After a year working in two learning environments virtually and face-to-face, I have now started my 26th year of teaching and all the students are back on campus. With last year being such a unique and crazy situation, I found myself struggling with the basics of getting my classroom ready for the new year.
As with every content in teaching, the year starts with professional development and working to prepare your classroom. I have never been the greatest at bulletin boards and getting the gymnasium ready for a new year, but it is so important to have a welcoming environment.
1. Preparing your Classroom:
Each district has its own policies on how to hang things in your classroom, but my two favorite tools are the hot glue gun and vinyl posters that are mounted to the wall with concrete screws. Here are two examples of walls that have been decorated with those devices. My word wall is very important in teaching healthy eating but also helps with cross-circular connections by promoting letter recognition.
Use Instructional Banners to Reinforce Technique and Class Expectations:
The pictures above are an example of a great product that Gopher provides called Teach-nique instructional banners. I mount these banners using concrete bolts and they really make a statement in my gym.
Floor Tape is Great For Creating Personal Spaces:
The final process in preparing for my students is marking my floors for the beginning of the year. I prefer to use floor tape and refer to each area as a safety square.
This defined area helps the students locate their seats and allows enough space to warm up before the lesson focus of the day. This year I made sure that my squares provide enough distance between students to continue COVID safety protocols.
2. My Favorite Activity for the First Week of School
The first week of classes sets the tone for the rest of my year, and I start with basic classroom management. I greet each student at the door and welcome them into my classroom setting.
We begin with Move and Freeze on Signal from Dynamic PE ASAP. This free resource will provide you with desired lesson outcomes with written and video instructions that are linked to our national standards. Dr. Pangrazi has stated, “It is easy to start a class, but much more difficult to stop it.”
Playing Move and Freeze and teaching the students the correct way to return to their safety square at the end of class is essential to providing a safe environment and ensuring that I’m able to “stop” class when our time is up. I continue to use this lesson for at least 3 to 4 weeks so that students master the starting and stopping signals.
3. Tips for Using Equipment During COVID
The next thing I introduce is a system for the distribution of equipment. The most important thing to remember is that you want the equipment to be distributed in the safest manner with minimal loss of instructional time. You will be able to find what works best for your environment through various trials until you find what works best for your students.
I sometimes call students by rows or have student helpers from the previous class set out the equipment. I use FITstep Pro pedometers with my upper-grade students every day. I teach them to pick up their assigned pedometer from the wall chart (QuickID Storage System) when they enter the class and return it to the correct spot at the end of the lesson.
How I Sanitize Equipment Between Classes:
The final step that sets the tone for the year is teaching them how to return the equipment for sanitization at the end of the class period. I have the students place the equipment in a kiddie pool that I purchased. This allows me to quickly sanitize the equipment before the next class.
Preparing your classroom, teaching these introductory games, and establishing how you distribute and collect equipment is paramount in setting the tone for a safe and successful year. I wish you all the best as you start back to school and realize the importance you make in each student’s life.