Monday, 6 January 2014

Top 10 Tips for New Teachers,+Laughter+and+Learning+in+Prep!%29

I remember when I was a new teacher.

I graduated 2 years ago now, and was thrown into a Kindergarten (3-4yr olds) class in a childcare centre. I was trained for Primary School so let's just say it was a learning curve! Thankfully, I have had a full year teaching in Prep (5yr olds) and am about to start my second year.

I wanted to share my top 10 tips for new teachers as we head towards the beginning of the school year here in Australia.

#1 Top Tip for Setting Up Classroom

This is one I was told when I started and it helped - big time! Before you meet the students for the first time make sure their name is in the classroom. What do I mean by that? Well, students feel like they belong there if they arrive and see their name in the new room.

Ideas include:

*have all student names on an attractive door display.

*put names on designated bag spaces/lockers.

*names on monthly birthday chart.

*names on jobs chart/morning work area.

*names on student desks.

#2 Top Tip for Classroom Organisation

Decide on a "home" for everything and teach your students where these are. For example, have a place where pencils live, glue sticks, puzzles etc. When it is time to pack up, get the students to put the things away in the correct spot. Even as young as Prep they can be expected to put things away neatly! Model the procedure for them and before long you won't have to clean up after them.

For the younger years I suggest labeling the spots with the word and a picture so students can visually see where things belong.

#3 Top Tip for Behaviour Management

Decide on your management system before the kids get there. Ask team teachers what they use/school uses first. On the first day explain the system to the kids (after you have made the rules with the students or told them the class rules). I use a ladder system. Students all start on the green and move up for positive behaviour (good choices) and down for negative behaviour (poor choices). Every day, everyone below the green gets to go back and start afresh. I add extra incentive by giving out a prize once a student reaches the top 3 times so they have to keep working. I have a checklist  and monitor who gets prizes so I can "catch" certain students doing good things if they are staying on green or going down a lot so that by the end of each semester everyone has earned a prize.

This is the only picture I have of it - not a very good one, sorry!

#4 Top Tip for Time Management

Lists, lists, lists! Write down everything you need to do, every little thing. I was shocked at the number of little things that I would forget to do because it wasn't written down for me to see and remember.

Also, just like you need a "home" for everything that your students use, you need a place for all your things too. Make sure you have a well labelled filing system and folders for putting lesson plans, assessment, professional development, blackline masters for photocopying etc. Put your paperwork in its home straight away otherwise you will gain a mountain of paperwork to sort very quickly.

#5 Top Tip for Engaging Students

Plan regular brain breaks for students so they don't get bored quickly or lost during transition times. Another thing I learned was to ALWAYS have a fast finisher activity for EVERY lesson. You might not use it but have it ready. Students start making poor choices when they don't have anything to do. In my first year I was using the book corner and puzzle corner as a fast finisher all the time, and students got sick of those areas very quickly. Change it up a bit with quick colour by number/sight word sheets, spot the difference, or simple revision sheets. Bear in mind it has to be work that they can do independently while you assist those still working on the primary task.

#6 Top Tip for Getting Along with Parents

 Always acknowledge the parent/carer when they drop/pick up children. Too often I would make a big deal of the students (welcoming them, asking how their weekend was etc) and would ignore the parent standing inches away! I know, I know - that's terrible! Give me a break, I was a new teacher whose mind was filled only with the upcoming lesson and making sure little Susie wouldn't cry at separation this morning. Sometimes you will feel like rushing the students in just so you can shut that door and stop all those parental eyes staring at you judging. And trust me, they do judge - so relax, and smile! Give them some attention, let them ask you a question or two before you shut that door. I've learned that just a simple smile in acknowledgement goes a long way in making them feel welcome. Once they feel  comfortable and accepted they are much easier to talk to at interview time!

#7 Top Tip for Teacher Fashion

This is another tip I was told by an experienced teacher and I'm very glad I listened. Wear good, comfortable shoes. I wear black covered lace ups (they remind me of the school shoes students wear) nearly every day. Not the best fashion statement but considering I run around after 5yr olds, I don't care anymore! Even in good shoes your feet will hurt somedays just from being on your feet for so long - imagine the pain if you wore flats with no support!

#8 Top Tip for Bargain Hunting

In my first year I went to Edsco (a specialty education store) and spent a fortune, only to learn that I could get all of the things I bought from cheap stores/$2 stores or on Ebay for a fraction of the price.

#9 Top Tip for Eating Well at School

Pack quick, small snacks. You never know when a student will come flying through your door with a problem, or you will be on duty, or someone is caught up and you have to cover for them. And often parents call or you have to call parents during the day so your lunch breaks are rarely breaks. Not to mention the times when you will use your "break" to prepare for the next lesson or clean up after a lesson. I recommend you actually stop and take breaks but in all seriousness - if you have a quick snack and then are called out at least you have food in your belly. If you have a full on meal and are called out chances are you will never be back in time to finish it. Also - eat a very big and very healthy breakfast to get you through!

# 10 Top Tip for Staying Sane

Sleep. Don't be tempted to stay up all night so you can get a week ahead on planning. It's not worth it. Your students deserve the best version of you each day. They won't get it if you are struggling to stay away or making silly mistakes because you didn't get enough sleep.

Do you have any other tips you want to share with new teachers? Comment below or link up with Love, Laughter and Learning in Prep.

Stay joyful!


  1. Thanks for linking up! You must live near me somewhere I think - I'm on the Sunshine Coast. I noticed you had posted a Nativity pack as well, so you must also be at an independent school? :)

    Love, Laughter and Learning in Prep!

  2. Glad to be a part of this linky - wish I had one to look at when I first started. I live in Brisbane and I certainly do teach at an independent school - such a blessing to be able to!

  3. Thank you so much for these fantastic tips! I live in Brisbane and am about to start my first year with a Year 2 class on the Gold Coast. I am feeling very overwhelmed, excited and both over and under prepared! (Not sure how that's possible!) all the tips from the linky have been so helpful so thank you for sharing! :)

  4. I know exactly what you mean by 'over and under prepared'! I feel the same way EVERY year! Remember to enjoy the first few weeks with your very own class, they will fly by so quickly. Have fun and good luck!!!