The back-to-school season is a time filled with a plethora of emotions – excitement, stress, anticipation, hope, nerves. This is especially true the past two years, with a lot of unknowns hanging over the heads of educators everywhere. Anybody can benefit from back-to-school tips from those who came before.
Did your district adopt a new math curriculum that you’re scrambling to learn? Did you get two new students the morning of the first day of school and rush to make name tags for them so they weren’t left out? Perhaps everything has been seamless? No matter your situation, here are some teacher tips for a successful back-to-school season.
1. Take time to build relationships with your students
Teaching is busy, especially at the beginning of the year. Building relationships with students is such an important part of your job, but sometimes there isn’t time built into your schedule or enough hours in a day to do this. The focus can be so heavy on getting everything done and preparing students for state assessments that sometimes one of the most important parts is brushed over. Starting small with quick student check-ins is a great way to begin implementing daily SEL time.
You can access automatic, daily student mood check-ins on your teacher dashboard in eSpark. Each eSpark session begins with a social emotional self-assessment, allowing students to express how they are feeling. This check-in provides you with simple social emotional insight into your students’ wellbeing, right on the activity tab on your dashboard.
“I love being able to check on the mood of my students. It is a way for them to tell me without having to be in front of anyone or say it out loud. It allows me to check in with them and have a conversation to try to help them.”
– Emily, eSpark teacher in GA
2. Be prepared to teach in any environment
Teaching full-time from home wasn’t a frequent reality until last year. Schools around the world shut down, making teachers rely on technology to do their jobs. Teaching in kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, and on patios became more of a norm than being in a classroom. The expectation was to work with what you had, where you were at, and to make school as normal as possible. This is still the case in many areas. The teacher tip of the last few years: stay flexible.
Whether your class is back in person, learning from home, or maybe you’re teaching concurrently, eSpark can support any learning model. All students need is a device with internet connection to master skills in the classroom or from home!
In-person learning tips:
Use eSpark as a center rotation during small group time – assign a Small Group Skills lesson or have students work on an adaptive math or reading Quest
“I love that my students can work at different levels, it really helps with differentiating centers.”
– Chelsey, eSpark teacher in MO
Have students work on eSpark during transition times or morning work. It’s a great option for early finishers as well!
“I do not have to have multiple different activities planned for every time a student is an early finisher. I can let them go on eSpark and know that they will be working on skills and challenges that are differentiated for them.”
– Lisa, eSpark teacher in IL
At-home learning back-to-school tips:
Use eSpark reports to track student progress, even at a distance
“I like that this is more than just a teaching tool, it is a much needed resource to keep kids in the learning mode while distance learning.”
– Yvonne, eSpark teacher in AZ
Suggest students sign into eSpark at home for extra math and reading practice
“I love that my students are able to use it at home and at school. They are enjoying learning using eSpark!”
– Holly, eSpark teacher in MN
“Students are using it while doing their weekly centers. Parents are liking it at home too!”
– Joy, eSpark teacher in WA
3. Anticipate learning gaps and regression
These back-to-school tips aren’t new. Typically at the start of the year, teachers see a bit of regression after most students have been out of practice for a couple months. But on top of that, learning has looked quite a bit different since March of 2020 and there may be some learning gaps to fill for students due to not-so-typical learning models. The expectation to bring students back up to grade level, and even above, is probably a bit overwhelming and puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders.
eSpark helps close those gaps with a wide range of standards to meet students right where they are. You can help close the learning gap with access to lessons covering over 450 standards. While eSpark is recommended for K-5 students, content for grades Pre-K through 8th grade is provided to allow for classroom differentiation. Check out all the standards and try out some activities your students will use here.
“I love being able to personalize the standards for all student levels in my classroom, leaving no one behind.”
– Susan, eSpark teacher in OH
4. Meet the needs of all students with easy differentiation
A big to-do when starting the year is trying to determine each student’s level. Maybe you start the year with standardized tests or with fluency tests, or maybe you determine levels on your own. Once you have that data, it can be tedious to implement constant differentiation for each lesson you teach.
We know a lesson is never one-size-fits-all – that’s why we created Small Group Skills to make assigning leveled lessons to fit the needs of all your students easier than ever. You can do it in under 30 seconds.
Small Group Skills are leveled lessons designed to help students master reading and math standards in under 20 minutes based on what you’re currently teaching in class. Each leveled lesson is made up of an instructional video to teach the skill, a game for practice and a quiz to show mastery. From your eSpark Teacher Dashboard, you can assign Small Group Skills to individual students, small groups, or work through them as a whole class. As a teacher, you’ll get real-time data and materials to remediate.
“I love how Small Group Skills automatically differentiates the same skill so all of my students can be working on the same skill, but at their own level. This has saved me so much time, especially during back-to-school.”
– Stacey, eSpark teacher in IL
Learn more about how to use Small Group Skills, including an overview video, here.
5. Remember to take care of yourself
In order to do your job well and take care of your students, you also need to take care of yourself. This is one of the most non-negotiable back-to-school tips. Go for a walk, work on a puzzle, order from your favorite restaurant, or adopt a dog… whatever it is, don’t forget to take some time for yourself each day! You can even kick your feet up and throw on a movie – we won’t tell anyone.