Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year! How’s it been so far? We asked Teachers Pay Teachers Teacher-Authors to share some of their first impressions, thoughts, and tips. We heard from secondary teachers who’ve taken extra care to get to know their students, and were reminded of some things about elementary you don’t learn in in-services. And if some aspects are a little overwhelming, know you’re not alone — sometimes it just helps to hear that!

Secondary Teacher-Authors go Back-to-School

BTS Math Activity
Engaging Students in Math

Jumping right in, check out the collaborative blog Cross Curricular Corner which recently asked contributors what the “Biggest Start of the Year Challenge” has been. Besides overheating in rooms without air conditioning; classroom management, setting the tone, and dealing with all of the back-to-school interruptions are top of list.

Misty Miller authors the blog Little Room Under the Stairs and started her year off with a “Find Someone Who” activity. She put a spin on it and included math problems students had to solve as teams or in groups. She says, “My students were very engaged. At first they tried to buddy up or stand in one spot. I reminded them of the rules and they figured it out. Most of the kiddos actually enjoyed themselves and couldn’t believe they were having fun doing math.”

Math Word Wall
Math Word Wall

Another secondary math teacher, 4 the Love of Math writes a blog of the same name and blogs about word walls in secondary math classrooms. It took her a year to figure it out, but now that she’s got the hang of it, she’s their biggest fan! “A word wall is a learning tool. Students will be looking at the walls of your classroom EVERY day they attend class. Use that to your advantage by placing words on the wall that will help them in class. In secondary math it should be used to reinforce vocabulary. Every time a new vocabulary word is introduced, a word can be added to the wall.”

Amy Brown of Science Stuff says, “First impressions count. They make a difference. When students walk into your class on the first day of school, what first impression will you make?

Why not get the kids out of their seats and do something fun on the first day of school? If you make a great impression on the first day, then students don’t mind so much when you go over the ‘rules’ on the second day. The first day message to the students should be, ‘My class is exciting. My class is different. My class will be demanding, but I want to make learning fun.'”

5 Reasons to Study Spanish
5 Reasons to Study Spanish

Emilie of Island Teaching Adventures decided to try interactive notebooks this year. “I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it did take awhile to explain the process and add the table of contents and grading rubric (I picked up a table of contents template from This Teacher Sweats Glitter’s TpT store to save some time in making my own). 

For their first notebook page, I had students brainstorm the topic ‘5 Reasons to Study Spanish.’ I left the instructions open-ended and just told them to make a colorful graphic which included their 5 reasons. I was pretty pleased with what some of my interactive notebook newbie students came up with!”

Back-to-School Musings

Jen Sykes of Hello Mrs. Sykes says she went into teaching because she’d get evenings, weekends and summer off — NOT! That’s just one of the things they don’t tell you, she says, and blogs about others such as, “You will need to use the bathroom, and it will be inconvenient” and “You will deal with bodily fluids.” Read more in her blog post, “What No One Tells You About Teaching Elementary School.”

Parent Tips

Laura of A Grace-Filled Classroom has some fantastic tips for starting the year off on the right foot with parents. One thing she learned early on was to talk to parents about the good things — “Believe me… if you only call to tell them the ‘bad’ stuff then they aren’t going to want to talk to you too much in the future. I like to tell parents things that happen at school that impressed me about the student. This way, the parents are getting a glimpse of the child that they don’t normally see since they aren’t at school. My first few years of teaching I rarely did this, but over the years I’ve realized what a difference it makes.”

RCL Parent Partnership letter.001Retta authors the blog Rainbow City Learning and agrees that parent involvement is so crucial! “Enlist the parents/caretakers as your true partners for the journey. I used to think that I’d love to send the parents on a year-long cruise in September and return a wiser, more well-adjusted, and independent child to them in June. The next best thing to the cruise idea, I soon discovered, is to enlist the partnership of parents, guardians, and caretakers on a ‘cruise’ through the wonderful school year I am planning. So many of these parent partnerships have developed into true lifelong friendships.”

AwesomeConsider taking Mrs. Beattie’s Classroom’s “awesome” approach. “It was such a busy week. Busy, but full of awesome moments. I’ve pledged to pay closer attention to these little diamonds in my day, so this is the first of my weekly Year of Awesome posts.” If you do adopt the “awesome” approach, she’s throwing a linky party you might want to be part of! 

Elementary Teacher-Authors go Back-to-School

keepitreal8As a teacher, you never stop learning. Every year is different and comes with it’s own set of successes and challenges. Christina of Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice blogs about “Keeping it Real.” She’s got her finger on the pulse when she says, “If you are like me, you often read teaching blogs and think to yourself: ‘Is this for real?’ Truth: I had a rough few days during this first week of school. I have 25 first graders who are SO sweet. They really are wonderful and have the funniest, cutest personalities! I KNOW it’s going to be an amazing year but many of my new firsties are struggling with expectations for walking in the hallways, keeping their hands to themselves, and using the restroom. They are going to be a great class but they are going to take a bit longer to get into routine than some classes I’ve had in the past.” 

Interactive notebooks are taking off like wild fire in elementary school — two TpT Teacher-Authors giving it a try are Carol’s Teaching Garden and First Grade Shashay.

Interactive Notebook Freebie01Carol says, “I’ve always wanted to try interactive notebooks. Two years ago I tried to get my team interested in using interactive notebooks for our math block, but they weren’t interested. Since we team teach for math, it’s either we all do it, or nobody does it. The chance came this year. We have a new social studies curriculum, which just begs for some innovation. I’m a bit nervous, but I finally decided to jump in with both feet and create social studies interactive notebooks for my own class this year. I’m sure I’ll make plenty of mistakes, but I definitely want to give interactive notebooks a try.”

Ha of First Grade Shashay has some experience and says, “I have been using an interactive science journal that I created for my 1st graders for the past 7 years, and have found much success with it. Therefore, this summer I created an interactive Math Journal and Math Foldables to meet my students’ needs and have begun implementing it in my classroom. I’m very happy to see that my students are much more engaged and are so thrilled to be lil’ mathematicians with their own journals as proof.”

(If you’re interested in more ideas for using interactive notebooks, check out our blog post here.)

Only one classroom rule- respect
One Classroom Rule

Tessa write the blog Tales from Outside the Classroom …and from inside my 3rd grade class. In her back-to-school post she writes about good and bad consequences and helping children learn the difference. She also suggests some great resources and shares images of her classroom. Her one rule this year? “The only rule we have in our classroom is Respect. Respect for others. Respect for our belongings. Respect for our environment. Respect for our learning. Respect.”

Back-to-School Tips & Apps

I’m a list maker, so this makes sense. Teacher Gems suggests keeping lists along with 14 other time-saving tips for teachers in her back-to-school post. Also check out DeWitt’s Learning Lab — she recently wrote about what she considers to be The Most Amazing App in the World!


For a nice back-to-school tradition, 180 Days of Reading suggests taking pictures to capture the moment. It’s pretty special to see the growth from year to year and the face on her youngest when he (finally) gets to go to school is priceless!

180 Days of Reading


Teachers Pay Teachers goes back-to-school and so have you! We asked Teachers to describe their school week in one word. Do you concur with any of the over 2000 responses?

Feature image frames thanks to Krista Wallden and font thanks to Kimberly Geswein Fonts.