With over 60,000 instagram followers, Heidi Overbye inspires teachers around the world with her creative flair, spectacular learning spaces and inspiring lessons on a daily basis. Here she shares five ways to help prepare teachers for the school year ahead.
It’s the start of the school term and teachers all around Australia are in full preparation mode getting organised for the year ahead. At this time of year, you can find me laminating like crazy, making never-ending ‘to-do’ lists, scrolling through Pinterest and spending lots of money on resources. Here are five ways to prepare for the new school year:
Cut, Laminate, Repeat!
The summer holidays are a great time to recharge those teacher batteries as well as prepare for the new year ahead. I like to get as much organised as possible over the holidays so I can feel prepared. If not, I try to do it within the first few weeks of term 1. Usually, I start with an overarching theme or colour scheme, which helps to guide my preparation. Then, it makes it easier to find and prepare resources such as labels, daily routines, posters, banners, planning documents etc. I always laminate all of my resources so that they last for years to come, which is a massive time-saver!
Set up your classroom
Now this is when the FUN starts! One of my favourite parts of teaching is having a ‘blank canvas’ at the beginning of the year. When setting up your classroom, there are many elements to consider: What do you want your classroom to look like? How will students’ navigate this space? Where/how will you display students’ artworks? What furnishings will you add? I think it’s really important to add personal touches to your classroom to showcase your individual style and make the space feel homely. Items such as rugs, mirrors, plants and cushions are fantastic for enhancing spaces.
Think about what spaces you want to have in your classroom. What spaces are necessary? What spaces are age-appropriate for your class? What spaces can you create that align with curriculum areas? What skills are important to develop? These are some of the questions to consider when planning spaces. It is also important to consider having spaces where the whole group can come together, work in smaller groups or have some quiet time. In my kindergarten classroom, the spaces continually evolve but the core spaces always remain; group time area, reading/quiet area, home corner, construction zone and a multi-purpose, table area.
It’s important to plan ahead and particularly think about what you want the first few weeks to look like. What will your daily routine look like? What class rules and expectations do you need to set? How will you get to know your students and their interests and capabilities? What activities will you implement?
One of my favourite activities to do in the first weeks is self-portraits. Self-portraits are a great way for students to explore a sense of self and are a good way for teachers to see capabilities such as pencil grip and drawing abilities. Self-portraits are a great way to get some artwork hanging up early in the year and encourage a sense of belonging. Last year, my kindergarten students did their self-portraits with black marker on plain white paper. Then, we added these to a colourful background, which we made using crepe paper and water. It was a beautiful contrast.
YOU’VE GOT THIS! Your classroom doesn’t have to be ‘Pinterest perfect’ for your students to learn! You don’t have to have everything ready for the first day – everything will and can be done over time. Focus on the important stuff and remember that a classroom is a working environment that is continually evolving. Good luck in your classrooms for 2018!
Heidi from Learning Through Play is a Brisbane based, Early Years Teacher. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood), she has worked in a kindergarten setting with children aged 3-5 preparing them for school. In 2018, Heidi is transitioning to a school environment where she will teach Prep, the first year of formal schooling in Queensland. Heidi is an advocate for play- based learning, stimulating and creative learning spaces, and, the power of imaginative play. Heidi’s Instagram page (@learning.through.play) and blog www.learningthroughplay.com.au have loads of activities, recommendations and ideas for little ones.