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Back to school checklist for music teachers

Desk with apple and school supplies, with the text "Back to school checklist for the music room"

Getting ready for the new school year can be a bit stressful. You know there is so much to do–between setting up your classroom to writing those first day plans–and you aren't sure where to start. You may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day and panic about what needs to be done immediately, versus tasks that can wait until after school starts again. From choosing your classroom decor to working on lesson plans, here are five decisions you can make to be prepared for the first day of school!

#1: Classroom Decor

First, you’ll want to consider your classroom decor. Perhaps you have a theme, or you have a color scheme. You may be keeping the same theme or colors from the previous year, or you may be changing it up. Making a decision about decor is a great way to prepare for back to school.

This past year, I decorated with a boho rainbow theme, and I loved it so much, I'm sticking with it! I will be adding a few new bulletin boards and posters, but most of the decor will be the same. If you want some inspiration for other themes, check out this blog post about classroom decor, and also check out these themes: 

#2: Student Seating

Another decision you'll want to make is how students are seated in your room. Are they seated on the floor? On carpet? Will they be seated on chairs, sit spots, or on risers? Will you use flexible seating?

Before COVID-19, I had students sit on a carpet in front of my board. During the pandemic, carpets were removed from our rooms, so I had students sitting on vinyl sit spots I made with my Cricut, which you can read about here.

This year, I'm choosing to use vinyl sit spots again, as it was easy for students to tell where to sit, and I can still keep them somewhat distanced if needed. I am thinking of putting down star-shaped stickers in the formation of a circle, so that students can also quickly sit in a circle.

Additionally, I plan on using flexible seating again. My plan is to have each row take a turn sitting on flexible seats. So week 1 would be row 1, week 2 would be row 2, etc. I might have students sitting in those rows move to the back, so that all students can see the board.

 

Here is a picture of my vinyl sit spots, in rows and in a circle.

#3: Seating Charts

Now that you've made a decision about how students will sit in your room, you'll want to figure out if you'll use seating charts. Before social distancing, I had my Kindergarteners and first graders come into the room, winding into a circle, so they didn't have a set spot every time they came to music. My second-fifth graders sat in rows, and did have a specific spot to sit every lesson; I would switch up the seating charts a few times a year.

Last school year, I did have to have seating charts for all of my classes, so that contact tracing could be done as needed. This upcoming school year, I'm thinking of trying the following:

  • Kindergarten: No seating charts, students come into the room winding into a circle, in the order they are lined up in
  • First grade: Students come into the room winding into a circle, in the order they are lined up in, but do also have row spots so board work is easier
  • Second-Fifth grade: Students sit in rows, in specific spots

#4: Tech System and Tools

Another task to check off your back to school checklist is figuring out your tech system and tools. How will students use technology? Will you have them bring Chromebooks from their classroom, or do you have devices they can use?

I have six Chromebooks and eight iPads housed in my music classroom, so if I don't need students 1:1 on devices, I can have the students use those. If they do need to work individually, I plan on having classroom teachers bring the Chromebook cart to music class.

As far as tools go, you'll want to reflect on how students will navigate to lessons and activities you've created. Will you use your LMS, or Learning Management System, such as Google Classroom or Schoology, or will students access activities and websites through QR codes? Will you use a tech tool such as Seesaw or Nearpod?

This year, I'm planning on having second-fifth graders access their materials through Schoology, which is my school district's LMS. For First Grade, I'm having students use QR codes to quickly access materials. For more information about QR codes, see this blog post. I'm also planning on having first-fifth grade use Seesaw throughout the year, which is a great tech tool for assessing students, giving students choice, and providing feedback. See this blog post for examples of Seesaw activities.

Making these decisions now will save you time once the school year starts, as you can set up a tech area in your room if you have devices, can set up a communication system with your classroom teachers if needed, and can start planning out your assessments for the year, using your tech tools!

#5: What to include in First Day Lessons

Finally, you’ll want to decide what you want to include in your first day lessons. Typically, for my first day lessons, I include the following:

  • Name game (check out this blog post for some examples)
  • Rules and Routines
  • Icebreaker
  • Review activities (to practice known rhythmic and/or melodic concepts)

 

Deciding now what will be in your first day lessons is a great way to lessen stress and overwhelm! Looking for some fun and engaging first day lessons and activities? Check out this bundle of first day lessons and activities:

From finding ways to better manage technology in your classroom to deciding what seating works best for your students, making these back to school decisions can help you feel prepared for the school year! With these decisions made, you’ll be ready to start the new school year off on the right foot. Happy preparing!

2 Responses

  1. I am wondering how you learn students named in kindergarten and 1st grade without a seating chart.
    Do you make name tags for them to wear?

    1. Hi Maureen! I do a greeting song at the start of every music class in which I sing all of their names around the circle. It’s difficult at the start of the year because I’m just learning their names, but then it forces me to remember!

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