This post originally appeared on the blog Lucky to Be in First.

I’m a planner. Although, I don’t think that’s unique to me — I think most teachers are planners! As the year draws to a close, I like to look ahead towards next year {Sorry, kiddos — I think you’re looking ahead towards summer, too!} As I get a few spare minutes here and there, I start to prep those things that I know I will need next year!

Here’s a peek at a few, simple things that you SHOULD do this year…to make the start of next year a little easier! Stay tuned till the end and you can grab ALL of the freebies!

Step one: make your plan book

1. Make your plan book!

For years, I bought a planner at the teacher store. I was always crossing things outs, adding stickers, coloring coding, and shoving birthday sheets and post-its in the back! Then it dawned on me — why am I not just making my own plan book?! I can customize it myself and add the pages that I want to! DUH!

I print out a cover, enough pages for the {endless!} weeks in school and throw in a few pages at the back to long-range plan and scribble some notes. Then, I bring it to the FedEx store and get it bound all nice and pretty for $4! {If you mention that you’re a teacher, they may even knock off a buck or two!}Lucky to Be in First is offering a free Plan BookSo, I’m sharing my editable Plan Book template with you! Get crazy. Add clipart, your favorite fonts, prep blocks, etc! Now I know this format won’t work for everyone, but it’s the one I use {sorry to all those vertical planners out there!} More detailed instructions are included in the file itself!A preview of the plan book made by Lucky to Be in First

Step two: photocopy the forms you'll use

2. Photocopy forms you’ll use.

Inevitably, there are forms that we send home to parents! Why not get those papers all set to go now!?

One paper I always send home on the First Day is the “Getting Acquainted” form. This quick questionnaire allows parents to share important information and their thoughts about their child. I like to hold onto these papers and revisit them a few times throughout the year so I can look back at what they’ve said! One form you might want to photocopy is your "getting to know you" sheets for your class

Another goody always tucked into that first-day folder is this “In the Car Activities.” Kids {sadly!} spend so much time in the car shuttling between soccer practice, the grocery store, and Grandma’s house! Keep ’em thinking with this list of activities! I laminate mine for durability. If you have any take-home worksheets, like this In the Care Activities sheet, you may choose to laminate them and include them in students' take-home folders.

I always create a Take Home Folder for my kiddos to bring their homework, permission slips, and other important papers to-and-from school in. I buy the fancy schmancy poly folders at Office Depot at the beginning of the school year. Yes, they’re a little more expensive than the 2 cent folders offered at BTS time, but these last ALL year. Honestly, they could probably be used from year to year, but the overwhelming smell of their breakfast’s leftover syrup is too much for me so I splurge every year!These are the take home folders made by Lucky to Be in First–she prints out sticker labels on Avery mailing paper, and uses them to designate which folders are for home versus schoolI print “Take Home Folder” onto Avery 8163 Shipping Labels and slap onto the folders! Surprisingly, you may need to explain to your parents at Back to School Night the purpose of the Home/School label! You can use the same label stickers for your own teaching folders, to keep track of your own progress. Another folder I get ready is the Work in Progress. Basically, everything that we’re working on is shoved into this folder, so it’s not floating around their desks! I use Avery 8163 Shipping Labels for the big sticker on the front and Avery 5160 Mailing Labels for the Finished/Not-Finished for the inside.

And two more quick folders – Daily 5 & Writer’s Workshop {I’ve also included “My Center Work” labels in case you’re not a D5er!}Even more back-to-school labels you can use as inspiration for your own classes.

Step three: get your welcome letters ready

3. Get your welcome letters ready!

For all the years I’ve taught, I’ve always sent home a note or postcard to get my new students excited {and get the jitters out!} before the first day. {You can grab these postcards over on the Fan Freebies tab on my Facebook page!} Many parents have said how much that note meant to their child. If you have time, sending a welcome letter to your students BEFORE the first day of school can help students get excited to kick off the school year.Last year, I sent home “Ready Confetti” that I had seen on Denise’s blog, Sunny Days in Second Grade! The kids loved the included glitter… parents, not so much! Ha! You can also send students home with a bedtime story to read with their parents after making it through their first week of school. A few years ago I saw an adorable letter that Nicole from Rowdy in Room 300 created to send home just before the start of the school year. Super simple and adorable! I printed them onto fun Astrobrights Paper and they’re all sealed and ready go! As soon as I get my class list and addresses in August, it’s easy to slap on a label and pop into the mail! Another letter you'll want to send your students home with is a handout introducing yourself as their teacher. Here, I've included things like my favorite color, food, and book.Don’t worry… I fixed the typo on the final paragraph 🙂

Step four: photocopy homework assignments

4. Photocopy homework!

The good thing about first grade is that homework is not crazy challenging each week! It’s pretty much the same week in and week out! For years, I’ve used 1st Grade Homework & Spelling. Kids knew what to expect each week!

However, next year, our school district is moving to a Homework Menu model. Jodi Southard has the perfect product for this! For one less thing to do next August, I’ve already photocopied ALL of the menus for next year {of course, onto fun Astrobrights Paper!} Homework sheets are made exciting when printed on AstroBrights paper!I used a basket with hanging files to organize the 35 weeks of homework! Each month has a file and the homework for that month is hanging inside ready to go! Nothin’ fancy but it works! Using a basket and hanging file folders, I keep 35 weeks' worth of homework assignments organized by months of the school year.

I’ve also spent a little time getting our Take Home Tasks ready to go again for next year! Again, the more prep I do now, the easier it’ll be on me in August! You can read more about Take Home Tasks HERE!

You can grab cheap storage boxes to keep take home tasks organized.

Back to School is a great time to snag these cheap supply boxes to store your Take Home Tasks in!

Step five: take an inventory of your school supplies

5. Inventory school supplies!

Raise your hand if you are a school supply hoarder? I am! I didn’t quite realize how much I have around until I took a quick inventory – eeeeek! Use this School Supply Inventory to make note of the supplies you have before you go wild during the summer sales!

The checklist I use to inventory what I have in my classroom, as well as what I'll need to get for the new school year.

In my defense, I load up on school supplies during the summer {when it’s cheaper!} so I always have enough to prep for the following year!

Step six: sharpen pencils

6. Sharpen pencils!

I think one of the worst jobs about being a teacher is sharpening pencils {especially AFTER kids have touched them! Hello, germs!} The Spring is a perfect time to sharpen up your Ticonderogas! I buy the Laddies because while they are a little more pricey than the standard pencil, they are a little fatter for those little hands to grab! Freshly sharpened pencils

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molly4Molly is a Bay Area TpT Teacher-Author and energetic 1st grade teacher with 13 years of teaching experience. She is a compulsive list writer and labels just about everything around the classroom! You can find Molly sharing innovative and engaging activities in her classroom over at Lucky to Be in First, Facebook, and Instagram.