A bill showing how much it costs to buy all the materials, supplies and equipment they will use during the year.  Why am I doing this?  Last year I had a huge problem with students being responsible with their materials whether it was their pencil pouch or the Chrome Book.  So this year, I’m hoping this bill will show them that nothing is really free.  Someone has to come up with those funds to buy all this for the student.  I’m going to try to get my principal’s permission to also display the bill at Back to School Night so the parents can see it too! This way they see why we fundraise and where all that bond money went to (Chrome Books and wireless infrastructure!) 

My Best Back to School Tips – #5

It’s not the easiest thing to do to print from a Chrome Book.  But sometimes students do need a picture of themselves to use for a school project.  I found this app, TurboCollage, in the iOS store (also available for Android and desktop computers).  There is a Lite version that is free, and a Pro version for $3.99 in the iOS App Store.

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

I like it because I can take a portrait photo of each of my students with my iPad.  Then I use this app to make a collage of all their portraits and print it out at home in color.    Then I just cut out each student’s picture to give to them.  The collages can be made in many, many ways.  I like to use the grid collage so that the photo of each of the students comes out the same size.  It’s also great for making collages of pictures you’ve taken of activities in your classroom.  The collages can be used to make slide shows for Open House or emailed to parents.  If you also use ClassDojo, you can make a collage in TurboCollage, then send it through ClassDojo to all the parents.  Parents LOVE photos!

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    (UPDATE 8-2-16:  Congratulations to my winner Nikki Robertson!)

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    As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!